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How to Survive Martial Law: A Complete Guide

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Do you know how to survive martial law if your local government declares it?

Last year’s and this year’s events made lots of people ask themselves this uncomfortable question.

This question is so relevant now that the threat of martial law is a very real possibility. This is a result of the pandemic, massive civil unrest, political divisions, and deep economic recession.

How would life change for you and your family members during martial law? Why would you need to hide your food and water?

What would you need to do to fly under the radar and avoid attracting the attention of the authorities? What will you need to do just to stay alive? These are the kinds of questions that we will attempt to answer in this article.

What is Martial Law?

To put it simply, martial law is the permanent or temporary suspension of governmental civil law and habeas corpus via military force (and likely with the aid of law enforcement). 

A major disaster often results in martial law.

Most people fear the possibility of a declaration of national martial law. However, a declaration of localized martial law is a far more realistic scenario.

This is because martial law has always been declared on a local or regional level. Examples include:

  • 1871 in Chicago, following the Great Chicago Fire
  • From 1941 to 1944, in Hawaii, the islands were under threat of Japanese attack
  • In 2005 in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.

What Will Happen During Martial Law?

martial law

Here is what you can expect to happen during martial law:

No Constitutional Rights 

With a declaration of martial law, you will lose your right to free speech and religion, the right to petition the government or assemble, the right to bear arms, and your right to a fair trial (among your other constitutional rights).

Military Takeover 

Martial law literally means that the military (and most likely with the aid of law enforcement) will be in command. To this end, expect the following:

  • The military will set up checkpoints throughout the city.
  • The government will block off all exit points leading in and out of the city.
  • Armed men will patrol the streets day and night.
  • Repeated visits to your home from the military or law enforcement.

You Won’t Leave

The government will block off all exit points under martial law. As a result, leaving is not an option. This is especially true in localized or regional martial law scenarios.

Gun Confiscation

The government will aim to make the civilian population as submissive and easy to control as possible. To this end, armed military and law enforcement units will go door-to-door seizing firearms, magazines, and ammunition.

This is exactly what happened during Hurricane Katrina. It’s a little-known fact that the government forcibly confiscated literally thousands of civilian-owned firearms during the incident. This made people much more vulnerable to marauders and looters.

Confiscation of Other Necessities

It’s not just guns and ammunition. The authorities will forcibly confiscate other necessities such as food, water, and medications.

This, at least, happens if the authorities expect to declare martial law for an extended period of time.

Food Lines

The government’s aim with martial law (or at least one of the aims) is to make the civilian population as dependent on them as possible.

This is why food and water will be confiscated. It’s also why the government will create food lines, so the population is forced to go to them just to stay alive. You can also expect to have to spend hours in line just to get bread, soup, or water.

No Running Water

The government will tightly regulate running water. Again, the purpose of this will be to make the civilian population more dependent on the government. With limited or no running water, sanitation is going to become a big problem as well.


You literally won’t be able to trust anyone during martial law. Seemingly normal people walking around will closely observe what’s happening, talk to the local population, and relay information to the authorities.


Freedom of the press will be disbanded, and the news you hear via loudspeakers, leaflets, or otherwise sent directly to your phone will be propaganda.

The authorities will want you to believe what they want you to believe. This enables them to more easily control the population. 

You can also expect there to be restrictions regarding what you can access on the internet and who you can email, call, or text. People will be desperate and subsequently more likely to do what they are told as well.

Make Room in Your Home

The authorities will want to make sure that everyone has a place to sleep at night, so there are no homeless individuals or vagrants out on the streets.

The authorities could force other people to live at your home for the duration of the martial law.

There will also be indoor hours when all people are expected to remain inside. It will be a crime to walk around in the city outside of these hours.

How To Survive Martial Law in America

Here are the top tips for how to survive martial law in America:

Don’t Fight

The fundamental principle of surviving martial law is to not fight back. Doing so is a prime recipe for getting yourself killed or arrested. At the very least, the authorities and rioters alike are more likely to kill or injure you.

Be prepared to defend yourself with lethal force against rioters or marauders if you have to, but do everything you can to evade deadly situations instead.

This means staying indoors as often as you are able to with your doors and windows shut. This leads us to our next concept:

Become a Gray Man

A gray man (or woman) is somebody who can blend into their environment. This means:

  • Dress like the rest of the crowd.
  • Don’t display valuable possessions (jewelry, money, electronics, firearms, etc.).
  • Don’t go out of your way to help someone.
  • Avoiding riots and scenes of civil unrest.
  • Move with the flow of a crowd rather than against it (should you find yourself in one).
  • Avoid making eye contact with other people.
  • Don’t confront or antagonize other people.
  • Do everything possible to avoid attracting attention.
  • Don’t tell other people that you are a prepper.

Becoming a gray man will arguably become the most critical skill of all when learning to survive martial law.

Hide Your Stockpile

Remember that the government is likely to seize anything viewed as a threat to their rule or that makes you less dependent on them. That will most certainly include your stockpile.

For instance, military and police units acted quickly to seize firearms during Hurricane Katrina. Likewise, in a future martial law situation, it’s not inconceivable for the authorities to take essential food, water, and medicine from ordinary people.

Ensure that firearms, ammunition, medication, food, water, and any other vital necessities are strategically and creatively hidden. Doing so will automatically make you less dependent on the authorities.

Examples of places to hide these essentials include:

  • In your shed
  • Underground
  • In a hidden room
  • In storage boxes (hidden among other storage boxes).

Learn how to safely store water, food, firearms, ammunition, and medication in these types of locations.


Last but not least, remember that you want to avoid attracting attention to yourself at all costs. Obey the authorities’ commands, or face the consequences of an arrest.

Examples of scenarios where the authorities expect you to obey or else face arrest include:

  • Soldiers are demanding to enter your home.
  • You are ordered to go to a food line during a certain time of the day.
  • You are told to desist from a certain activity.


If it’s still difficult for you to imagine what life under martial law would truly be like, just know that it won’t be pretty. As a result of martial law:

  • You will lose your constitutional rights.
  • The authorities will expect you to comply, with consequences for failing to do so.
  • The government will seize anything that makes you less dependent on them.
  • An endless stream of propaganda will be fed to you.

The best thing you can do to survive martial law may be to get out while you still can.

But if you are trapped under military government rule where the normal rule of law is suspended, whether on a local or national level, the best thing you can do is follow the tips outlined in this article.

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