Trouble in the Neighborhood: How to Plan & Prepare for Civil Unrest

October 27, 2020 03:30 PM
by Robyn Colajezzi | SERVPRO of Upper Bucks, Germantown, and Pennypack / Bustleton
EDITOR'S NOTE: This blog post is a precursor to the full article which will be published in the January / February 2021 Issue of Community Assets magazine.
How about that 2020?  What a year!   Typical Emergency Preparedness articles focus on fire, flood, and other natural disasters, and 2020 added Infectious Disease Protocols as an important topic, but as we look to the future, we cannot avoid the real possibilities of civil unrest that needs to be addressed.  
Individuals or groups of people can and will exercise their right to free speech and assembly. Sometimes, however, peaceful demonstrations can turn confrontational or heated and devolve into a riot or violence. If tensions start to escalate near your community or building, you need to have and put a Civil Unrest Plan into action.
I consulted with Bucks County Officer Robert Lee, who is a school resource officer for 4 public schools, as well as the owner of Commonwealth Safe Schools LLC.  He provides risk and security assessments to schools and communities. “It’s all about defense and safety which is always fluid to the current trends across the nation. Consider your specific venue”, he said.  “The fact that you are just thinking about safety improvements is the step in the right direction”.
Another expert, SERVPRO Co-Owner Mike McGrory, who also owns FOCUS! Safety Training, Inc., agreed, “The 2 key areas are Situational Awareness and De-Escalation training. Be aware of your surroundings and the changing attitude of a crowd, gathering, conversation and then learn the tools and techniques to either de-escalate the situation or disengage from it safely”.
According to Officer Lee, working with your local law enforcement agency is strongly suggested and builds partnerships. Hiring a risk and safety consultant is another avenue to incorporate all your safety needs particular to your venue. To find an agent in your area you can visit the PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency at 
To create an effective Civil Unrest Plan, or as I call it a “CUP”, communities need to assess their situation, structures, and environment and put a plan of action in writing, in place, and communicate it with all residents.  Don’t think that if you’re “not in the city” that your community is safe from civil emergencies.  
First and foremost, if your community does not have a safety committee, create one now.   
In addition, considerations for an effective plan include:
1. Communication.  
2. Training.  
3. Drills.  Senior and disability planning.  
4. Target hardening of structure:
-Deny access to the criminal: Simple ideas of a gate or fencing of perimeter 
-Delay the act: Methods to slow down the bad guy such as locks, bars, key fobs. 
-Detection of the crime: Before/After the crime has been committed where video and cameras play crucial role for law enforcement
-Deter the attack: Keeping the bad guy out, which is all about prevention methods of an alarm system, motion sensor lighting, and signage. 
As I often write about, PREPAREDNESS is the key to saving lives, reducing property damage, and reducing injuries.  Preparedness is the key in all disaster and emergency plans, including civil unrest.  Be prepared.  Be safe.  Be hopeful for a better 2021.
Bob Lee is a sworn police officer in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. He is currently assigned as a school resource officer in four public schools. He completed course work in National School Shield through the NRA. Currently, he is on the registry list as an approved safety assessor through Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. He is the owner of Commonwealth Safe Schools LLC where he provides risk and security assessments. He can be reached at or
Mike McGrory, Co-Owner of SERVPRO of Upper Bucks and Owner of FOCUS! Safety Training,  Inc. and is a certified instructor for NRA Pistol, Shotgun and Rifle, NRA Range Safety Officer, ATA Certified Shooting Coach, USCCA Certified Instructor, Red Cross Adult\Pediatric\Infant First Aid\CPR\AED, ALICE Active Shooter, Pennsylvania Insurance Industry Continuing Education Instructor, OSHA 10 hour and 30 hour General Industry and Construction. He can be reached at or 

Robyn Colajezzi is Director of Marketing and Business Development at SERVPRO of Upper Bucks, Pennypack/Bustleton, and Germantown and has 20 years experience as a marketing professional in the Philadelphia and Mid-Atlantic region. Robyn holds a BA from Kutztown University. Robyn currently serves as Vice Chairwoman for CAI’s Communications & Content Committee. She can be contacted via email at:

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