USA Election Day: Best Practices for Addressing Safety Concerns

John Clarke, Regional Security Manager, Philadelphia and Jason Trommer, Senior Security Specialist, Philadelphia

 

The United States general elections are some of the most fraught in the country’s history, with tensions running high amid a backdrop of civil unrest and social divides. Protests and demonstrations on 3 November and the days after will be volatile, with clashes – between demonstrators and the police or involving rival groups – a distinct possibility. Below we’ve compiled some best practices for addressing concerns about protests and safe voting practices on the day.

 

 
 
If on the street when confronted by a violent protest or unrest
  • Identify the source of the disturbance and move away from the protest. Keep moving until you are far from the protest. 
  • If unable to avoid the unrest, find a large building, such as a hotel or apartment block, and enter if you can. Look for an alternate exit and leave if clear.
  • Do not attempt to move through the crowd. Standing on the side of the street against a wall or in a doorway is better than trying to pass through a protest.
  • When possible, call or text a friend, family member, or local contact and provide your specific location with cross streets. However, your contact should not attempt to come to get you. If you leave the area, let them know where you are and when you are safe.
  • If confronted by the police, calmly comply with all directives. Announce movements before making them.
  • If you find yourself in the path of a crowd, turn down the nearest side road, reverse or turn around and drive away calmly.
  • If you cannot drive away, park the car, lock it, leave it, and take shelter in a side street or doorway.
     

If unrest occurs near your residence or place of work

  • Stay inside. Do not go outside to watch or document the unrest. Stay away from windows. Move away from exterior windows to avoid possible projectiles (e.g., bottles, rocks, metal objects, etc.).
  • Do not go outside to protect any property or vehicles. Move any vehicles before the protest, but do not attempt to move them once the protest begins.
  • If you must leave your building due to an emergency, move away from the building but do not attempt to pass through large crowds. Get away from the trouble indoors areas (e.g., windows, glass doors, etc.); however, do not put yourself in the path of potential projectiles.
  • Monitor local news outlets and social media for specific protest locations.
     

Advice for voting in person

There is some concern regarding 'poll watchers,' voter intimidation, confrontations between rival supporters, and of course, COVID-19. Despite concerns, the process could reflect the 2016 elections, although lines are likely to be longer than usual due to the pandemic. Below is some advice to make your in-person voting experience safer.

 

  • Consider not wearing clothing with political messaging, particularly articles supporting a particular candidate or political party. Wearing low-profile clothing devoid of symbols or wording related to contentious issues is recommended.
  • Do not engage with individuals that try to provoke or antagonise voters.
  • Incidents of voter intimidation should be reported to poll workers or other authorities. Poll workers in many areas have received additional training in identifying voter intimidation as well as conflict resolution.
  • Allow additional time due to long lines as well as the potential disruption caused by demonstrations.
  • Abide by COVID-19 related guidelines (wear a mask, bring hand sanitiser, do your best to socially distance).
  • Consider removing paraphernalia from your vehicle pertaining to political parties or candidates as it may reduce the risk of individuals committing acts of property damage or violence. 
  • Keep abreast of current news, and plan routes around volatile areas.
  • If you hear that a demonstration is taking place, avoid the area.
  • If you come across a demonstration, don't become inquisitive; leave the area and find another route to arrive at your intended destination.
  • Should you need to go to an area that experiences many demonstrations, try not to go alone. Where possible, take someone with you and operate as a team looking out for each other. Keep close and maintain visual contact.
  • If traveling with a group of colleagues, associates, or family, determine a rendez-vous point or alternative location to meet in the event of escalating tensions, violence or chaos.  

 

Our operations center is available 24/7 for clients who need support providing secure transportation, including medical evacuations, airlifts, and armed guard escorts. Our analysts and operators stand ready to provide support. Click here to learn more. 

 

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