How to Survive The Purge?

Imagine mac & cheese dinner on a normal weekday and suddenly hearing this message blasting through large speakers. Where would you go? Would you bar the doors, turn off the lights, and sit it out?

Would you run and hide in a remote forest, or grab a gun and finally take revenge on that evil boss of yours?

Or perhaps you’ve been eyeballing that brand-new Ducati motorcycle and want to take a chance today? And what would you do to survive looters or murdering gangs at your doorstep? What would you do to survive The Purge?

What is a purge?

Purge; pɝːdʒ to rid of whatever is impure or undesirable; cleanse; purify. To rid, clear, or free (usually followed by of or from): to purge a political party of disloyal members. To clear of imputed guilt or ritual uncleanliness. 

From Stalin’s Great Purge to religious persecutions, and from the purging of our bowels after a dodgy street food dinner to being cleared of guilt for a crime committed. On an interesting conjunction between these terms, we find the definition of the violent movie series The Purge, somewhere hovering around the idea that anyone will be cleared of all offenses in advance even before the 12-hour crime frenzy begins.

The cleansing of society is exactly the aim in the future dystopia pictured in the movies, where America’s New Founding Fathers see the annual Purge night as a way to control population, give suppressed people an emotional outlet and improve the economy, as most people killed during the annual Purge are poor or unemployed people.

Since the US economy appears to be booming in the movies, the efficacy of The Purge has been discussed as it is an extreme example of the end justifying the means in the eyes of some. Not entirely unlike Mao Zedong’s Giant Leap Forward, when 15 to 55 million people died of hunger, but during which he, to some extent, managed to industrialize the country.

What would people do is all crime is allowed?

Before the rise of nation states, there were innumerable societies without a police force or a formal judiciary system, and even today there are still semi- or totally uncontacted tribes, where values are unwritten laws that are held up by the entire community rather than by a government.

So, unless there’s a society with an extremely dissatisfied, disenfranchised, and impoverished population who hold a severe grudge against law enforcement, and with a tough police force to hold the lid on, I don’t think anything too terrible would happen to most people if The Purge would happen today.

Sure, crime rates would soar, but I don’t expect your average Arlington or Springfield would turn into a scene of carnage for no apparent reason.

My take is that the story is leaning on the philosophy that man has this great inherent evil hidden inside, waiting to come out when the opportunity presents itself. Though psychological experiments have concluded that some people may indeed turn bad when a certain opportunity presents itself, this theory often misses the point that humans have a strong natural tendency to group together, organize themselves and choose what’s best for the whole.

On the other hand, people who are likely to go berserk on Purge night are probably the ones who are already emotionally, socially, or culturally Isolated, estranged, and neglected.

Has the purge ever happened?

There are examples in history of lawless times and widespread anarchy, such as England’s period of 1135-1154 during a succession crisis, which went down in the chronicles as a dark time of conflict, torture, massacres of civilians, famine, and depopulation.

But even we have a modern-day example, which took place in Brazil’s coastal state of Espírito Santo in 2017. Perhaps temporarily forsaken by its Holy Spirit, the state saw something that came close to a real-life Purge when the military police went on a prolonged strike to demand higher wages. 

Local gangs, petty criminals, angry youths, and opportunists exploited the strike, and a wave of violence commenced and spread across the streets of the state capital Vitória and beyond. Within days, murder rates went up by 650%, with 215 people getting killed.

Hundreds of violent carjackings took place, shops were looted by mobs, and eerily quiet streets saw bloody confrontations between gangs. Most shops, public services and schools shut their doors and people locked themselves up at home.


“I won’t even leave my house today,” one resident wrote on his Twitter page. “Things are absolutely crazy, there are people running around with guns in pretty populated areas, dozens of people stealing from malls, even dead bodies on streets.” 

After about six days of bloodshed and anarchy, the army came to relieve its scared citizens and reclaim the streets. Most murder cases were never investigated. 

Another popular historical connection laid by writers on The Purge, is the Roman festival of 

Saturnalia, claiming it was a feast of bloody lawlessness, similar to the movies. Indeed, during Saturnalia, many social rules were set aside, and slaves would mock their masters and be served good food by them. There was an ease on gambling laws and people would get drunk, dress gaudily and misbehave. Yet, there are no accounts of deliberate murders during the feast, apart from some good old drunken brawls in the Roman taverns.

While the reference to an all-out purge is historically shaky, the idea behind it is somewhat similar: to provide people with a release valve to unleash all their anger and frustration and, for a moment, free themselves of the shackles of class, status, poverty, and slavery. This would, at least in theory, help to reduce crime the rest of the year and improve the economy. Although Forbes Magazine went into the dynamics and thoroughly debunked this idea:

“In addition to being terrifying, destructive and evil, we could expect that a real-life Purge would amplify economic and racial inequality; habituate significant numbers of economic and political elites toward constant violent predation; create tiered insurance systems that would further advantage wealthier citizens, businesses and communities; and further increase monopolization in the U.S. economy over time.”

What if The Purge would happen?

In our story on how to survive the apocalypse, we already went through escaping the city and finding a safe place away from potential looters or worse. 

Yet, a Purge-like situation, or a Without-Rule-of-Law situation (WROL) requires a specific set of tricks which we’ll go through. Most importantly, it comes down to two options: to stay put or to leave. Or, if The Purge is your cup of tea, to join the crime-spree, but then you would probably be sharpening your weapons instead of reading this article. 

Get out: how to escape The Purge?

Leave the country

The simplest way to survive The Purge is to safely lock up your possessions and take that well-deserved holiday. Assuming that not every country in the world will be in Purge-mode, you can just grab a cheap ticket to the nearest foreign destination or drive across the border.

Plan these trips well ahead, as long traffic jams in front of the border can be expected, and there’s nothing worse than hearing the terrifying announcement meters before you reach the gate and seeing officers pack up and go, leaving you and your family locked up and extremely exposed.

Once you’re on that Mexican beach sipping your margarita, you can take a good hard thought about whether it makes sense to even come back to a country that allows a yearly blood feast.

Escape to a safe place

As was seen in the case of Espírito Santo, it were mainly the big cities that saw a dramatic raise in violence and looting. In places with more social cohesion, like in the countryside, people are more likely to team up and arrange their security, just as tribal communities have done throughout history.

Consider moving to such a village, or make sure you have very close friends or relatives where you can take refuge while leaving your city home barricaded and locked up.

Another option is to covertly make your way to a remote place where no one would ever come looking for you, like an uninhabited island in a lake or river, a deep forest, a far-out mountain range or even the desert. Make sure you stock up to survive this period safely, and, most importantly, make sure you get there unseen.

Stay put: how to survive The Purge at home?

The best way to survive The Purge for the stayers is to either turn your house into an impenetrable fortress or to make it look extremely inconspicuous and not worth breaching in to. Also, don’t draw attention with the smell of freshly baked muffins, keep your pets indoors and make sure your children are very quiet. No sign of life should come from your house during The Purge.

Put up a stronghold

How much effort are robbers going to make if two of them step on a landmine or get taken out by another cleverly placed booby trap? Assume that anyone entering your property on Purge night is not coming for a cup of tea. The list of clever Home-Alone Pro-style tips is endless, but I’ll share a few important tips.

  1. Blind your windows with thick black plastic so no light shines through when it’s dark outside.
  2. You can even try to make your garden and house look as if it’s been abandoned for a while. Smear the walls, tear up your lawn, and throw some random waste around the yard.
  3. Have cameras to follow what goes on outside.
  4. If possible, secure your yard with anything to dissuade trespassers: landmines, traps, tripwire, other booby traps, or the good old spiked pitfall. If you want to go real fancy, have a remote-controlled gun installed, so you can shoot at intruders without putting yourself at risk.
  5. Barricade doors and windows or, if possible, get reinforced metal shutters.
  6. Make sure your fence and house are unscalable from the outside. Depending on the way your house is built, you can think of barbed wire, a layer of spiked or rotating wall toppings, and anti-climb paint (yes, it exists).
  7. Carry on booby trapping the area near the doors and windows or even seal off staircases with heavy materials, making it very challenging for anyone with bad intentions to reach you. Obviously, make sure there are no valuables, ladders or tools that can be used as weapons lying around. 

Build a panic room

If you have the means to do it, and you just want to keep your family safe until the end signal sounds, a panic room may be for you. There are many options out there with ballistic wall panels, blast and bomb protected doors and even bulletproof windows. A very important thing is to make sure it’s fireproof and well ventilated in case someone decides to burn down your house. 

Since you’ll only be in there for the duration of twelve hours, you won’t need that many supplies, but make sure to have enough drinking water and some food and whatever consumables that give you comfort, as these must be the scariest hours of the year. Other than this, think about a fire extinguisher, toilet paper, pet food and a well-stocked first aid kit. 

Once in there, make sure not to leave the room, let alone your house, for any reason at all, no matter who’s at the gate. The consequences of abandoning this rule can be seen in one of The Purge movies, when a distressed man appears in front of a family’s home and the daughter decides to let him in, causing the house to be besieged by a gang that’s out to kill this man. 

Plan an escape route

In case you don’t have a panic room, make sure you follow all the steps mentioned above, and plan an escape route alongside it, so in case your house catches fire or the door is breached, you can still safely escape with your loved ones. Assuming they’re not after you personally, they may just plunder your house. 

Arm your family

Let’s hope it won’t come down to this, but if The Purge is set to happen, you are able to prepare for it by learning to use different types of firearms. Not just you, but your whole family. Make sure everyone knows what to do and practice together as a family. 

Another, and potentially better, approach is to turn your whole neighborhood into a fortress by erecting fortified gates, walls and barricades and hiring armed personnel. Or just team up with your neighbors and consider sharing a panic room, just for those 12 hours per year. 


Very predictable event, which makes it highly anticipatable. My suggestion is to emigrate immediately, as there’s no point to expose your family to this degree of fear and violence. If you do decide to stay, read up and prepare for what is to come. Follow the guidelines given or read up on expert tips in detailed works like Joe Nobody’s Without Rule of Law: Advanced Skills to Help You Survive.

Anything you can do to prepare your family for this is more than worth it, as on Purge night, literally anything could happen. Be smart, be prepared and be armed to the teeth, hoping this hell-night passes quietly and won’t escalate into a forever Purge.

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