How Safe Are You?

December 5, 2009

How many times have we heard someone (possibly ourselves) ask, “Why do I have to learn about safety?  I’ve heard or read about females being more safe.”  If you have learned about personal safety many still allow themselves to get lazy; if you haven’t had the opportunity to learn, well it’s time to make the time to listen and learn.

According to Justice Department reports, many of us will be victims of violent crimes, and almost all of us will be the victim of theft or at least once other crime in our lifetime.  The odds may be stacked against us, but there are things that we can do to protect ourselves, our families and our property, making us less likely to be prey to the often opportunistic and cunning thug.

No matter how prepared we we are, bad things can still happen.  Recently a female was reminded of this the hard way.  After leaving her car in a well-lit parking lot, with security guards patrolling, she returned to find the passenger window busted in.  A lot of things were stolen.  She felt like she had been kicked in the gut – violated.  Sure, she heard about this happening to other people, but this kind is the kind of thing that “won’t happen to me”.

Looking back, she often wonders about other situations that she might have put herself into without realizing it.  What if someone was still in the car?  She didn’t look that closely when she was approaching the car.

What if the thief had a gun?

The victimization (abduction, rape, sexual assault, robbery, etc.) could have been so much worse.  Is it so difficult to just be a little bit more careful?

Whatever your daily routine, it is just that – routine.  By definition, this means you are performing through habit without much thought, and that’s where problems can arise.  Criminals prefer easy targets, and if your mind is wandering, it’s not likely that you’ll notice an assailant approaching until it’s too late.  Here are some things to keep in mind while going about your day and especially during the Holidays.

Out and about:

  • Stay alert.  Wherever you are — on the street, in your car, in the mall — be aware of your surroundings.  (Keeping your head on a swivel isn’t just for the flight deck.)  Send a message that you’re calm, confident and know where you’re going.
  • Trust your instincts!  Don’t worry about being polite or hurting someone’s feelings if you feel threatened.  If someone or something make you feel uneasy, avoid the person or leave the area.
  • Get to know the neighborhoods where you live and work.  Make mental notes of police stations, hospitals and other areas to go in case of an emergency.
  • Stick to well-traveled, well-lit streets.  Avoid shortcuts through wooded areas, parking lots or alleys.  Walk close to the curb and away from alleys, doorways, etc.
  • Keep valuables close.  Carry your purse close to your body.  Put your wallet in an inside coat or front pants pocket, not a back pocket.
  • Don’t wear shoes or items of clothing that restrict your movements.
  • Take the elevator of the stairs, and stand at the back of the elevator so that you can see everything that is happening around you at all times – you are more prepared to react knowing your surroundings.  If you someone gets on who makes you feel uncomfortable (gut instinct), get off.
  • If you think someone is following you, switch direction or cross the street.  Walk toward an open store, restaurant or lighted house.  If you’re scared, yell, “Fire!”  People respond better to calls of fire than yells for help.  And, ultimately if you are trained in personal safety, turn around and in a stern voice ask, “Are you following me?”  Confront the assailant or suspicious person twenty feet behind you rather than two feet.
  • Always keep your distance.  Be ware of anyone who asks for directions or assistance.
  • Avoid overburdening yourself with packages.  Females feel that they can make it in one trip and neither hand/arm is free to ward off an assailant.  Always have one arm free at all times.  If you have a lot to bring with you, make several trips or ask for help from the security guard, grocery store attendant, family member.
  • If you are working late, make sure that there are others in the building.  Ask someone you trust to walk you to your car or bus stop.
  • Never secure your office alone.  If you must secure the office at the end of the day, have a partner or a security person with you to get you safely to your car.
  • Have you keys in hand before you reach the door of your house or car.

Driving:

  • Avoid driving alone at night.
  • Get a cell phone, keep it charged and keep in handy (preferably in case on your person/clothing).
  • Keep your car in good running order.  Make sure that you have enough gas to get where you are going and back.
  • If your car does break down, lock your doors and call for help.  If a stranger offers help, stay in the car and keep it locked!  Tell them they can help by calling for assistance if you haven’t already done it yourself.
  • Don’t stop to help a stranger whose car is broken down.  Help instead by call the police and reporting the situation.
  • Avoid parking next to van, trucks with camper shells, or cars with tinted windows.
  • Before getting into your car in a parking lot or garage, look around.  If there’s a van parked next to you, get into your car from the opposite side.  Do the same if someone’s sitting in the care next to yours and it makes you feel uneasy (gut instincts/intuition).
  • Remember where you park so you are not wandering around the parking lot.
  • When getting out of the car, always roll up the windows and lock the doors, even if you are coming right back.
  • Avoid parking in isolated areas.  Be especially alert in lots and underground parking garages.
  • When stopped at traffic lights, keep the car in gear so you can take off if someone tries to get into your car.
  • If you think you’re being followed, don’t head home.  Drive to the nearest police station, fire station or an open business and get help.
  • Be cautious when using highway rest areas.  If it’s desolate, drive on to the next rest stop or gas station if at all possible.
  • Never leave valuables in plan view.  Put them in the trunk or out of sight.
  • Try to park in a garage with an attendant.  Leave only the valet your ignition key, with no identification in the glove compartment, etc.  This is also true for car repairs – leave the ignition key only!
  • Plan ahead.  When making long trips allow ample time to reach your destination.  Let someone know of your departure time and expected arrival time.
  • Don’t hitchike.  Never pick up strangers or hitchhikers.

At the Automated Teller Machine (ATM):

  • Use ATM machines in the daytime (half of the ATM crimes happen between 7 p.m. and midnight).  Have your card in hand so that you don’t have to take out your wallet, and don’t set your wallet down.
  • If at all possible use the ATM machines that you can access by driving up to rather than those that you walk up to/into.
  • If you notice while using the ATM that someone or others have approached, (follow your gut!) hit the cancel button and make a scene (while removing your card) to the effect that you can’t believe that he/she took all of your damn money!  Go ballistic while walking away – causing a scene indicates that you are already pissed off and that you don’t have any money anyway.  Get your car immediately, get inside and LOCK THE DOORS!  Immediately leave!
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