Know Your Risks and Execute Your Personal Safety Strategies
In the world of health promotion and disease prevention, everything evolves around or is influenced by risk – risk factors for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, addictions, falls, etc. One thing that is very clear is that the more risk factors a person has for a specific disease or condition, the greater the chance that he or she will develop that disease or condition. Just as a person must take responsibility for their own health and well-being (it’s not your doctor’s responsibility to keep you healthy), each of us must take responsibility for our own safety (a police officer is rarely around at the moment you may need his or her protection from potential harm).
We live in a world of increasing risk – risk of identify fraud, various piracies, addiction development, social media scams (to name a few), and certainly an environment of increased risk to our personal safety. One must have a good understanding of what those risk factors are, and work to minimize those risks through gaining a knowledge of intervention principles and strategies that have shown to reduce risk and offer protection. That person must then execute those strategies or interventions on a consistent basis.
Risk Factor: Distracted —————— Intervention: Aware and Alert
There are myriad of things in life that can distract us, but if those distractions could compromise our personal safety, they must be identified, eliminated or modified, and appropriate interventions implemented. Consider the following risk factors to your personal safety and interventions:
Risk Factors: Talking on your cellphone, earbuds blaring, distracted by nearby activities that draw attention, or simply not paying attention, etc.: While these are wonderful inventions and conveniences, they can distract you from what is going on around you. Or, simply not recognizing a potentially high-risk situation when signs may indicate such. When outside, where a would-be attacker may be stalking you, being distracted by chatting on your phone or jiving to the music leaves you venerable and unaware of potential seen and unseen threats.
Intervention: Awareness of your surroundings & alert and attentive to potential dangers: Whenever you are alone or in a location or situation that could pose a threat, focus on being keenly aware of everything around you, and be ready to make an adjustment if needed. Consider the following:
- Walking down a street: Is there anyone approaching you or following you? Are they moving closer to you? Is the street dark, lacking in lighting or other safety features? Are the logistics of the street advantageous for a predator to make an attack? If your observational awareness suggests that the advantage goes to a would-be attacker, select another path if possible.
- In your apartment, home or motel room: Is your door locked, bolted, and the strike plate reinforced with longer screws? If someone knocks, who is on the other side of your door? Is your peep hole designed so you can see them, but they cannot look through it to see you?
Never unlock and open your door without knowing exactly who is waiting on the other side and their purpose for being there.
- In a parking lot: Have you chosen a spot that is well lighted? Is it close to main entrances where others may be passing? Could nearby parked vehicles be used for an abduction such as a van with the doors by your driver door? If so, consider entering via the passenger door. Is anyone loitering nearby? As you approach your parked vehicle, look underneath to see if someone might be hiding. Can you thoroughly see inside your car, front and back seats? Do you have a clicker that turns on the inside lights of your car? Don’t enter your parked vehicle until you are sure it is empty. If loading something into your car’s trunk, make sure no one is around and load the items quickly.
- A public setting: In certain public settings you may be asked to give out your personal information such as when a pharmacist asks you to verify your home address. If asked, whisper the information to them. If riding an elevator, never leave your back to a potential attacker or robber but face them and look them directly in the eye. This signals them that you are aware of them, confident in your situation, and not being venerable – a trait that attackers look for in those they would identify as a potential target.
- Engaging in an ATM transaction: It is well known that ATM’s are a high-risk area for an attempt to steal the cash you have or intend to withdraw. The risk is increased if you use it at night, if the ATM you visit is in a dark, out of the way area, if you are alone, if you are not aware of your surroundings and frequently checking for the presence or lurking of individuals, etc. Minimize risk by using them during daylight hours, using those that are well lighted and in a high trafficked area, having a partner nearby, etc.
Risk Factor: Hesitant ——————– Intervention: Prepared and Willing to Act
Practicing, both physically and mentally, is a common and accepted function to enhance performance in any situation, from sports participation to responding to an attacker. Practice is performed to ensure that performance sills are executed properly, efficiently, and in a timely manner. Practice is the mandatory pre-requisite to accomplish your end goals, and a swift and properly executed safety response, the willingness to act, is essential when being attacked.
- Risk Factors: Freezing up when confronted, trying to analyze when you should be responding or acting, unsure of what to do: If faced with an attack, you want to be able to respond in such a way to deter the attack, not embolden them because of a timid or weak reaction.
Intervention: Being prepared and willing to act: If you have mentally and physically rehearsed your response to an attack situation, the likelihood that your response will be appropriate for the situation and performed with accuracy and enough magnitude to ward off the attack is greatly increased. Consider the following:
- A car pulls up to you as you are walking, rolls down the window, points a gun at you, and screams for you “get in the car or I will shoot you.” If such a scenario arises, will you panic, freeze and maybe even comply, or will you immediately jump away (down or to the side so the attacker’s line of shot is lost) and run away – screaming? Most attacks like these the attacker has no real intention to shoot the victim. If you get into the attacker’s car, in his territory, then you are at his mercy and largely in his control.
- An attacker grabs you from behind. If the attacker places a hand over your mouth, you should this as an invitation to bite their fingers with all the strength your jaw muscles can muster. The attacker’s knees should be a target for a swift and well-placed kick or repeated kicks to either the front of the knee or the sides with the intended purpose to buckle the assailant. The attacker’s eyes, throat, and groin are areas that the biggest, strongest, most in-shape person can’t train to strengthen, and are areas of venerability that should be targeted and exploited in your efforts to ensure that you are not a victim with a terrible outcome. If they grab and seek to hold your arm, yank it up and down and back and forth to free yourself and allow you to fight or take flight. During any of these scenarios, be sure to scream bloody murder to frustrate the attacker and cause him to fear being detected. And maybe the most important thing to remember and be prepared to do is to NEVER GIVE IN OR GIVE UP. Surrender is not an option. The only acceptable outcome is that you win, you escape, you live to see another day.
- A stranger approaches you with what appears to be an act of aggression. It is more than appropriate to look the person squarely in the eye and yell at him demanding that they stay away and come no closer. It is recommended that all women carry one of the new security alarm devices on their key ring. Have it in your hand and ready to turn on the high-pitched alarm should the person continue coming at you. If you have been properly trained in the use of a weapon and feel comfortable using it, whether that weapon be pepper spray or a firearm, don’t hesitate to use it if you feel that your life is in jeopardy. If the situation demands or allows a chance to escape, run in the direction of people, run screaming, and run for your life.
While there are multiple risk factors that could have been addressed, we chose to focus on some risks for which individuals can have a lot of control over, or at least the ability to act in a way to minimize risk while enhancing your response to life-threatening or other threatening situations. Knowledge is power, and the ability to effectively use that knowledge and power enhances one’s wisdom and judgment toward a desired outcome.