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Archive for category Campus safety
I had the opportunity to read Stop Signs authored by my friend Lynn Fairweather who is a threat assessment and domestic violence expert. As a personal safety trainer and consultant and father of two daughters, I was particularly eager to read this book and share the “golden nuggets” with them and those I interact with on a professional level.
I found this book to be well balanced. While I have read several books on domestic violence, I have never seen one as comprehensive as Stop Signs. The book is segmented into three equal parts devoted to recognizing, avoiding, and escaping dating / domestic abuse and violence. It therefore applies to all women: those who have never been abused, those who are currently being abused, and those that have left an abuser.
This book serves as a resource, a safety plan, and offers self-help empowerment all in one. It is an intuitive read and also gives voice to survivors in dialog boxes that are strategically placed to drive home the teachable moments. This style is in keeping with Lynn’s “lived experience” as she too is a survivor of domestic violence and is therefore able to bring a personal as well as a professional perspective to the topic.
Who should read this book and keep it on the shelf as a domestic violence resource? Anyone from a mother with young daughters, to someone in an abusive relationship all the way over to a threat assessment / security professional or HR personal in the corporate sector.
The book is available at Amazon.
Lynn is the founder and president of Presage Consulting & Training, an Oregon based organization specializing in fatality reduction through threat assessment and management.
Lynn’s contact details appear below.
Lynn Fairweather, M.S.W.
Presage Consulting and Training
Think back to the documentary on television where the lioness is hunting. She stalks a herd of deer as they approach a water hole. She waits in the same place because she knows that the deer, being highly predictable, will come by at the same time every day. They must do so to drink.
As she moves in, she stays well hidden and singles out her target; usually the very young or very old, the sick member of the herd or the animal least aware of its surroundings! They are easy or “soft targets”. The inattentive animal doesn’t look up from grazing and hardly scans its surroundings. This is the animal that is also not listening and clearly does not know what is going on behind it. The lioness is much attuned to the body language of the inattentive. So are human predators!
If she is not hunting under her preferred cover of darkness, she will try to have the sun behind her so the herd is blinded making her even more difficult to see. She moves in as close as she can and then launchers her attack from behind, her victim’s blind spot. If possible she will run her prey toward a terrain feature such as a steep embankment to be sure she channels it in the direction of her choosing. By the time her victim realizes what is going on its too late and the attack is complete.
If her intended prey starts to pay more attention to its surroundings and moves back into the middle of the herd where it will find safety in numbers, the lioness will wait, pass over what has now become a “hard target” and look again for an easy mark. This is called the victim selection process and is not unlike the process human predators go through. Victims are chosen, the process is not random and the attack plan well thought out.
Human predators operate in much the same way. Their ideal target too exhibits the three elements that make them “a victim looking for a place to happen”; lack of awareness of surroundings, predictability of schedule, and placing themselves alone in an isolated environment.
Some Tips and Safety Strategies to Consider now that it is Getting Darker Earlier
- If you run with one or two buddies, you are safer and have made those isolated areas less of a threat. This is even more important in early morning and evening low light hours.
- If you walk or run on different trails on different days at slightly different times with you buddy team you have exponentially hardened your target profile. Remember, predictability is one of your enemies.
- Hearing is your parallel primary protective special sense. It’s on par with vision, so leave the head phones at home. People who have had close calls often tell us they heard someone coming up behind them before they saw them, giving them time to react.
- If you must run alone, choose busier well light streets and run FACING traffic, making it difficult for a vehicle to pull along side. Also let someone know your route and the time you expect to return.
- Always know where your “safe havens” are located. This could be a busy coffee shop or retail area, a well light parking lot or even a knowing at which homes along the route people are home.
- Always bring your cell phone with you and be sure to keep track of any areas where there is weak or no signal. Place it in a small Ziploc bag if you are worried about moisture.
- If you carry pepper spray, carry it in your hand with a wrap band. It will only be of help to you if you can bring it to bear and discharge in an instant. Buy fogger sprayers NOT stream dispensers!
- One of the best “things” you can bring on a run or walk is a dog. Regardless of size, they are good early warning systems and are just another layer of complications for a would be assailant.
- If it’s cold wear earmuffs, NOT a hoodie which robs you of peripheral vision. Hoodies can also be grabbed and used as a “handle” by which to control you.
- Remember that the most important area to be aware of is the blind spot behind you. The place ambush or blitz attacks are launched from.
- Carrying a small personal alarm is preferred by some as is a small very high intensity flashlight that can temporarily blind an assailant and illuminate those dark areas that offer great hiding places. These items can be easily clipped onto your waistband which is where your cell phone should be too.
Social Media and your Personal Safety
- Do not plan runs or announce rendezvous points to your exercise buddies via any social media or networking platform
- If you want to post about a pleasant exercise outing, do so after the fact and keep the details, especially the route and location very vague.
The Danger of Complacency
At this very moment and as you read this would be criminals or predators are not your primary enemy. Complacency is. Do not fall into a false sense of security telling yourself “We live in a good area” or “Nothing bad ever happens here”. Anything can happen anywhere. Don’t take chances. Implement your strategy and engage it with discipline. Be smart. Be safe and stay healthy!!
Reuters recently cited findings from a study by Legal & General, a multinational financial services company headquartered in London, United Kingdom. The company was looking into the impact social media has on risk with regard to property and content. The report was called the “Digital Criminal”
Legal & General polled 2,092 people:
- 38%- posted where and when they were going on their next vacation
- 33%- posted where and when they would be on the upcoming weekend
Of 100 “friend requests” sent out during the study
- 13 percent were accepted on Facebook – without any checks.
- 92 percent on Twitter — without any checks.
Obviously Legal & General’s concern is revolves around risk to property and theft as people share way too much information online to include photos of the interior of their homes and valuables.
(More on the Reuters article written by Belinda Goldsmith)
Employees and Family Personal Safety
It goes without saying that broadcasting where we will be or where we presently are at in real time, gives another set of criminals, those that would want to do harm to you, a family member or one of your employees, easy targeting opportunities.
Despite good access control and security which makes your place of work much safer, social media is offering alternate non-worksite targeting venues and opportunities as employees broadcast where they will be and at what times.
A perpetrator might be a disgruntled worker or the batterer of one of your staff. The incidences of opportunistic targeting, which can lead to stalking, also increase with careless use of social networks.
Social Media Security and Safety Tips: Common Sense but Not Commonly Adhered To
- Spend a moment vetting “friend” requests. The fact that you have “mutual friends” with someone you know well means nothing given the information revealed in the above study.
- Never let people know where you are or will be; only where you were of have been! This includes posting photos upon return from an outing or vacation.
- Try and be vague about where you have been and what time you were there. This makes it more difficult for someone to build a predictive profile on your habits and patterns.
- Be cognizant of which photos you are included in and ask friends not to “tag” you.
- Never tag your children in any photos.
- Turn off the GPS feature on your Smart Phone before you use its camera. If not, the coordinates of where the photo was taken will remain embedded in the image code.
- Think like a criminal. The layout of your home and valuables that appear in the background of any photo are useful pieces of information.
- Be sure to disable the GPS feature on individual apps as well. If not, your location will be broadcast with each post or Tweet once again leaving a convenient trail as to your patterns and habits.
- Ask yourself who benefits when you “Check in” via a location based app? We have polled audiences during our trainings. 95% of them say they really don’t care where you are and what you are doing. The only people that care as much as you are the criminal element mining social networking platforms for easy targets.
- Is the “Out of Office” reply really necessary? It is often the data point that alerts prying eyes to start tracking you online, since they know you are not at work.
Social media safety and security are a growing concern. As more people engage in social media the amount of information being shared in relatively open forums continues to grow.
Best practice is to post information and photos after an event rather than letting people know where you will be or where you are right now. It is also a good idea to be cautious about “checking in” when using locations based services. Geo location is a growing concern amongst social media safety experts.
If you exercise the discipline of only posting after an event, keep this tip in mind; if you frequent the restaurant or establishment mentioned in your post, you are still leaving a criminal with enough information to start building a predictive profile on you.
What do I mean by this? Simply put, our predictability is one of our primary vulnerabilities. It provides criminals a good map of when and where we will be. This information helps them streamline their planning and victim selection process whether it may be a burglary or a violent crime on a person.
Humans are creatures of habit. We tend to walk and drive the same routes and stick to schedules that become quite obvious to those who might be observing. This is why those charged with protecting dignitaries and high profile people continuously change the routes, vehicles and departure times while transporting their clients.
Even if you are careful, but mention several times over the course of a few weeks that you are home from a specific location; a restaurant you frequent, your gym, your child’s school or a more regular after work activity, you have supplied enough information for someone to predict when you will be back at one of those locations. This information greatly enhances the targeting opportunity.
So keep in mind, even if posting after an event, keep the specifics and location vague. Predictably is our Achilles Heel. Again keep the specifics and location very vague!!
You might think that only friends and family in your social media network are privy to anything you share. You also might think that your friends have vetted the friends they share their platforms with. Think again!
A Reuters article on a British company, Legal & General published some statistics from a study they did several years ago.
Their study revealed that only 13% of Facebook users vetted a friend request and a staggering 92% accepted new follows on Twitter without doing any checks!!
They also found that 38% of people on Twitter and Facebook would post about an upcoming vacation.
Social Media Safety Training Available onsite or in webinar format / One hour duration
Back to School Safety Tips — Social Media, Device Security, Malware by Christopher Burgess (For the Huffington Post )
Password- Creation and Usage – Online Safety & Security by Christopher Burgess
Psychologically we are able to fathom a cagey burglar breaking in and stealing something when he knows we are not home. The notion that two or more criminals would burst in and invade when they know we are home is chilling.
This is not just a property crime. Home invasions include a display of power and a desire to control and terrorize, rob, kidnap, rape, assault or flat out murder the victim(s). A growing number of invaders wear soft body armor and brandish intimidating weapons. More often than not these are hardened criminals with extensive records who will not hesitate to resort to violence. The good news is that overall, home invasions tend to be on the decline, but solid safety and security protocol should always be in place. After all, favorable statistics mean nothing if heartless criminals target your dwelling.
Here are some things you can do to harden your home and make it less vulnerable to a home invasion.
If the home is recessed from the road, does the driveway have good lighting? A British study reveals that dusk-to-dawn low level lighting is thought to be a more effective deterrent than motion detector lights. I like both! Be sure the garage, parking area and sides of the dwelling are also well lit. Prune or remove bushes and shrubs that offer natural cover, especially near ground floor windows and all entrances.
If your property is fenced, take the time to close and lock gates. Ask yourself if your 230 pound nephew on football scholarship can kick in your front or side doors. If the answer is yes it’s time to beef up the frame, the door itself and all hardware. Deadbolts should have no less than an inch of travel into the frame.
Applying modern laminates to the glass makes breaking through a window more difficult. Sliding glass doors must be reinforced. Windows to the basement should have bars. A bed of small river pebbles strategically placed in front of windows make a quiet approach more difficult.
If you have an alarm, use it. Criminals know that most home owners never arm their systems. Know how to use the panic features. If you have a wireless panic button fob, keep it on you. Teach your children how to use the panic button too. When you park in the driveway, bring the remote to the garage in with you. Always lock your internal garage door. This is a common entry point since invaders know we tend to leave that door unlocked.
It is best to close drapes at dusk, dawn and during night time hours. During their surveillance phase, criminals will feel less sure about attacking if they cannot establish who is at home, in what rooms, and if they can account for everyone in the dwelling. Be aware that an invader might have done pre-crime surveillance of the home when delivering something, or working as an installation technician etc. Instruct children to never open the door for a stranger and be wary of any unexpected visitor, even during the day.
Don’t leave stepladders on the side of the house. They offer easy access to upper floors. So always lock upper story patio doors and easy to access windows.
Keep all doors to the home locked, even during the day. You would be surprised at how many people don’t, stating, “But we live in a safe neighborhood”. Long gone is that nostalgic and care free Norman Rockwell existence. Anything can happen anywhere at any time. If someone is determined to get in, make them work for it. Anything that allows you detect and delay an entry buys you time to react. An unlocked door gives you neither.
Designate a “Safe Room” with a sturdy door where you can retreat with your cell phone if need be. Be sure that you receive a cell signal in this room. Keep an index card with your home address, a flash light, bottles of water and a fire extinguisher in the safe room. If you are not calling from a land line, the 9-1-1 operator will not know your address. You can easily read your address from the card if you are in a state of fear. Make your children aware of this room and why it exists. Practice moving to it efficiently as a family. If you live in a larger or two-story home, you may want to setup more than one safe room.
Remain alert when leaving or returning to your neighborhood. If you think you are being followed do not drive home. Proceed back to a well lit busy area or a police station and call for help. In the case of the home invasion and murder of Dr. Petit’s family in Cheshire Connecticut last year, the perpetrators first noticed Mrs. Petit and her daughters when they were in town shopping and then followed them home.
If you don’t already have one, get a dog. Large or small, they are excellent early warning systems with far better special senses than ours. Dogs are also consistent in their vigilance unlike us humans who become complacent, take short cuts and eventually forget about the golden rules of home and personal safety.