“Ordinary people can stop extraordinary events” – Department of Homeland Security

On saleOur strategic partner and domestic violence in the workplace expert, Stephanie Angelo,  sent me this link to a Department of Home Land Security video on the importance of awareness at retail outlets and shopping malls with regard to suspicious behavior. DHS has the very difficult job of keeping us safe and informed without alarming or scaring the public. This is especially true of their efforts to protect us from an act of terrorism here on American soil.

Although this 9 minute video is intended for mall and retail personal, it  is worth watching.

Upon viewing it you may very well say to yourself:

-All of this is common sense.

  • Of course a suspicious package needs to be reported.
  • It’s a no brainer that someone taking photos of surveillance cameras could be suspicious.
  • Who doesn’t know that someone wearing a heavy overcoat indoors is also a red flag?
  • I already know that an unattended vehicle parked for extended periods might be suspect?

-So why did you urge me to watch this video?

Well here is my answer to that reasonable question. The big take away I got from this video had nothing to do with common sense. It had to do with obeying our instincts.

Gavin de Becker in his book  The Gift of Fear, describes intuition as “knowing without knowing why”. The best description of this natural defensive mechanism I have ever heard.

All too often during our personal safety training classes we hear  stories from  victims of crime, whom upon reflecting on their ordeals went on to describe clear pre crime indictors and other elements that “just didn’t seem right” before the crime even occurred. Things that gave them a “bad feeling” but things they ignored. They also share with us the stories they told themselves to push aside their intuition in an attempt to justify not acting on their instincts.

Our societal  encoding  very often prompts us to deem our instincts or intuition as “silly” or “irrational”  Even with every red light going off in our heads that something is amiss, we are also hesitant to honor that “gut feeling” out of fear of embarrassing someone (or ourselves) or hurting someone else’s feelings. Or perhaps not wanting to be the one to “create a scene” in case it “turned out to be nothing”

We use a cliché in personal safety that I think should become our encoded credo. “There is no harm in a false alarm” Regardless of the situation you are in, you should always honor your instincts and override any little voice in your head telling you to do otherwise.

Mall security, the police, any agency, would much prefer you report suspicious behavior. This gives them the chance to evaluate. Let them be the ones to thank you for your vigilance and to let you know if it turned out to be nothing.  And they will be grateful for your concern and diligence in reporting.

An alert yet relaxed and observant general public can be the extended network of eyes and ears for law enforcement.

Please watch this video with your family and especially your children if they are of age to be out and about and at the mall without you.

And remember, as DHS so succinctly states, “Ordinary people can stop extraordinary events”

Larry Kaminer © 2010

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