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Personal Safety Tips and Active Shooter: Cover vs. Concealment

Personal Safety Tips and Active Shooter: Cover vs. Concealment

Cover vs. Concealment

In any active shooter situation, reaching an exit may not always be an option. Assessing the situation and making the decision will be situational and up to you. If getting to an exit is no longer an option, finding cover will be critical.

Understanding the difference between Cover vs. Concealment is essential because both can be helpful when applied correctly.

Cover is anything – like a tree, a concrete wall, a heavy planter box, a room where one can shelter in place – that can slow or stop a bullet. Cover is something that can physically protect you.

Concealment is anything that can hide you, but not necessarily protect you from a bullet.

If you cannot reach COVER, Concealment, or hiding, may save your life.

Concealment might be between some heavy curtains and the windows in a boardroom, or under a desk with the chair pulled in closely.  Look around right now and think of where a good hiding place would be.

Should this topic cause us to be anxious or paranoid?  No.  Stay relaxed and aware.  Understand that an active shooter situation is statistically unlikely to happen, but just in case, you have your plan of action tucked away in your back pocket.

Exits

Besides identifying cover and concealment elements, we must always be aware of our exits and know where they lead, no matter where we are.

Be sure the exit is NOT LOCKED. This occurred at a recent shooting at a Costco. Patrons ran for well-marked exits, only to find them locked when they got there.

When I’m at a client’s office, I always have someone walk me to all the viable exits relevant to where I’ll be during the day.

I ask if I may open the exit to be sure it is unlocked.  I need to see where it leads and if it can be BLOCKED from outside, for example, with a wheeled dumpster or a vehicle, etc., with the intent of trapping people inside during an active shooting.

Taking the few extra minutes to get familiar with the exits is important because doing so builds muscle memory.  This muscle memory is important because in the event of a crisis, the resulting “adrenaline dump” makes it harder to think clearly.  This is not the time to wonder where the working exits are.

Make it a habit  to quickly scan your surroundings and identify exits, concealment, and cover.

Condition Yellow Relaxed yet aware and prepared.

Be Safe!!

Resource: Active Shooter. Ready.gov

 

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Women’s Personal Safety Tips: Avoiding The Unwanted Hug

Have you ever found yourself wrapped in a hug you didn’t want, but didn’t know what to do about it?

I certainly have, and it made me feel angry, resentful, and outraged.

Whether on campus, at work, or just socializing, unwanted hugging seems to affect almost all women and girls – and many men – at some point.  Although sometimes it is the result of a well-meaning person’s insensitivity, it is often used as a power play.

Yet, few of us know what to do in the moment, because for the most part, we are socialized to “be polite.”

Many women and girls are actually taught, explicitly or implicitly, to accept hugs without question – ignoring the fact that sometimes hugs are aggression posing as affection. That teaches us that we do not own our bodies, and leaves us more vulnerable to harassment and sexual assault. Therefore, our personal safety strategies are paramount.

You might say that unwanted hugging is a “gateway drug” to escalating physical contact. “Pick up artists” use hugging as a “compliance test” to determine how vulnerable a woman will be to his particular brand of manipulation.

The fact that unwanted hugs may or may not be done with ill intent, hiding under a veil of plausible deniability, and rely on you to “be polite” and we are literally put on the spot to make an instant judgement call can make us feel … oddly powerless.

Having a few strategies in mind to avoid any unwanted physical contact is a form of safety preparedness.  It provides a sense of power and peace of mind.

A Direct “NO” is A-OK.

You alone own your body, and you alone decide who gets hugs or not, according to how you feel in that moment.  You do not have to be “fair.”  You can change your mind without notice or reason.  You do not owe anyone explanations or apologies.  It’s perfectly ok to tell someone, “I don’t want a hug, thanks,” or “I’d prefer to shake hands,” or “Let’s just wave from here!”

It is the other person’s job, not yours, to manage how they feel about that.

If you’re met with objections or entreaties, calmly stand your ground with an answer that makes YOU feel the most comfortable, such as, “It’s just my preference.”  “I’m not a hugging sort of person.”  “I’m a germaphobe.” “I said, ‘No thanks.'” “I’d rather shake hands.”  “I would prefer not to.”

But if you don’t feel comfortable or safe giving a direct “No,” try this instead:

Stick out your arm for a hearty handshake.

Add a cheery “So nice to see (or meet) you!”

Take a half-step back and angle your body away from the person if you have room.

Most people will get the message and react accordingly.  However, if the hugger is tone deaf, but you need to let that person save face, due to, say, power differentials, try:

Handshake + Conversational Pivot

Your pivot may sound like this:  “Oh no, I’m still just getting over this cold / strep throat / ebola and I wouldn’t want to take a chance on accidentally infecting you!” “I’m all maxed out on hugs today – but tell me about your new project, it sounds so interesting!” or, “Hey, I’m all hugged out from my new puppy!  Do you want to see a photo?”  “Oh, sorry, my little nephew got all my hugs already. Speaking of which, what is a Pokemon?” The point is, always have a few rehearsed sound bites. Use whatever works for you and go with it like it’s the most natural thing in the world.

Alternatively, go for an enthusiastic high five + conversational pivot.

“Can you believe that [sports event] last night?!” “It’s Friday, high five!”  “Good to see you!  Up top!”  “We really crushed it on [work project] so I was thinking our next step is ___.”  Adapt any of these phrases or techniques to suit your situation and your comfort level.  You are the expert on your situation and your relative safety.

These methods generally distract the other person and glosses over any uneasiness.

If someone drags you into a hug anyway, making you uncomfortable, your job is to make your discomfort clear, and redirect it back to the offender.

“HEY!  I said NO HUGS!”

“OW!  You’re pulling my hair!”

“OUCH! You’re hurting my neck!”  (because you have a little crick in it, of course)

“HEY!  You’re hurting my sunburn!”

You might *accidentally* step on his/her feet — because s/he pulled you off balance with the unwanted hug, right?

Some people will always ignore boundaries and go in for the hug in spite of your objections.  That is valuable information: Now you know this person is not to be trusted.

This is someone to avoid.  This is someone to keep a wary eye on, even if you’re acquainted or “friends” or related.  This is someone who will not take “No” for an answer.  This is someone to warn your friends about.

Never let social conventions or fear of feeling awkward get in the way of your bodily integrity and security. 

Your personal safety always come before someone else’s feelings.

– Jennifer Kaminer, 27 March 2017

Related: Your Daughter’s Campus Safety and Security: 3 Tips

Related: Women’s Personal Safety on Campus

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3 Tips (and 1 Bonus Tip) to Enhance your Daughter’s Personal Safety on Campus

Although we like to think of our daughter’s years away at college as safe and idealistic, the reality is that her time at school puts her at risk.

RAINN, (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, reports that close to 1 in 6 college-aged women received assistance from a victim services agency.  They also report that a female college student is twice as likely to be sexually assaulted as robbed.  Please also bear in mind that 4 out of 5 students who were sexually assaulted do not report.

Enhancing your daughter’s campus safety, security, and survival is crucial.  The best way to do this is to educate and empower her with strategies (or “hacks”) she can use every day.

Although there is no 100% guaranteed blueprint for keeping our daughters safe, there are many empowering, yet simple, precautions we can teach them.

Of course, the cardinal rule is to always use the Buddy System.  They learned it in kindergarten, and it’s a classic for a reason.  You don’t stop using the Buddy System just because you turn 18 – in fact, it’s more important than ever, because the stakes become higher as our daughters leave the protection of parents and home.

These are 3 simple – but highly effective – strategies to enhance your daughter’s personal safety both on and off campus:

1. Headphones Are Off; Earbuds Are Put Away.

That means even if I can’t see you, I WILL HEAR YOU.  No exceptions when in public. Some argue that wearing headphones is a useful social signal that indicates they don’t want to talk.  A predator just sees an easier target.  We need the full range of all our senses at all times. Hearing is the most effective alert to when we’re being approached from behind.  Police remind us that 90% of surprise attacks are launched from closer than 15 feet behind an unaware person.

2. BYOB. (Beverage)

Bring your own beverage and pay attention to it.  Ideally, this will be in a reusable bottle with an attached lid.  This dramatically cuts down on opportunities for someone to tamper with or switch the drink.  Remember, most often it is someone with whom your daughter is acquainted,  or may even know well, who will attempt to spike her drink. Even ice could contain a predatory drug, such as GHB, which is odorless, colorless, and tasteless.  Have her bring her own bottle everywhere and protect it, all the time, just as she would her wallet.

3. Lock It Up, Lock It Down.

On university campuses, as in life, complacency sets in and people get lax about locking doors and windows.  This can be especially problematic in dormitories.  One person propping open a back door – even innocently, as a favor to a roommate, for example – puts everyone at risk. Unlocked windows are often an overlooked security risk, especially on the ground floor. If your daughter will be sharing off-campus housing, install a lock on her bedroom door.

While the risks of college life are real, don’t let fear drive your daughter’s university experience.  Instead, educate her with these and other tips for personal safety and security, and empower her for life.
Apple

— Jennifer Kaminer, 28 Feb 2017

Related: The Clery Act and why you need to know.

Related:  Personal Safety Webinar for young Women in College

Stalking: Resource from John Carroll University 

Most Victims KNOW their attackers.

Date Rape drugs: GHB and Rohypnol

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Women’s Personal Safety on Campus

Young women, aged 18-24, attending college, are 3 times more likely to be sexually assaulted or raped than the general population.

According to RAINN, 23.1 percent of female students experience rape or sexual assault via physical force, violence, or being incapacitated.

That’s a little over one in 5 young women … and those are only the ones we know of.  The real number is much higher.

This is why addressing women’s personal safety on campus is paramount.

It is imperative that we inform our daughters what they’re really up against — and how to better protect themselves.

Common sense tips such as “use the buddy system” and “don’t walk home alone at night” are valuable and have their place. However, those tips ignore the fact that, according to the University of Michigan, most sexual assaults are committed by someone we already know and trust, and most assaults happen in familiar surroundings. Hence, the term “Acquaintance Rape.”

Most young woman and their parents find this fact counterintuitive, but once they understand it, are able to put in place powerful strategies to not become another statistic.

Remember, the mind is the most powerful weapon.

When you change your “mental setting” from “prey” to “powerful” – that energy permeates though your body language, and shows up as confidence and strength.

Use your mind, body language, and strategy to develop “command presence” – this will broadcast to the world that you are not an easy target, which is the best deterrent against opportunistic, predatory fellow students and acquaintances, who are the most common offenders. (Think: entitled frat boys)

We know the buddy system is always recommended, but the larger the group, the better.  Go out together, and come home together.  Leave no one behind.  At parties or events, agree to check in with each other at pre-determined times. Use the buddy system when going to the bathroom, or to retrieve a coat from a back room. Why? This how a lone young woman gets dragged into a room and assaulted.

What is your plan if you think you or a friend have been drugged?  Do you have a pre-determined “distress code” to alert the other members of your group?  Have you rehearsed the power of your numbers, and the strength of your loud voices together to create a scene that would deter anyone with bad intent?

Walking home at night will happen.  But again, walk in a group. Carry yourselves with confident presence. Think “shoulders back, heads up” and scan your surroundings. Walk in well-lit areas and avoid darker shortcuts.  These three precautions will make you “harder targets.”

Don’t be shy to ask TWO trusted young men within your peer group to walk with you – but don’t let your guard down.

There is no one magic bullet that will keep you or your young woman 100% safe on campus.  But the more strategies you put in place, the safer you will all be.

Parents, you should all know what the Clery Act is, and why it is so critical in choosing a school that is entrusted with your daughter’s safety.

– Jennifer Kaminer, 9 February 2017

Related:

Women’s Safety On Campus: Live Webinar Training 

Women’s Personal Safety and Male-Encoded Language

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Women’s Personal Safety and Male-Encoded Language

STOPThe Department of Justice  – and common sense – tells us that gender-based violence and harassment is predominantly committed by men against women or non-binary persons.

Bearing in mind that every situation is different, the importance of using your best judgement in the moment, and keeping women’s personal safety at the forefront, learning to use “male-encoded language” can be a highly effective skill.

Broadly speaking, aggressive men best understand communication – verbal and non-verbal – when it reads as “male.”  Again, making a sweeping generalization that has some truth in it – aggressive men tend to receive what they interpret as “feminine” communication as irrelevant.

This is not to diminish the power and validity of communication styles that are traditionally “female.”  Rather, this is about knowing a few different helpful strategies in case of a confrontation between an aggressive man and a possibly intimidated or subordinate woman, female-presenting or gender non-conforming person.

Of course, the best way to avoid a confrontation is to … avoid it.  Leave the scene when you can. Women generally have an arsenal of “polite” exit strategies that allow the aggressive person to “save face.”  Unfortunately, there are times in life when that isn’t feasible or possible, so it’s best to have several different strategies at hand if confronted by an angry, aggressive, or otherwise inappropriate person.

When a woman is dealing with a confrontational man, the social contract tells us to be quiet, not make a scene, and try to the encounter end quickly.

We are told, implicitly and explicitly, that speaking up for ourselves makes things worse.

The truth is, being quiet and submissive was always a deeply flawed solution, and when faced with a non-resistant woman, many men will feel empowered to escalate the aggression or violence.

Politely asking an aggressor to stop being aggressive simply doesn’t work.

Although it goes against our collective cultural conditioning, oftentimes the best response to a confrontational or inappropriate male is to be loud and firm, in a tone that allows no room for negotiation or argument.

Even though there is nothing inherently male about speaking in this way, assertive speaking and body language is widely considered “male-encoded” – and therefore, more authoritative.

Consider the difference between a woman quietly saying, “Please stop doing that. You’re making me feel uncomfortable,” versus the same woman saying, “YOU!  CUT IT OUT!” while making a sharp jerking motion with her thumb.  It’s the difference between politely asking a waitress for a glass of water, and a drill sergeant issuing an order.

The assertive approach accomplishes two things: it puts the aggressor on notice that you are NOT an easy target and whatever he does to you will come with a consequence; and it alerts anyone nearby that you are in a precarious situation and they may need to step in or call for help.

Before you’re ever faced with a situation, think of assertive phrases practice saying them out loud in front of a mirror.  Practice until you’re comfortable saying these things firmly, authoritatively,  and are able to call them up instantly.

“YOU!  CUT IT OUT!”  “GET OUTTA HERE!”  “BACK OFF!”  “HEY YOU!  SHUT IT!” and “YOU BACK UP!” are some examples.  Drop your voice to a deeper register and deliver loud, firm COMMANDS, NOT REQUESTS, like a military commander – as if you EXPECT to be obeyed, and anything else is unthinkable.

Use male-encoded body language when you issue these commands.  Let your posture and facial expressions reinforce your words.Stand at attention – straight, with your feet shoulder-width apart, shoulders back, head up, with a serious face.  Look fearless, resolved, and stern.  At the same time, maintain your personal space as much as possible, as staying out of reach is always important.

Don’t worry about being rude or making a scene.  Go on and MAKE A SCENE.  Remember, the other person already broke the social contract; it’s not up to you to maintain the pretense.

Your personal safety always supersedes other people’s feelings.

Using assertive, male-encoded language should always be one of your strategies in maintaining your personal security.  Each one, teach one.

– Jennifer Kaminer, January 21, 2017

 

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