Archive for category Employee Safety

4 Tips to Enhance Social Workers and Nurses’ Personal Safety at the Front Door

At the Front Door

Home health providers, social workers, nurses and other field-based professionals know to be on guard when knocking on a client’s door, especially during that first visit. Personal safety is paramount.

Here are the four strategies you can use to make you that much safer while knocking on someone’s door, whether for the first time or the hundredth time.

Distance is Always Your Friend

Knock and step back several feet. (If you are knocking on the door of a trailer home, perhaps reach through the railings and knock on the bottom of the door to avoid the stairs.)

Creating space between you and the door gives you more time to react if a negative situation arises. Police refer to this as the “reactionary gap,” or “reactionary cushion.”

Stay off the Center Line

Moving to the side takes you off the center line and leaves you a bit less vulnerable to something like a dog charging out the door.

Hinge Side of the Door

As you step to the side try whenever possible to stand on the hinge side of the door frame. This allows you to see a more of the room behind the person opening the door than if on the door handle side.

Partial “Blading” for Your Body

Once you’re back and away and off to the hinge side of the frame, remember to angle your body at about 45 degrees toward the door,  as opposed to facing the door square with your shoulders.  Angling or partially “blading” your body in this manner allows you monitor what is going on behind you, also known as your blind spot, as well as keep an eye on the door. This positioning also allows you to more quickly turn away from the door and leave rapidly if the situation called for it.

One last thought…..  If you do put down your bag while waiting, place it between you and the door and not behind you or on your flank. This way if you need to leave quickly for any reason, you will not trip over it.

It Happened to Me: A True Story From Lone Worker Training:

The provider said she did everything described above but for the partial blading stance. She said her shoulders were square to the door, and when it was opened she was shoved from behind into the residence and robbed of her possessions.

Does this happen every day?  Of course not.  But knowing what is going on behind you at the door and at all times is critical and makes you a much “harder target.”

**A simple technique that will help you cover that BLIND SPOT behind you.

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3 Things to Consider if Caught in a Vehicle-Ramming Attack

Security PostVehicle-Ramming Attacks: Personal Safety and Situational Awareness

Given how distracted drivers can be, I have always stood back from the edge of the curb, knowing a car could accidently drive onto the sidewalk and run me down.

In today’s world, unfortunately, this is done on purpose, in what have become known as ‘vehicle-ramming attacks’ that we see abroad, but now also in the United States and Canada.

So what can we do?

Situational awareness is key, but it is important to remember there is no reason to live in a state of fear over these very low-probability events. You are far better off remaining relaxed, yet observant, as you go about your business, with some knowledge of what to be aware of, and what you would do if such an attack took place.

Remember, for the most part, this form of attack is carried out where there are  lots of people to achieve the most harm, also known as a ‘target rich environment.’ Therefore, if there is a vehicle-ramming  while at a concert or farmers market etc, be ready to move away from the most crowded locations which the perpetrators are drawn to.

Environment: Regardless of where you are, ask yourself: if a vehicle-ramming was in progress or looked imminent, what structure is nearby that I could take cover behind? This could be a pillar, a tree, heavy planter boxes, or even just stepping into a store, lobby, or alcove.

Security and protective design has also been implemented. Many buildings have bollards as seen in the photo above. These sturdy posts are placed strategically, so a vehicle cannot get close to a building. Be aware of these and large concrete blocks and footers placed for the same reason.

Opening distance may also be an option if there is still time.

If you can, it is always best to get as far away as possible from the incident, in case the situation includes an explosive device or an armed driver and accomplice. Alert others, but do not let indecisive people slow you down.

Keep in mind, a larger ramming vehicle can push a car you are hiding in front of or behind over you and therefore is not good cover. Also be aware of seeking cover that could leave you trapped like  a service road between buildings or similar alleys that have dead ends.

 

Special Senses: As you go about your day, keep an ear and eye out. It is counter intuitive to hear or see a vehicle speeding up in an area where all others are slowing down.

Often, larger vehicles are rented for their mass and ability to do damage, and the driver may not be familiar with operating this vehicle. As a result, keep an eye out for a such a vehicle being driven poorly or bumping into parked cars as it progresses. If you hear a series of impact sounds, this may be that vehicle progressing toward your area, as it scrapes past parked cars and other structures.

Having said this, keep in mind, this attack may involve an ordinary car, as we saw in Charlottesville. Don’t always assume a fast-moving car is a police vehicle. Be sure to remain alert.

If you see a vehicle weaving and driving, including up onto the curb, again, seek cover.

If the incident turns out to be an accident or something non-malicious, there is no harm in a false alarm.

Always trust your instincts. If you get a bad “vibe” about your environment, move to another, or open distance. The military trains soldiers to be in tune with the “atmospherics” of their surroundings and to honor intuition. We should too.

Being Proactive versus Reactive

Having your action plan for this rare “What if?” scenario in your back pocket does not make you paranoid. It leaves you prepared.

Personal safety is key. Preparedness and awareness are two very intuitive, powerful, and protective tools.

Related: “Condition Yellow” The perfect state of situational awareness.

 

 

 

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5 Parking Lot Personal Safety Tips

In this 2 minute video we will take a look at some of the elements criminal’s factor into their victim selection process and the importance of remaining alert in familiar surroundings such as at home, work or school.

Notice the difference in our prospective victim’s ability to react to an attack as she walks from her car in an apartment parking lot.  Some elements to keep in mind!!!

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3 things to remember to be safer in an around your vehicle. Social Workers, Home Healthcare and Other Lone Workers

Security experts, law enforcement, and those in executive protection always remind us that our personal safety is compromised when we spend time in and around our parked vehicles. We are far safer in even a slow-moving vehicle with the doors locked and windows up.

Social workers, home healthcare workers, occupational health providers, and those in sales are just a few examples of those who spend a lot of time traveling between destinations.

I have heard case managers often say that they will use some down time between visits, sitting in their cars, clearing voice mails, or replying to time sensitive emails.

Others state that they will often sit in the parked car while programing their GPS for the next destination. Some will return calls while parked, leaving them very distracted as to their surroundings.

Police state that crimes such as robbery and carjacking are often opportunistic, with the victims often being someone “using the car as an office.”

Here is simple mantra to keep in mind: “Look- Lock-Leave.”

Look in, under, and around your car before you approach and get in.

Lock the door immediately upon getting in.

Start the vehicle and Leave immediately. The sooner you are moving, the better.

Another tip: If you are not parallel parking, always try and back in, making it easier drive away quickly if under duress. This also allows a tow truck to more readily help you out with a breakdown of recharging a dead battery!

Related: What is Situational Awareness?

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Social Worker Personal Safety and Situational Awareness: The Issue of Weapons

Social Worker Personal Safety and Situational Awareness: The Issue of WeaponsiStock_000000255677XSmall

From the title of this blog post, you might have thought this entry was about what weapons a social worker should or should not carry for self-defense.  Not so.

This entry discusses what a social worker, case manager, or home health nurse should do regarding the presence of weapons in the home during a house call.

Some companies dictate that all weapons are to be stowed away or secured before the visit. This is a good policy, and many members will do so before their provider arrives.

However, this is not a “one size fits all” solution. Attitudes towards weapons, especially firearms, vary greatly by region here in the United States.  For example, a .45 handgun lying on an end table might not bother a case worker in Tennessee or Texas, but somewhere else, would be cause for alarm.

Here’s a common scenario I hear from various providers:

“I was conducting a home visit with one of our members. He was cooperative and pleasant as usual. I was sitting at the table when I noticed I was actually sitting between him and a shotgun on the other side of the room, in a corner.  I thought about our company policy to ask him to secure it or put it away.

“This thought was overruled by my instincts, which said, ‘Our visit is going very well. Right now, I’m between him and the gun, and he’s not even thinking about it.  If I ask him to move it, that means his attention will be directed to the weapon, and he will pick it up.  Now, I’ve called attention to the gun and it’s in his hands, when a minute ago, he wasn’t even thinking about it.’”

So what to do? I think it all come back down to instincts, and making a judgement call based on the situation.

In the instance above, I would have done what the case worker did: continue the visit and not bring attention to the weapon.  Is this in keeping with company policy? Maybe not, but it sure is in keeping with common sense and a sound situational decision.

In New York State, managers and home health providers have said that due to very strict gun laws, a weapon could likely mean trouble, and perhaps illegal activity.  In that case, policy should be followed closely.  Politely shut down the meeting and leave.

It is also worth remembering that a volatile person in a work – or non-work related setting – can inflict great harm, even if a gun or knife, what we typically think of as “weapons,” are not present. Weapons of opportunity, such as a heavy vase, ashtray, or bedside lamp can be lethal, as can scissors or a letter opener left in plain view on the desk.

Just some food for thought with regard to your personal safety and situational awareness.

 

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