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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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4 Personal Safety Tips for Nurses and Home Health Workers: At The Front Door

                  4 Personal Safety Tips for Nurses and Home Health Workers

“Four at the Door”

At the Front Door

Home health providers, social workers, nurses, hospice care workers, chaplains, and any other field-based professionals should be on guard when knocking on a client’s door, especially during the first visit.  As always, personal safety is paramount.

These four strategies  – while simple – are highly effective in making you that much safer whether you’re knocking on someone’s door for the first time, or the hundredth time.

Distance is Always Your Friend.

Knock and step back several feet. (If you’re 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.)

Simply putting space between you and the door gives you more space and time to react if something dodgy happens. 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 out of the central line of sight – which leaves you less vulnerable to something like a dog charging out the door.

Stand on the 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 more of the room behind the person opening the door, than if you were on the door handle side.

Partially “Blade” Your Body.

This means to position your body at about a 45 degree angle towards the door, as opposed to facing it squarely with your shoulders.  “Blade**” your body once you’re back and off to the hinge side of the frame.  The advantage in standing at an angle, or partial “blading” is that this allows you to monitor what is going on behind you (your blind spot) as well as keeping an eye on the door.  This position also allows you to quickly turn away from the door and leave if you need to.

One last thought…..  If you 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, you won’t trip over it.

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

The provider said she did everything described above except 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 and at the door and at all times is critical – and doing so makes you a much “harder target.”

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

Related: Blending In: Not Drawing Unwanted Attention

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Travel Safety and Security Awareness Tips: What is Blending In?

Blending In 101:

One of the cornerstones of personal safety is what experts refer to as “blending in.” This isn’t attempting to “fit in,” especially in an environment that is clearly foreign to you, it’s just not drawing unwanted attention.

This may apply to social workers, home health providers, and other lone workers when doing business in unfamiliar neighborhoods.

It also applies when abroad, and in general, a good practice whether in a group or traveling solo.

The basics of blending in rely on common sense.

Dress down. Don’t wear bright colors that catch the eye, branded or designer clothing or accessories, and keep your phone out of sight. Jewelry and other valuables attract attention.

Footwear: Wear shoes that are comfortable and allow you to move quickly.  Inmates participating in a victim selection study said they always factor in whether a potential target is wearing shoes that will slow them down or allow them to run.

Body language is very important – even more so where there is a language barrier. Projecting a relaxed and friendly – yet confidant –  presence is ideal. Walking “head up” and “shoulders back” are the cornerstones of a relaxed and confident person.

But what if I CANNOT blend in?

What can you do when you’re traveling somewhere where you don’t look like the local people?  I experience this a lot traveling in Southern Africa and Central America.

In this case, the “script is flipped,” as it were.  All of the above tips still apply, but now you have some additional steps.

If you’re going to be somewhere for a while and cannot blend in, it is now time to “develop assets,” as the military likes to say.

In other words, it’s time to start getting to know people. For instance, I make a point to get to know store owners, the fellows running the bicycle rental shop I walk by every day, the pharmacist, several produce vendors, and security guards outside banks and other businesses.

My goal: I want as many friendly sets of eyes on me as possible as I go about my day.  Local people know who’s who and word travels fast.  If I’m somewhere more than a week, I get to know several cab drivers.

With friendly eyes on you, people who are up to no good know you are seen and recognized by the solid citizens, and are less likely to victimize you. Local people know who they are and can report very easily. Local people will also be more inclined to step in to help if they see you are in a difficult position.

Always remember that you are a GUEST in this neighborhood or country. Respect and honor the culture.  Showing gratitude and kindness goes a long way, as does warm and friendly eye contact where culturally appropriate.  Make a point to learn several courtesy phrases.

Build relationships over time. I stay pretty vague on where we’re staying and for how long.  As President Reagan once said, “Trust but verify.”

When abroad, I am sure to keep the contact information of friendly local people I get to know, such as cab drivers, pharmacists, an Airbnb owner, etc., in my WhatsApp (a commonly-used free international text and voice app.)

As always, know where to go in an emergency. Find out where the closest medical facility and police station are. Have your country’s embassy phone number in your speed dial list.  Regardless of how comfortable we become in any environment, including our own “backyards,” maintaining situational awareness and preparedness is always your first, best move.

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What to do If Caught in a Vehicle-Ramming Attack: Personal Safety Tips

Security PostVehicle-Ramming Attacks: Personal Safety and Situational Awareness

Given how distracted drivers can be, I always stand back from the edge of the curb, knowing a car could accidentally lurch onto the sidewalk and run me down.

Unfortunately, this is sometimes done on purpose, in what have become known as “vehicle-ramming attacks” – which is now being seen in the United States and Canada, as well as abroad.

So what can we do? Be Proactive versus Reactive.

Situational awareness is imperative, but remember, there’s no point in living in a state of constant fear over these very low-probability events. You are far better off staying relaxed, yet observant, as you go about your business, with some knowledge of what to be aware of, and what you would do if an attack took place.

Walk Facing Traffic.  If you walk facing traffic, you can see vehicles coming toward you – and gives you more time to maneuver if you need to. This also makes it harder for a car or van to run over you, or pull alongside you to attempt an abduction.

Understand Your Environment. For the most part, vehicle-ramming attacks are carried out where there are lots of people, AKA a “target-rich environment,” to do the most damage.  Therefore, if  a vehicle-ramming happens at a concert or farmers’ market, etc., be ready to move away from the most crowded areas, which perpetrators would be drawn to.

Take Note of Protective Structures.  Regardless of where you are, ask yourself: If a vehicle-ramming were to occur here, where could I take cover?  What structures are nearby to provide protection?  This could be a pillar, a tree, heavy planter boxes, or even just stepping into a store, lobby, or alcove.

Understand, too, that security and protective design have been implemented since the 1980s, after the resurgence of “smash-and-grab” burglaries.  Many buildings have bollards, as seen in the photo above. These sturdy posts are placed strategically to prevent a vehicle from getting close to a building. Take notice of these, as well as large concrete blocks and footers placed for the same reason.

A car is not good cover.  A larger ramming vehicle can easily push a car over you or smash it into you. Also, beware of taking cover that could leave you trapped, like alleys that have dead ends or other enclosed spaces.

If there is still time, open distance.

It is always best to get as far away as possible, 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.

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 the others are slowing down.

In vehicle-ramming attacks, larger trucks or machinery are often rented for their size and ability to do damage, and the driver may not necessarily be familiar with operating them.  This can result in vehicles being driven poorly or bumping into parked cars. If you hear a series of impact sounds growing progressively louder, this could be that vehicle heading toward you, as it scrapes past parked cars and other structures.

However, having said this, keep in mind this sort of attack can very well involve an ordinary car, as we saw in Charlottesville terror attack of 2017.  Don’t assume a fast-moving car is a police vehicle.

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, then there is no harm in a false alarm.

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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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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