Archive for category Human Resources

Travel Safety and Security Awareness: What is Blending In?

                                      Travel Safety and Security Awareness

                  What is Blending In? What do I do when I cannot Blend In?

One of the cornerstones to personal safety is what experts refer to as “blending in.” Better stated, this is not 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 to engage in whether in a group or traveling solo.

The basics on blending in are common sense.

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

Footwear: Shoes that are comfortable and that you can move quickly in are a plus. Inmates participating in a victim selection study said they always factor in whether a prospective target is wearing shoes that will slow them down or allow them nimble movement.

Body language is also key. Projecting a relaxed, yet confident and friendly presence is ideal. Walking “heads up” and “shoulders back” are the cornerstones of a relaxed and confident person.

But what to do when you CANNOT blend in?

For instance, when you’re somewhere that you don’t look at all like the local folks? I experience this a lot traveling in Southern Africa and Central America.

In this case, the “script is flipped,” as it were.

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’m sure 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 I go about my day as possible. Locals know who’s who and word travels fast. If I’m somewhere more than a week, I also get to know several cab drivers.

With 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. Locals know who they are and can report very easily. Locals will more readily step in to help, if they see you are in a difficult position.

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

I am always cognizant that I am a guest in this neighborhood or country.  Always show respect and honor the culture. Warm and friendly eye contact goes a long way, as does showing gratitude and kindness. Learning a few courtesy phrases always helps.

When abroad, I am sure to keep the contacts of locals I get to know, such as cab drivers, pharmacists, an Airbnb owner, etc., in my WhatsApp (the free international text and voice app most of us are familiar with.)

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 “back yards”, maintaining situational awareness is always key.

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

                  Social Workers and Home Health Providers Personal Safety 

“Four at the 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.

Related: Blending In. Not drawing unwanted attention to myself. 

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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.

Final thought……If you walk facing traffic you can not only see vehicles coming toward you, although in a vehicle attack, the rules of the road are not necessarily followed, but it also makes harder for a car or van to pull up alongside you and try abduct you.

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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Women’s Personal Safety: The Unwanted Hug

Women’s Personal Safety: 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.

Yet, few of us know what to do in the moment, because it’s weird, and we don’t want to be “rude.”

Many of us, especially women and girls, are socialized 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” makes us feel … oddly powerless.

Having strategies at the ready helps immensely, as opposed to trying to think of something in the moment.

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.  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.

You don’t owe anyone a justification, so if you’re met with objections or entreaties, calmly stand your ground with an answer such as, “It’s just my preference.”  “I’m not a hugging sort of person.”  “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 step back and angle your body 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, try:

Handshake + Conversational Pivot

Your pivot may sound like this: “Sorry, I’m maxed out on hugs today – but tell me about your new project – it sounds so interesting!” or, “Hey, you know what?  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.

This method distracts 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 feet — because 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: 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.”  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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Women’s Personal Safety and Male-Encoded Language

STOPThe Department of Justice  – and common sense – tells us that violence against women is predominantly committed by men.

With women’s personal safety always at the forefront, learning to use “male-encoded” language can be very helpful in certain circumstances.

Broadly speaking, aggressive males only understand communications – verbal and non-verbal – that read as male.

This is not to diminish the power and effectiveness of communication styles that are traditionally female-coded.

It’s about what works in a confrontation between an aggressive man and an intimidated woman.

Of course, the best way to avoid a confrontation is to … avoid it.  Leave the scene when you can.  But real life doesn’t always work that way, and you need to have some strategies in mind so you’ll know what to do if confronted by an angry, aggressive, or otherwise inappropriate person.

When a woman is dealing with a confrontational male, the social contract tells us to be quiet, not make a scene, and hope the encounter ends 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 nonresistant woman, many men will feel empowered to escalate the violence.

And 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.

This assertive verbal language and accompanying body language is often what we consider “male-encoded.”

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 THAT OUT!” while making a noticeable jerking motion with her thumb.

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 aggressive phrases men use, and role-play saying these same things out loud.  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 drill sergeant – as if you EXPECT to be obeyed, and anything else is unthinkable.

Use male-encoded body language when you issue these commands.  Stand at attention – straight, with your feet shoulder-width apart, shoulders back, head up, with a serious face.  Look fearless and resolved.  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.

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.

– Jennifer Kaminer, January 21, 2017

 

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