Archive for category Human Resources

Social Workers, Home Healthcare and Other Lone Workers’ Personal Safety In and Around Vehicles

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 salespeople 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 voicemails, or replying to time-sensitive emails.

Others tell me that they will often sit in the parked car while programing their GPS for the next destination. Some return calls while parked – thinking correctly that it is better to not be on the phone while driving – but nonetheless leaving them very distracted as to their surroundings.

Police report that crimes such as robbery and carjacking are often opportunistic, with the victims regularly 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’re moving, the better.

Another tip: If you’re 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 or recharging a dead battery!

Related: What is Situational Awareness?

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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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Social Worker Personal Safety Tips 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 was going to be about which 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 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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Front Desk Professionals Personal Safety Awareness Training

security-camsHow many times have you heard, “I just cover the front desk at my job.”

Please stop describing yourselves this way.  You are professionals who have a lot more responsibilities and tasks than meet the eye.

In the hospitality industry, you are the name and face of the brand you represent. In business settings, you are the first point of contact tasked with making a desirable first impression, while being assertive, yet friendly, and maintaining control of your lobby.

You are expert multitaskers. While signing people in and printing visitor’s badges, you are keeping an eye on the front door, the hallway to the restrooms, buzzing in the mail delivery clerk and authenticating service providers. On top of that, you’re often also tasked with monitoring the CCTV security system!

Behind your welcoming professional smile, you have overwatch on access control and security.  You deal with difficult people, and are first in line with regard to situations and threats that most other people in your building aren’t even aware of.

Unfortunately, personal safety and situational awareness training for front desk professionals is often overlooked.  This may be due a lack of appreciation for the responsibilities front desk professionals attend to daily; it may be an oversight; it may be due to complacency or high staff turnover.

However, it is imperative that employers give the front desk staff the training they deserve and require.  Important things employers need to consider with regard to training include:

  • How will my front desk staff respond to a bomb threat? Will they evacuate immediately, or will they stay calm and ask for additional information that will be helpful to the police?
  • If violence erupts, will they attempt to intervene, or be a good witness and call police from a safe distance?
  • If a hostile intruder breaches the lobby, what is the game plan? Is there a Safe Room?
  • Domestic violence “spillover.” What is this, and how do you mitigate against it?
  • Someone attempts to “charm the front desk” into giving up private information. What does this look and sound like? What measures should your staff take?

These are just a few of the issues your front desk personnel must handle. Reminding them that they are, in fact, front desk professionals, and empowering them to take charge of their environment is fundamental.

These employees should always be trained and empowered to act confidently, professionally, and decisively.

Not only will your business run more smoothly, effectively, and safely – demonstrating respect and care for the safety of your front desk staff will almost always lead to a higher level of job satisfaction and less turnover at the position.






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My Heart Bleeds: What you need to know about Heartbleed

Guest Blog Entry By Christopher Burgess, CEO Prevendra

Heartbleed, is the name given to the bug which was found within the OpenSSL and has rendered many of our individual passwords compromised. The situation has been making the news over the past few weeks since the bug was discovered in late March and the patch put out in early April.

What makes Heartbleed so important, is the companies who are using SSL (that is the HTTPS in your browser window) all have to make patches to their software, and you as a user have to change your password once this has been accomplished.  To help, we’ve compiled some information, which you as an individual user need to know about Heartbleed and the ensuing aftermath of criminal activity surrounding exploiting us as we move through the remediation steps. Let’s start with, “what is Heartbleed?”

What is heartbleed:

Heartbleed was a bug within the OpenSSL code which many organizations and companies used to provide Secure Socket Layer (SSL) connectivity between your computer and the server hosting the website which you were connecting. The bug, located in the portion of the OpenSSL code called the “heartbeat” went undetected for almost three years. Once discovered, a patch was provided by OpenSSL, the U.S. Cyber Emergency Response Team (CERT) provided guidance on how to patch. The role of the individual user was to wait and then change your passwords, as Heartbleed compromised the SSL.

What is being done:

Most companies are patching their servers, renewing their security certificates and advising their constituents via postings on their page to change their passwords, or sending advisory emails asking you to visit the site and change your password (more on this below).

What can you do:

You can be patient and attentive. To prepare you should locate a strong password generator tool, as you will be changing a lot of passwords.  Here are two:

Password Generator Tool(available for download) from Source Forge

Ultra High Security Passwords from GRC the perfect password

Now go to each site where you log-in and check if the site has updated for the Heartbleed bug which rendered the site vulnerable.  How can you do that? Use one of these tools.

Github:  Heartbleed Test

TrendMicro:  Heartbleed Test

If the site has updated or is not vulnerable to the Heartbleed vulnerability, change your passwords and use a STRONG password.

What to watch out for:

Now it should come as no surprise to you that miscreants are using this period of high activity and rapid change to slide into the mix and get folks to click and download various items.  Phish and Scams taking advantage of Heartbleed are making their rounds. They have been seen as full-on spoofing of your bank – An email comes in ostensibly from your bank, advising you that the Heartbleed patch has been made and now you should “click this link” to change your password.  Others come in from friends whose email accounts or social network accounts have been compromised and carry content similar to, “have you read about Heartbleed, you need to read this one to stay safe” and then the reader clicks on the URL link and is taken to a site which contains malware (malicious software) waiting to be downloaded to your device.

Do NOT click on links in passwords or website or social network posts advising you to update and change your passwords – instead – type in the URL directly in your browser window.

Is there more to come?

The Heartbleed vulnerability has been identified and a remedy availed to industry. Some devices which contain the OpenSSL version with the vulnerability are a bit slower to remedy as it may require an update to firmware on the device. These include routers, DVR’s, etc. which many of us have in our homes. Keep an eye on these, and check for the software update feature (regularly) as this is the avenue by which the manufacturer will close the vulnerability.

Stay safe, and secure.

Christopher Burgess

About Senior Online Safety

Read more about online safety and scams at Senior Online Safety – published daily (alternating days in English and Spanish) and Follow along by connecting via Twitter, Facebook, and Google-Plus – Senior Online Safety exists as so many of us are answering questions for our parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents; as it matters not what age we are, if we know how to keep each other safe, we all win.

The guide: Senior Online Safety is available at all e-book retailers (including Amazon – Kindle, iBookstore – iBook and Barnes & Noble – Nook)

About Christopher Burgess:

Christopher Burgess is the CEO of Prevendra, a security, privacy and intelligence company.  He is also an author, speaker and advocate for effective security strategies, be they for your company, home of family. Christopher authored the e-book, “Senior Online Safety” (Prevendra, March 2014) and is the voice behind the website, Senior Online Safety.” Prior to the founding of Prevendra, Christopher held a variety of private and public sector positions, which included, chief operating office of a big data analytic company, Atigeo; Senior Security Advisor to the CSO of Cisco, a Fortune 100, and 30+ years within the Central Intelligence Agency, which awarded him the Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal upon his retirement.  Christopher lives in Woodinville, WA with his family, two dogs and two horses.

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