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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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5 Parking Lot Personal Safety Tips

Personal Safety and Security Awareness In Parking Lots

What Makes Us “Soft” vs. “Harder” Targets

 

In this 2 minute video, we will look at some of the elements criminals factor into their victim selection process, and the importance of remaining alert, even 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.  Watch the video for demonstrations of the importance of things most people never even think of.

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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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5 tips to Enhance Parking Lot Safety if you are Working Late

If you will be working late, be sure to move your vehicle to a well light parking place that is closest to the door by which you will exit before it gets dark.

Do not leave valuables in view inside your car.

Remember to back into your parking space allowing for a more rapid egress if a threatening situation develops.

Try and leave the building with co workers if possible. The buddy system leaves you less vulnerable.

A small high intensity flashlight is helpful for illuminating the area around and under your vehicle, and allows you to check the back seat before unlocking and getting in.

Have your keys in your hands before you leave the building and remember to use the panic button on your key fob if you sense something is amiss.

Try and walk down the middle of the parking aisle keeping as much distance between you and the parked cars on either side.  Don’t take shortcuts between vehicles.

Always walk with purpose and scan your surroundings.

Once in your vehicle, lock the doors immediately and get underway.

Always trust your instincts. If you get a bad feeling about walking out to your vehicle don’t!

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