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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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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 improved security and protective design have been implemented especially since the attacks on September 11.  Many buildings have bollards, as seen in the photo above, to prevent vehicles from ramming their lobbies or being parked close to a building with explosives on board. 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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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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