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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 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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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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Travel Safety and Security Awareness in an increasingly Turbulent World

This blog also includes personal safety and security consideration for corporate relocation.

 

Travel safety and security awareness are vital in our fast changing and turbulent world. travel-safety

Security experts say that we should take a common sense approach to our personal safety, regardless of where we live, whether it’s New York City or Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Nairobi, Kenya or London, England.  Safety strategy should not be situational or regional when you choose to employ it. It should be a proactive mindset that you live all the time, not unlike defensive driving—recognize the possibility of a problem regardless of how improbable, and having response options tucked away in the back of your mind.

Companies often task security or executive protection teams with briefing employees moving abroad.   However, valuable information can be found at the State Department’s website, www.travel.state.gov. You can find information on current regional crime trends such as “express kidnappings”, extortion scams and the use of predatory drugs for purposes of personal and property crimes.  Access to real time information is especially helpful if you are moving to a part of the world known to harbor people with hostility against our government or to a developing nation experiencing political unrest.

Here are things to keep in mind as you get ready for your move.

Blending into your new environment is very important.  Avoid wearing expensive, flashy jewelry or clothing.  Cameras, electronics and laptop bags also draw attention.  Exchange currencies upon arrival and do not flash dollars when doing transactions. Avoid carrying any military or law enforcement membership or association identification cards unless required. Driving an understated vehicle commonly seen in your new hometown is recommended. If you can, alternate the vehicle you use from time to time.  Knowledge of customs, culture and common courtesies help you understand how to conduct yourself in a manner that conveys respect and consideration for the people of the community you have just joined.

Map out the best routes to get to and from work, store, schools, hospitals, police stations and other safe havens.  Be aware of any weak or dead cell phone coverage areas along your routes.  It is best to stay on busier streets where traffic flows at a brisker pace. Do not stop to interact with street vendors or pedestrians.  Quiet side streets, routes that require a lot of stopping and starting and those that are poorly lit leave you vulnerable to anything from a “smash-and- grab” of a purse or wallet to a carjacking. These are primarily crimes of opportunity that occur more often when people are in or around stationary vehicles. Make a habit of locking your vehicle and getting underway immediately.  Other tips include backing into parking spaces whenever possible; never letting your gas tank fall below half full; leaving maneuvering room between you and the vehicle in front of you; and keeping a flashlight and charger for your phone in the vehicle. And don’t forget to check if your car key remote has a panic button.

Clayton Consultants, Inc. (www.claytonconsultants.com), experts in global risk and crisis management, reminds us that most kidnappings for ransom take place on weekday mornings on public streets between the victim’s home and a known destination such as schools, coffee shops or the office. This is why being less predictable in our habits and patterns are so important. Be sure to vary your routes and times of travel, whether on foot or vehicle. If you have the option of varying your entry and exit locations, do so. Be wary of a person or vehicle that you see twice, separated by time and distance. If you see that person or vehicle for a third time, you are being followed. This is not a coincidence and you must move to a high traffic, well lit area immediately.

Good strategy also includes running “what if” scenarios through your mind and determining the best response options to any situation you might be visualizing. One example is what would you do if an intruder was in your home?  Exiting the dwelling might be an option but it is always best to have a “safe room” ready. This is a room with a sturdy door, and preferably no windows, to which you can retreat with your cell phone if you absolutely need to. Be sure that you receive a cell signal in this room. Keep a flash card with your home address, a flash light, bottles of water and a fire extinguisher in the safe room. You can easily read your address to the emergency operator from the flashcard if you are in a state of fear and then wait for help to arrive. Safety, disaster and communications kits are available on the Internet and can be stored in a safe room or taken with you during an evacuation.

Regardless of the situation, your strategy will only be as good as your personal communication plan.   Have your primary and secondary contacts’ mobile numbers programmed into your cell phone’s speed dialer. It is always best to share your schedule with your contacts, check in with them during your day, and brief them on what to do if they lose communication with you.  Examples of business and family emergency communication plans can be found and downloaded at www.ready.gov

Your contact list should include local law enforcement, company security personal and the U.S. Embassy.  The State Department also recommends you create a profile through their Travel Registration page so they know where you are and how to contact you. The State Department can only help you during political turmoil, a natural disaster, a disease outbreak or even an act of terrorism if they know where you are.  If you travel from your new hometown on vacation or business, it is worth logging on and registering that trip as well.

The cornerstone to any safety and security strategy is being aware of your surroundings.  The late Jeff Cooper, a Marine Lieutenant Colonel, described the ideal state of mental preparedness as one in which you are relaxed and observant of your surroundings and therefore, more difficult to surprise. He called this “Condition Yellow”.  Those oblivious of their surroundings were described by Cooper to be in “Condition White” and criminals very easily recognize this lack of attentiveness—daydreaming, multitasking, walking “heads down” and in general, not being “present time” aware.

The military reminds us that we live in a “360 degree world”.   Remember to look up especially in urban environments. Criminals like to “perch” and do their surveillance from high ground like balconies and upper stories in a mall, knowing that most of us never look up!  The most important area to monitor in your 360 degree world is the blind spot just behind you from where most attacks are launched known as your “six o clock.”

As you casually scan your surroundings, your instincts will let you know if there is someone in your midst that warrants closer attention. Over 50 percent of communication is via body language. Shifting, darting eyes, fidgety, clenching hands and a shifting stance are some of the telltale signs of a suspicious demeanor. Fred Burton, a counter terrorism and corporate security expert with Stratfor Global Intelligence (www.stratfor.com) reminds us that even the most sophisticated criminals are not able to completely hide these and other telltale signs of someone trying to “fit in” while doing surveillance.  This is why Burton states that the best opportunity to identify and to react to a prospective problem is during the perpetrators surveillance phase, when there is still time to do so on our own terms.

It is best to avoid high-profile tourist destinations, any location that is iconic of American culture and five-star western hotels. Similarly, avoid any planned rallies, protests or large public gatherings. If you do travel regionally, be sure to use well-vetted ground transportation. Hotels with a high visibility security personnel presence are preferred. Regardless of you location, a hotel, business meeting, school or at an airport, always know where the primary and secondary exits are located.  If in a public place you hear gunfire or if police or military personal were to arrive in force you need to take cover immediately. If evacuating is your best option do so and drop anything that will slow you down. If instructed to evacuate with a group of people, try and position yourself in the middle of this group.

If the mind is our most powerful weapon, then our instincts are our ever-present guardian. No discussion on personal safety is complete without revisiting and reinforcing the topic of intuition and instincts. We often deem our instincts as silly or irrational, many of us not wanting to “cause a scene” or embarrass others or ourselves. In fact, many of us, who have good instincts and “Condition Yellow” mindsets, are often accused of being paranoid. Most often this accusation comes from someone who quite obviously lives in “Condition White”, hardly a credible source.

Gavin DeBecker, a world renowned safety expert, describes our intuition as “knowing without knowing why”.  Remember, it is okay to know something is amiss without staying around to find out why.  Honor your instincts, stick to your safety strategy, cover your six o’clock and enjoy your new destination.

 

Larry Kaminer- Personal Safety Training Group

 

 

 

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