Archive for category Women’s Safety

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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Burundanga – Another Predatory Drug

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I recently received a warning about another predatory, or date rape, drug.

It was the account of a woman who was approached at a gas station by a man offering his painting services. She took his business card, got into her car and left the station. She states that the painter and a second man followed her.

She states that she immediately began to feel dizzy, could not catch her breath, and noticed a strong odor in the car. She apparently went a neighbor’s home and honked her horn for help – at which time she says the men following her drove away.

She noticed a substance on the business card.  Later, she went online and found that a drug called “burundanga” can be used to incapacitate victims after being absorbed through the skin.

This warning email was accompanied by a link to an article written by Stephen Pittel, PhD, a forensic expert and consultant’s site.

Doctor Pittel indeed describes Burundanga as “a potent form of scopalamine that has been used for decades in Columbia in native rituals, as a weapon and by criminals who prey on tourists.”

Doctors most commonly use scopolamine to treat nausea and motion sickness and often with a transdermal patch. Scopolamine can cause dizziness, drowsiness, and blurred vision even in lower doses.  In higher doses, it can cause delirium, unconsciousness and memory loss – three reasons it has been used as a predatory drug.  As with many substances, alcohol has a compounding effect!

Some authors state that in recent years, fifty percent of emergency room admission for poisoning in Columbia are due to overdoses of this agent.

Pitell and others note that the State Department has issued warnings to those traveling to South American countries to be aware of this potential threat, given the number of tourists who have been robbed after unknowingly ingesting burundanga.

Although this substance is absorbed through the skin, most sources seem to question if one can absorb a large enough dose transdermally from touching a card or travel brochure. The bigger threat is a large dose being put into a drink.

Whether or not the account of the tainted business card is accurate, and whether or not one can absorb enough of a transdermal agent to become incapacitated, is not the real issue.

  • This should remind us that we need to be cognizant of those around us any time we are out in public, and especially when at parties or functions. Any number of substances can be slipped into any beverage, or food for that matter, anywhere and at any time.

My recent blog entry recounts the tragic story of a couple who were robbed after being drugged by someone they befriended at a coffee shop while traveling in Europe.

Substances commonly used as predatory drugs  in the United States include Rohypnol, GHB and Ketamine. Even if you open your own sealed bottle of water or can of soda when out in public, be aware that these compounds can be mixed into the ice cubes that a “considerate” person may offer you!

Always watch your drink being prepared, even if it is a latte on a sunny day. Be wary of someone who prepares your drink below bar top level and out of sight. Also be wary of anyone who wants to keep pouring you alcoholic beverages at a party!  Remember, the most commonly used substance for predatory purposes, especially date or acquaintance rape, is alcohol!

Oftentimes a “cocktail” of different substances may be used to incapacitate the victim.

Opioid analgesics such as Oxycontin and hydrocodone, are anti-anxiety medications and muscle relaxants.  Although they are effective pain medications when used appropriately, they are quite dangerous when abused or combined.  Alcohol combined with these medications can result in death, as the victim gradually loses their urge to breathe, also knows as respiratory depression.

Obviously avoiding predatory drugs is paramount. If you are in a public setting or attending a function and do start to suddenly feel sleepy, disoriented and “out of it,” especially accompanied by loss of motor control, it is best to assume you have ingested a harmful agent and seek medical attention immediately.

Waiting to “see if I feel better” only robs you of precious time, time doctors will need to help you!

The most important thing to remember is to keep distance between yourself and strangers. You should always be wary of a stranger closing distance on you regardless of the stated reason, and especially when in an isolated environment! If you are followed, drive to a busy, well-lit area – or even a police or fire station – but not home, to a friend’s house, your place of work, or any location where your children will be.

  • Predatory Drugs are also addressed in our Travel Safety Training.
  • Please visit the Resources area of our site for more information on these and other topics
Related: 

What is Situational Awareness ?

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