January’s 12 Days of SafetyA Practical Resource Guide That Could Save Your Life
January’s 12 Days of Safety
On the first day of safety, my true love gave to me, the skills to teach my children situational awareness.
On the second day of safety, my true love gave to me the advice not to park next to taller vehicles at the mall.
On the third day of safety, we learned to use makeshift weapons with what we have on hand such as keeping your car key clenched between two fingers in a fist as you walk to the car.
On the fourth day of safety, my true love gave to me a warning about fumbling around with house keys, car keys, and cell phones.
On the Fifth day of safety, my true love gave to me a no cell phone zone, no texting, no calls, no Facebook or Twitter.
On the sixth day of safety, my true love taught me to scan and walk, to keep my head on a swivel.
On the seventh day, my true love preached to not let people into your personal space.
On the eighth day of safety, my true love gave to me a personal alarm and a whistle to ward off bad guys.
On the ninth day of safety, my true love had me yelling to the top of my lungs “stranger danger, help me, stranger danger.”
On the tenth day of safety, my true love strengthened my resolve to trust my gut.
On the eleventh day of safety, my true love stopped my bad habit of jogging or walking alone in the early am or after dusk.
And on the twelfth day of safety, my true love cautioned about isolated areas, walking close to buildings and not paying attention to my surroundings.
“Safety is 30% common sense; 80% compliance and the rest is good luck” –Barry Spud
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Women on Guard spells out the best safety practices for a myriad of situations, i.e., safety in parking lots, safe and secure hotel rooms, jogging safety, party safety, carjacking, ATM safety, driving safety tips and even tips for preventing sexual assault. This is a very comprehensive list and the detail on the site is impressive. I encourage you to take a peek. But the suggestions like the quote above, have about the same ratio, 30% common sense.
Before I delve any further into my list, I wanted to also take a look at another expert’s suggestions. The safety experts at Swanpany came up with 100 Personal Safety Tips, I will take a few liberties with their list. They talk about a thing called building your safety mindset first. I want to start here.
On my list I speak to teaching your children situational awareness (SA). I think being able to teach your children situational awareness, starts with building your safety mindset. So, I will just jump right in.
The 12 Days of Safety List
- Teach your children situational awareness—according to Definitions.net situational awareness is the perception of environmental elements with respect to time and/or space, the comprehension of their meaning, and their status after some variables have changed, such as time, or other variable, such as a predetermined event.
To use lay people, speak, it simply means being aware of your surroundings and being in a heightened sense to changes that could affect your safety or personal protection. Wikidot states there are three levels of situational awareness:
The first, Perception of elements in current situation. “The first step in achieving SA involves perceiving the status, attributes, and dynamics of relevant elements in the environments.
The second, Comprehension of current situation. They premise that level two goes beyond simply being aware but rather a wholistic approach that pays particular attention to patterns processing irregularities and a comprehension of the significance of events.
The third SA is the Projection of future status. This is the ability to project future actions of the elements in the environment. Basically, if this happens, your mind is already formulating the next steps down the road and actively looking at plan C and D and pulling audibles like a quarterback in football.
I already know you are asking yourself how do I teach this to my kid, who can barely focus on one thing for 5 seconds?
The website living life in rural Iowa has 5 suggestions:
Play games with your children, they suggest “I spy with my little eye something…” which I think is ingenious. While in doctors’ offices or while waiting for food at a restaurant, you can ask the kids to pick out an obscure color or object that they normally would not notice. Make it game, for instance “Name 5 things that are (Color) or start with 3 things that start with the (letter). These both can be great for license plates. Another is a game of finding a license plate from out of state or a game of memorizing license plate numbers.
They also suggest leaving electronics at home. I’ll just go ahead and say, good luck with this one! But I think they may be on to something if you can institute this without having a mutiny.
Teaching your children to be leery of strangers seems really obvious but it is also counter-intuitive of societal norms. We as parents do a big disservice to our kids by reinforcing, we should be friendly in line when the nice lady asks their name, or when we encourage our little ones to show how old she is with fingers. It is conflicting information for the small fries, in one breath we cheer it on and give the visual cues for them to be overtly social but in the same breath we teach them not to talk to strangers. Not to accept candy from the socially inept guy in the paneled van. I know we do not realize we do this. But a healthy respect for the stranger dynamic should be instilled. As a grandparent to a 6-year-old I find myself pushing her to tell her name, count or read to a stranger because it makes me feel good. But we must realize that the bad guy can look like that old lady in line, the clean-cut college kid, or another child.
We need to teach our children to look for the good guys. Just like be on guard of strangers, they need to know who the good people are, the helpers. The firemen, pastors, police officers and teachers of the world—these are the good guys.
Confident kids are a must. We must instill that. Not cockiness but a confidence. If children look like they are in control of themselves and their environments, research has shown they are less likely to become targets. They should be taught to look people in the eyes, be assertive with body language, and to be vocal if someone is bothering them. They should be comfortable looking around the room and noticing everyone.
The Center for Missing and Exploited Kids estimates that over 27,000 kids go missing each year. 5% are family abductions, and 1% are non-family abductions—that’s over 2,700 kids snatched by strangers a year through ruses, ambush or other methods. If your children are more aware and keenly astute of their surroundings, they have less of a chance of succumbing to this fate.
2. Try not to park next to taller vehicles at the mall, especially on both sides- parking between two tall vehicles can camouflage and give cover to would be robbers, rapist, carjackers or any other deviant that would do you harm. An assailant can lie in wait for an unsuspecting victim to pull in, half distracted and with an accomplice slide a van door open and pull you right in. This becomes a perfect hiding spot.
3. Have your key in your hand and between two fingers clinched in a fist as you walk to your car. This can be an effective weapon when punching into soft tissue. Parking garages and parking lots are a predator’s best friend. Crime Safety and Security tells of several accounts where bad guys approached women in parking lots and garages with guns and knives demanding they get in the car with them. Fortunately, these women kept their wits and managed to scream and run. They profile the predators favorite parking lot target:
- Someone looking friendly, timid, lost, absent minded, or intoxicated
- Someone wearing earphones or distracted with a cell phone
- Someone unaware she’s being followed
- Someone “handcuffed” with both arms loaded with packages or even a baby
- Someone parked close to trucks or taller SUV’s
How many times have you been one or all of these?!
4. Don’t fumble around looking for keys- have them out and ready before getting to the car or house. Self-explanatory. Have your keys ready at all times. Keys can serve as a make shift weapon in a pinch, and they can make you look prepared and less of a target.
5. Keep your head on a swivel as you walk —scan the lot. Your head should be on a swivel, scanning and your situational awareness should be in a heightened state, and on guard. Your most powerful tool for your personal safety is your alertness combined with intuition.
6. Trust your gut! I cannot stress this one enough! If it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck—it probably is a duck. If your senses tell you something is not quite right, trust them. God gave us that internal alarm for good reason, do not ignore it. If it goes off, its probably right and warning you of some danger. LISTEN TO YOUR GUT! This goes hand in hand with Situational Awareness. Terri Howard, writes very explicitly on the subject in FEI Workforce Resilience and explains Cooper’s Colors. John Dean “Jeff” Cooper, a United States Marine, is responsible for Cooper’s Colors.
Cooper’s Colors. Cooper’s Colors are a set of criteria by which to gauge the level of danger within a given scenario to highlight how important gut is to situational awareness.
Cooper’s Colors are:
- White – Unaware, unprepared and unconcerned. This is the normal state of mind when you are in the safety of your home.
- Yellow— Attentive but relaxed. This is the normal state of mind when out in public, such as when you are running errands or visiting the grocery store. While this keeps threats remote to your person, it facilitates a distance that allows you to notice the nice things in life without immediate cause for concern.
- Orange— Your focus becomes directed at a potential threat. Now you must start planning a strategy in case the potential threat become concrete and imminent. Ideally, you will avoid the situation altogether.
- Red— Imminent danger exists, and immediate action is needed. You must make the decision to run, hide/take cover or fight.
- Black— You are actively applying an appropriate level of justifiable force—firearm, pepper spray or improvised weapon—to neutralize an imminent threat to life and limb. If you are actively being robbed or hurt, then you may need to comply with demands. (It is crucial a firearm never be used unless you are extensively trained to ensure proficiency, familiar with state laws and prepared to kill someone to defend your own life.)
It is good practice combining these color charts and trusting your gut.
7. Don’t let people into your personal space—I try to keep people out of my personal space. I do not engage panhandlers, I tell them I do not have money. For strangers asking for directions or trying to make random conversation; I tell them I do not know or that I am new to area. And I don’t stop —I keep walking and scanning watching for any ruse that may be unfolding. This is not to be rude but most cons to rob or assault are committed inside the three-foot mark. This provides cover to the bad guy and witnesses assume it is just a friendly exchange.
8. Carry a personal alarm or whistle— I highly recommend this for women in parking lots, isolated areas, office buildings, and when out on the town leaving bars and restaurants. This should be something that’s always in your purse, on your person, or even attached to your keys (that are out and, in your hand,) that’s easy to access when needed. Make sure it has fresh batteries if it takes them. This audible alert could be a life saver. It could scare off a person with bad intentions or cause enough unwanted attention that the aggressor just changes course and looks for another victim.
9. Don’t be afraid to yell stranger danger—This may sound silly for an adult, but we have been trained to hear this from kids and we spring into action when we hear this, it serves a function like the alarm or whistle. But unlike the personal alarm that many people seem to tune out, because we are numb to car alarms going off randomly all the time, those two words are a trigger, and no one ignores a child in trouble.
10. Avoid walking or jogging alone early in the AM or late evenings—Many of my friends are runners and prefer the isolation of an early morning run or late evening. Its personally not my cup of tea, but they say it’s their stress relief after an intense day at work. It is how they unwind. I get that, we all need a way to decompress. But I would advocate for being as safety conscious as possible. Letting someone know your running route and start time and expected finish time. Wearing a headlight and reflective clothing. Keeping a cell phone on your person and a personal alarm or whistle. I also would advise a small compact firearm if you are a concealed carry permit holder. If in the Chicago area, look up Chicago’s Most Trusted Firearm Trainer, Pew Pew Guru for private, group CCW and firearm training.
11. Avoid isolated areas—The peace and tranquility of isolation can also be and a magnet for danger and violence. Balance the two extremes. Use good judgment when shooting for that peace and tranquility and never let your guard down.
12. Use common sense. I know common sense is rare and that the phrase common sense is kind of a misnomer but let’s stretch our common-sense muscle. Let’s build muscle memory for common sense. We do this by taking the most mundane and passing it through a set of filters. The filters should ask: what are the consequences of this action, what is the risk, what is the worse case and best-case outcomes. Once that filter is in place— I suggest you run every choice through your common-sense filter. Use your new rose-colored safety glasses to assess every touchpoint, communication, interaction, decision, option, choice.
12A. Common Sense. See Above! yeah, it’s just that important.
The January 12 Days of Safety…
Were designed to give you good safety habits by making you think differently. You literally must dissect every current action. And re-frame your actions through this context. I suggest you study the Cooper Situational Awareness chart and use it to process everything. This calls for a paradigm shift in thinking, but you will be better for it, you will be safer. Employing these techniques could save your life and keep you out of dicey situations that you may have been naive to, or just simply oblivious to before. Hopefully, they become life long habits that you expand on and develop even more good safety habits.
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