One thing you learn early on in the personal security field is to be alert to your surroundings. When you are in the military, that might mean scanning for unoccupied vehicles or suspicious packages, but it can look very different in your hometown. Here are some general tips to help you stay safe as you go about your day:
- Trust your instincts. Your subconscious mind may pick up on danger before your brain can process where the threat is actually coming from. Do not discount this feeling. If you get a “weird vibe” from someone, be wary of spending time alone with them. Listen to that voice in your head telling you to get away from someone instead of feeling socially obligated to be polite. If you are uncomfortable walking alone somewhere, find the closest public place to duck into and call a friend or travel with someone else whenever possible. Stick to well-lit areas when you are walking at night. If nothing happens, do not think you were being paranoid. The threat may have moved on to another target or opportunity. Just because something didn’t happen does not mean that it might not have.
- Plan escape routes. This is true for emergencies like fires in your own home or place of work, or if you are somewhere new and feeling uncomfortable. Knowing how to get out in any scenario will put your mind more at ease, and can help you if it is necessary to leave abruptly for any reason.
- Be aware of the people around you in public places. Does anyone stand out? Why? There are big red flags, like someone wearing a winter coat in a mall in the middle of the summer; and much smaller red flags, such as people sweating excessively and constantly looking at their watch. It could be easily explained, or it could be a threat. Note any security in the area and notify them if you have any suspicions. They can determine the severity level of the threat and act accordingly. They can also keep a closer eye on someone that is acting suspiciously.
- Many people wear headphones or chat on their cellphones when they are in public places. You make yourself a potential target when you openly advertise that you are not paying attention to your surroundings and cannot hear someone coming up behind you. If you must use headphones, keep the volume as low as possible so that you can still keep an ear tuned to your surroundings. When talking on your phone, move against a wall and stay stationary so that people have to approach you from the front.
- Be smart with valuables. Don’t flash a lot of cash around or leave any valuables unattended. This includes purses or briefcases that are left visible and/or in an unlocked vehicle. Don’t leave the engine running or the keys inside your car and walk away. The same goes for leaving your purse or valuables in a shopping cart and stepping away from it. You want to make it harder to become a target, not easier. Don’t put the temptation out there.
Remember, it is better to err on the side of caution than to put yourself in a dangerous situation!