Pragmatic Personal Safety Tips

In the December 2013 issue of School Nutrition, readers will find great advice about protecting themselves against violence in schools (“Protect & Defend”). But what about away from your school cafeteria job? There is no completely “safe” place to live—crime happens in small towns and big cities. Following are some practical tips to remember to help you reduce your risk of being a victim.

  • Be aware. If you must listen to headphones while walking or jogging or using public transportation, turn down the music and make a point to look up and look around frequently. Ditto with your fascination with your smartphone. Awareness allows you to pick up on subtle signals that you should be cautious of and ready to react quickly. It also lets possible assailants know that you are not easy prey.
  • Be assertive. When moving or standing, do so with confidence and a sense of purpose. Most predators don’t want to risk a scene or possible defensive action. Your body language can help to reduce the likelihood that you will be a target. But don’t create a challenge—make eye contact for one second to let them know you are aware but not for longer in a way that might invite a confrontation.
  • Reduce temptation. Keep your phone, MP3 player, wallet and other temptations concealed in pockets or your purse. Don’t leave packages, electronic devices or purses visible on your car seat or dashboard. Don’t leave valuables unattended. If you need to use an ATM at night, try to use one with an internal location, such as inside a store. If lights are out of order or trees/shrubbery block the view, find another site. If using a drive-up location, make sure your passenger side windows/doors are locked.
  • Plan for the possibilities. Carry your car or door keys in your hand. Carry an easily accessible whistle or alarm. Park in well-lit areas. Lock your doors once you get in your car. If there’s little traffic on a neighborhood street, walk in the street itself, rather than on sidewalks near heavy shrubbery or dark alcoves. Avoid shortcuts through wooded areas, lonely parking lots or dark alleys. Walk on the side of the street that you face traffic, so that you are not surprised by someone in a vehicle behind you.
  • Identify safe places. Make a point to note or know the location of the nearest open businesses or police/fire stations. If you think you are being followed on foot or while driving, head for one of these. Remember that there is safety in numbers; make an effort to walk or wait with others.
  • Trust your intuition. If you observe or sense suspicious persons, feel uncomfortable or threatened by someone, take action to seek help immediately. Your instincts can be a great tool to protect your personal safety.
  • Remain as calm as possible. This isn’t easy in the middle of an emergency! But doing what you can to avoid hysterics or panic will help you respond effectively and get the help you need. Call 9-1-1 without delay; be clear, brief and accurate about where you are and what has happened. As long as it is safe, stay on the telephone to receive instructions. Reporting the crime immediately will help you to regain a sense of power and control.

    These are just a handful of common-sense reminders for improving your personal safety risks. Make time to review other guidelines pertaining to safety on the road, at home, at work, from sexual predators and other situations. A simple web search can point you to many useful resources.

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