Orient your life to minimize risk. Orientation includes the steps you take to move away from danger and toward safety. Orientation happens without knowledge of a specific threat to your safety.
There is no perfectly safe time or place. There’s no way to be 100% safe when you go shopping, to work or to school. Some of the most secure banks have been robbed and the most heavily protected people have been killed or kidnapped. In 1981 John Hinkley Jr. got to within 15 feet of President Reagan. With a full detail of secret service agents protecting President Reagan, Hinkley managed close to 15 feet, fire six shots in under two seconds, and wound four men including Reagan. We may not be able to afford high dollar security systems or personal bodyguards but there are definite steps we can take to reduce our risk – to lower our profile.
With a little research and planning we can orient our lives away from the risk of danger and toward relative safety. The less time we spend in dangerous areas and the more time we spend in safer areas, the better. What’s the best way to do that? The same method bodyguards use. Assess the times a locations of travel and orient accordingly.
Start by determining the relatively safe areas in your day to day living. Your home should be one. Of course you can make it even safer through the preparations described in the home security checklist. Your place of work should be relatively safe. You can make it even safer with a quick assessment. Determine where all the exits are and which are well lit after dark. Determine the safest place to park. Typically, that will be near a door that is well lit and public. If there are security cameras in the parking lot, your car should be parked within the apparent field of view of at least one of them. Note where all the fire extinguishers and phones are. Is there an intercom system? Do you know how to use it? Does the interior of your workplace have security cameras? What types of crimes might occur where you work? Is your workplace more likely to be the target of a thief or a disgruntled employee? If you have a security team, introduce yourself. Ask them to walk through the most likely crime scenarios with you. Ask if they will escort you to your car when you leave. You may also want to keep pepper spray or a kubotan at your work station. Your workplace should be a safe haven. If you work in fear, it’s time to look for a new job.
Next, get on the computer and map your routine travel patterns. Note where police and fire stations are along the way. Note the hospitals and stores that are open 24/7. Now add friends you can depend on. These are your safe havens.
You may already know where the most dangerous places in town are. They don’t all have graffiti and broken windows but you may notice a generally lower level of maintenance. Look for patterns like long grass or weeds, buildings in need of paint and missing lights. If you have a friend in the local police, ask him to help you map the area. If you have to traverse a bad part of town, you should know the shortest distance out of the danger zone from anywhere along the route. If your newspaper has a police blotter section become familiar with it. Your evening news may also help you sort out the danger zones.
With this information you should be able to make a few simple adjustments in when and where you travel. For example, when you absolutely, positively have to shop at night, do you go to the nearest store, the cheapest store or the store that is well lit and has a security guard? Let me suggest the latter. That security guard may escort you to your car when you’re done shopping too.
Where you live, work and play are going to make your job of orienting away from danger and toward safety both unique and challenging but let me give you a couple more examples that may help you think it through a bit better.
When you dine out, why not sit in the safest seat in the house? In 1984 James Huberty entered a MacDonald’s in San Diego where he killed 21 and wounded 19. Does that happen often? No. Not very. But there are plenty of cases where a “safe” place like a restaurant suddenly became a very dangerous place. Many restaurants have a back exit or fire exit that isn’t used as an entrance. Sitting near one of those exits, facing the front gives an easy view of trouble before it happens and a ready exit if necessary.
When you chose a hotel room, why not pick one that is just a little safer than the rest. Chose a room that is between the 2nd and 7th floor. Ground floor rooms provide easy access for thieves. And in case of a hotel fire you don’t want to be above the reach of fire department ladders. Chose a room that is not directly across from vending machines, elevators, ice machines or fire exits. Each of these give someone a legitimate excuse to loiter and makes you more of a target as you enter and exit your room. While you don’t want to be next to a fire exit, you don’t want to be far from it either. Once you stow your luggage, go back into the hallway and check out the shortest route to the stairs. Count doors. If it’s smoky you may be crawling on hands and knees.
What are the odds that sitting in a “safe” seat at a restaurant or choosing the “safest” room in a hotel is going to save your life? Pretty small. What about choosing the safest store to shop at after dark or figuring out all the exits at your workplace? Individually, these measures may each reduce your risk of becoming a victim by only a tiny amount. Yet each of these steps doesn’t take much time or effort. By developing a pattern of orienting toward safety you may reduce your risk considerably.