By Morgan Butler, Asst. Director/Chief Editor
From the hustle and bustle of the holidays to the chaos of everyday life, everyone gets a little distracted from time to time. To be honest, it’s hard not to be distracted with the 24/7 news updates and constant tweets, pings, likes and whatnot from an overactive, enthusiastic and attention-hogging virtual world. Heck, this doesn’t even include life beyond the smart phone – the distractions (both good and bad) that come from family, friends, jobs, pets, the mailman, nosy (and noisy) neighbors, and the list goes on…
The point being: whether the distraction comes from your phone, someone or something else, there is so much more that we are missing, especially when it comes to safety.
Think, for instance, about the last time you gassed up your car. Do you remember if someone was gassing up at the next tank? If so, what type of vehicle were they driving? Was your car unlocked? Did someone pull up behind you to wait in line?
If you’re like the rest of us, your answers probably run along the lines of “I think…” or “Maybe…” rather than a definitive “I saw…” or “I remember…” But, then again, why is this important?
Because being distracted creates blindness which, my friends, is dangerous.
While many believe that the holidays are an opportune time for criminals looking for their next target, I believe that as we become more and more distracted, we’re only making ourselves easier targets on any given day – holiday or not. Why? How?
How often do you walk into or out of a store looking down at your phone? How often do you walk through the parking lot to find where you parked your car? Wasn’t it on Aisle 3 or
maybe it was Aisle C? In the meantime, while you’re busy scanning through Facebook and Twitter, rummaging for your car keys or whatever else, you’ve just become an easy target for the next criminal.
We’re all guilty. But, we don’t have to be.
We can regain control of our safety by considering one of the foundations of the many classes we teach at TRS: Situational Awareness. From putting down your phone and listening to your instincts to simply paying attention to your surroundings, you can work to ensure your safety by minimizing distractions and living in the actual moment.
Put down the phone, get rid of the zombie newsfeed glow and take your safety in your own hands with these Situational Awareness tips.
Avoid Distractions. Pay Attention.
Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Put your phone down and look around. Whether you’re walking to your car, shopping or simply going for a walk, your cell phone can be both a lifeline for safety as well as a distraction. If you’re perusing Facebook or sending a text as your walking or en-route, you immediately lose sight of what’s going on around you as your focus has shifted. This makes you a prime target because you’re distracted.
Keep your cell phone in hand but maintain focus on your destination as well as your surroundings. Having your phone in hand makes it easily accessible should you need to call for help but remember there’s a fine line or split second between safety and a potentially dangerous distraction.
Be Cautious. Take Precautions.
Common sense: don’t leave valuables on display. How many times do you see a purse left unattended in a shopping cart or in the front seat of a car? Being cautious and taking precautions doesn’t mean you’re living a terrified or paranoid life. In fact, it just means you’re being smart!
If you can, avoid carrying a purse or bag into crowded stores. While this isn’t feasible for many women, the point is to minimize what you carry to avoid distractions and to avoid making yourself a target.
Safety in Numbers
Do you work odd hours? Is your office downtown where you park in a parking garage? Are you accustomed to grocery shopping after dark? Whatever the case, remember that there is generally safety in numbers. From a vacant parking deck to a poorly lit parking lot at the mall, grocery, etc., it’s always better to walk with a group of people on a similar route as the group is less of a target than an individual. Chances are, these individuals are hoping for the same thing – a few others to walk with to stay safe.
Lock Your Doors. Roll Up the Car Windows.
While locking your car doors seems obvious, many forget this simple step. As soon as you get into your vehicle, lock your doors to avoid any potential threats from quickly entering. If you’re pumping gas, lock all the doors except the side of the tank and keep your keys in hand. For example, if your gas tank is on the driver side, lock all the doors except the driver door to ensure that you have fast access to safety should you need it. With your keys in hand, you’ll be able to quickly lock the door again once your inside. You can start honking the horn to draw attention to the danger.
If you are prone to driving with the windows down (70s in December – why not?), remember that stop lights and stop signs are convenient access points for lurking panhandlers or desperate criminals. Use the period as you prepare to stop to take note of your surroundings and even roll up your car windows if someone is nearby.
Trust Your Instincts
If you take nothing else from these tips, I hope you always remember to trust your gut instincts. Whether the hair is standing up on the back of your neck to an overwhelmingly eerie feeling, trust your instincts and find safety.
We can all minimize ourselves as targets through situational awareness. While many often put great faith in personal protection – pepper spray, knives, tasers, concealed carry, etc. – never forget that pulling and using your weapon should always be a last resort. So, as you head out on your next adventure, remember your situational awareness.