Attacks, Rapes and Robberies – If you are connected to the news in anyway, you know these are some of the most common, gut-wrenching stories that litter your update feed. It is no secret that most victims are often sought out as “Easy Targets” due to their vulnerability – but now we have a new factor to add in – Technology. While social media has given us convenience on a silver platter, it has also provided those criminals you read about in the news with real-time information that they can use against you.
Before we delve into the wicked web, let’s first talk about situational awareness. I could give you textbook definitions and source hundreds of articles (both good and bad) of the exquisite art that is Situational Awareness – but it all comes down to this – PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR SURROUNDINGS. I get it, you are in your own little world with a thousand things on your mind that you should do and places to be… But guess what? While you are worrying about what you are doing this weekend, "Creeper" in the bushes is watching you and waiting for the right moment to make his move. And now, thanks to status updates, check-ins and location services you are broadcasting your next move as well as giving the upper-hand to anyone and EVERYONE who can see your information.
Not many of us know life without our cell phones, sad but true. Living life through tweets, posts and pins is so common we rarely stop and think how vulnerable some online actions make us. Location-based services are probably one of the most dangerous aspects of social media. Sure, it maybe convenient to share your spots with friends and family, but if used frequently can expose your pattern of life to predators who are looking for a target. WHO THE HELL DOES SOMETHING LIKE THAT?! It happens more often then you want to believe… So be smart about what and when you are posting. Don’t even get me started on the "swipe right/left" activities; that is another article for another time…
So what did we learn? Poor judgement on what are supposed to be innocent posts, put individuals in extreme risk. Don’t fall into this trap. Remember, you are in control the information being posted. To learn more about location services and additional information on social media safety visit your service carrier’s website or http://www.ncpc.org/topics/internet-safety/social-networking-safety.
Being conscious of your surroundings and situation could be the crucial difference in an outcome or ultimately, in some situations, between life or death. Dramatic, Right? Truth. Posting personal and location information on social media isn’t the only phone problem the millennials face these days. We have all seen the "Don’t Text and Drive" campaigns that were a result of a spike in phone related accidents and deaths. While being glued to your phone walking in the park may not rank up top with texting and driving, it is still the same concept, and it delays your reaction when something unexpected occurs. It is almost an addiction to be connected 24/7 and makes us forget the uncertainty of different environments. For those of us that conduct our business via phone or email, this may be devastating to our productivity level, but I assure you – online content will still be there even if you don’t check it every 10 minutes. So, what are some ways to enhance your situational awareness and protect yourself?
Now that you know why it is important to be aware, let’s explain the how. I find that for most, this is the disconnect – What exactly am I supposed to be on the lookout for? Am I paying attention to the right things? Are there certain warning signs of imminent threat? You can control your fate through learning to observe your environment, evaluating it regularly, and reacting appropriately. A concept known as Color Code developed by Colonel Jeff Cooper, used by military and law enforcement, is the perfect tool at any level. The Color Code acts as a scale of readiness to match your level of awareness with the situation at hand. It will shift your mental state of being unaware and unprepared to a level of being ready to instantly prepared to survive. Below is the Color Code, linked to a more in-depth explanation of each level of awareness.
Most criminals are opportunists; they strike when handed a convenient opportunity. If they never have that opportunity, you removed yourself from the risk. However, as we learned earlier sometimes situations are unavoidable. As cliché as it may sound – Plan for the Best; Prepare for the Worst. Let’s paint a picture: You are walking out of the gym after late-night cardio to your vehicle that is parked in a low-lit area of a parking lot. You have your keys in-hand and your cellphone in the pocket of your gym bag. You are completely aware of your surroundings (Yellow Level). You know something is wrong and can sense something bad is about to happen. Just as you are about to open your car door, someone comes around the back of your vehicle and tries to grab you away from your car. Now what??
While having a heightened sense of awareness is a step in the right direction, it isn’t enough. You need to be able to act and fight back when attacked. Here are a few suggestions of items to carry in your purse, gym bag or vehicle.
- A flashlight – Those late-night walks to your car, just got a little brighter. This can be helpful for car trouble as well.
- A multi-tool and/or a folding knife – Both have many practical applications that can be used in emergency situations as well as everyday usage.
- A pistol. If you don’t already have your permit to carry a pistol for protection, now is the time to give it some serious consideration. Research your state gun laws and find out what it takes to obtain a permit to carry. While it may be simple to obtain your permit, depending on your state, you MUST train and become familiar with your weapon.
When I carry, it is a relief to know that if a dangerous situation arises, I have a way to protect myself and my family. A study published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology established that when a concealed weapon is drawn in self-defense, the criminal retreats 55.5 percent of the time. It’s like holding a homeowner’s policy. You keep it, hope you do not have to use it, but when thrown into a disaster, you will always be prepared.
Know who can see your personal information, and what they can see. Limit and monitor the location information that you broadcast online. Ladies, if you want to show off your little black dress – wait until after you have left your spot before posting that selfie. Don’t walk Face-in-Phone; someone lurking in the distance may be the least of your worries if you are blindly walking in traffic… I’ll say it one last time – Pay attention to your surroundings. Regardless of how much you "Train your Brain" to be aware of imposing danger the best tactic is to avoid behaviors and situations that may put you in harm’s way – (See Color Code). Just like training your active mental state, if you decide to carry a pistol to protect yourself, MAKE SURE YOU TRAIN AND FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH YOUR WEAPON. Practice, practice, practice – dry fires, concealed techniques, etc. When Sh*t hits the fan, is NOT the time to learn how to use what you are carrying. The lesson learned: Don’t find yourself as a target or a victim by blindly walking into situations unaware or unprepared.
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