bigstock-walking-business-people-rushin-20335925 After last week’s wake-up call, I am now paying attention when I walk down the block or when I go for a jog, but what about that quick little walk from the grocery store to my car? Or as I leave work and head home? How aware am I in these danger zones? How aware are you? As you walk out the grocery sliding doors are you stressed over all that you still have to get done? When you call out your farewells to your coworkers and step outside are you zoned out after a long day’s work? Is your head down as you check text messages on your phone? Are you fumbling in your purse or pocket to find your keys? How many times have I pushed open Autrey’s front door and stepped out, thinking of the phone call I need to make or the dinner waiting on me and not on my surroundings? Countless. Thankfully, nobody has ever been waiting for me in the parking lot (I imagine gun store employees are probably not the most ideal targets for criminals) but past inactivity does not preclude future activity. Simply because it never has happened does not mean it never will.

In our suburban, commuter life one of the prime target areas for criminals to attack us is parking lots and parking garages. As we head to our cars, we are normally preoccupied with mental To-Do Lists, the ever-increasing cost of items, or any other  myriad topic. We also frequently have bags or items in hand or are pushing a shopping cart. This also makes us very vulnerable. Our response to any threat is highly limited physically due to these items and also the mental block of dropping all those groceries unto the ground in order to fight back. We just paid all this money for them and, as silly as it is in comparison to the value of our lives, we just don’t want to let them go. Please, just drop them. They are not worth it. Parking lots are also vulnerable areas due to the high level of concealment offered to criminals, the low number of witnesses, and the availability of a quick get-away.

GABlog_hands_060311Ok, so now what? What do I do to stay safe? After talking it over with Security Officers, LEOs, coworkers and extensive internet searching I have developed a list of action items.

  1. Lock your doors!!! Sounds simple, but apparently some people still don’t lock their doors. If you are this person, please, for your sake, lock your doors!
  2. Walk with confidence and assertiveness. (If you have ever seen The Dog Whisperer, you know the walk I’m talking about.)
  3. Keep your head on swivel. Remember the world is 360°. Look up, down, and all around.
  4. Park your vehicle farther from the store entrance. Not only is this a great way to get in some exercise, but it also decreases the number of vehicles parked next to you.
  5. Notice the vehicles that park next to you. If a van or other large vehicle (especially with tinted windows) is parked on your driver’s side, get in on your passenger side. Or if you are not able to do that, go back and get somebody to come out with you. A van is a perfect vehicle for a criminal to open the door, grab you, and drive off, all without the security cameras capturing a thing.
  6. As you approach your vehicle, look under your car as well as checking out the vehicles next to it. Criminals may hide under cars and pull your legs out from under you. If you forget to look underneath until you are close to the car, casually drop your keys or something and look under your vehicle when you pick them up.
  7. Before you get in your car, check it out. Make sure nobody is in the backseat or on the floorboards. Check out this video and this news story to see why this step is so important.
  8. Carry your bags, purse, keys, etc… in your weak hand so that your strong hand is free to access your firearm or other defense weapon.
  9. Have your keys in hand!! Do not get distracted by fumbling for them as you approach your car.
  10. Look in the surrounding vehicles to see if anyone is watching you. The natural response of an innocent person is to quickly look away when eye contact is made. Be wary of those who keep eye contact. As you continue your scan of the environment, repeatedly return your eye contact to them. But do so without showing fear. Maintain your confident attitude and walk.
  11. If, as you are leaving work, you recognize you are tired beyond the ability of maintaining awareness, ask a coworker or security personnel to walk out with you. Criminals make a living reading body language and will target the easier victims who are zoned out.
  12. Look for things that are out-of-place. The guy wearing a hoodie in the middle of July. The banged up, beat up old vehicle in a parking lot full of new Lexus’, BMW’s, and Mercedes’. It could be completely innocuous or it could be your first warning sign.
  13. Listen to your gut!! The subconscious is often better at picking up on cues and clues of impending danger than our conscious mind. If something makes you uncomfortable, get out!! It may also be that God is warning you. Listen!!

I also looked into one other situation: what if somebody is following you? This blog article succinctly sums up what everybody said. I do disagree with the article on one point; I won’t eliminate the option of driving recklessly if I need to and I have no other options. A few additional tips I picked up: 1. Use your side mirrors more than your rearview mirror so that it is less obvious you spotted the tail. 2. When you come to an intersection turn your blinker on to indicate you will turn left but make a quick turn to the right. If they exactly mimic your actions, you know they are following you. 3. Program your county sheriff’s number or local police station number into your phone. Call them if you are being followed. Also, simply to emphasize the point already stated in the above article, NEVER DRIVE HOME! Drive to a police station or another public place, but do NOT lead them home.

MuggerPractice these things. Not only physically but also practice them mentally. Run scenarios through your mind. Make them as realistic as possible. Get your emotions involved. What if your child is with you when you see somebody in your back seat? What will you do then? Run through probable situations in as much detail as possible. Train your mind. When you hear of a self-defense story on the news, mentally put yourself in the shoes of the victim. Walk through the situation. And don’t judge and assume you wouldn’t make their “stupid” mistake. Remember, hindsight is 20-20. Their decision made sense to them at the time. Try to understand why so you can avoid doing similar.  Our brains record these vividly imagined scenarios as if they were real. Having these “memories” will help us react instead of think in that initial moment of attack. That extra second or two that reacting gave you could be what saves your life.

But most importantly, do not give in to fear or panic. This not only fuels the predators, but  also impedes your thinking and reaction time and, longterm, is a very unhealthy way to live. Choosing to live life aware is not about living in a state of paranoia or panic. It is choosing to utilize the tools God has given each of us to the fullest extent possible. As the Amplified Bible says, God has not given us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control. 2 Tim 1:7. Choosing to be aware of our surroundings and environment is choosing to live with a calm, well-balanced mind while maintaining discipline and self-control. As society breaks down around us and violence increases, may we all keep a spirit of love and our sound minds.iStock_000000233138Small

~Ruth

For further research I recommend:

http://www.personalsafetygroup.com/about/situational-awareness-training/

http://www.samatters.com (while this blog is directed to first responders, it is a great resource for understanding the cognitive processes behind situational awareness.)

http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/practical-guide-situational-awareness

http://www.survive2day.com/whattoknow/situationalawareness.html

http://prepography.com/situational-awareness-an-introduction/

http://www.self-reliance-works.com/2011/10/situational-awareness-a-key-to-personal-security/

http://www.blackscoutsurvival.com/2012/10/situational-awareness-being-observant.html

The Well Armed Woman sells a Level of Awareness Key Ring or Zipper Pull. This is a great way to be reminded to stay aware!

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Comments
  1. Emmett says:

    I was curious if you ever thought of changing the page layout of
    your site? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
    But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could
    connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having 1
    or two images. Maybe you could space it out better?

    • Thank you very much for your suggestions. I have added more pictures to my recent posts. It certainly does seem to help with the flow. Thanks!

      • paulc79 says:

        Hi Ruth!,
        It’s Paul,
        Not sure if you will even get this but,
        I’ve got to say your articles are extremely well written and I’m totally impressed. Did you also write the most recent one on “Natural Right to Self Defense” ??? Hope to hear back.

      • Hi Paul,

        Thank you very much! I write all the articles for this blog (unless its a reblog). I find it quite challenging and enjoyable. Thank you for reading!

        Ruth

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