The Top 5 Tips for Staying SafeWhen you go shopping, to work, to school, or simply take a walk in nature, you cannot be too careful when it comes to your personal safety. The best way to be safe is to know your surroundings and pay attention to everything and everyone around you. This doesn’t mean you should be paranoid or stop enjoying your time out in public or at work, it’s simply about practicing and mastering situational awareness – a skill that could save your life or someone else’s. To provide you with the Top 5 Tips for Staying Safe, Guard911® consulted safety expert, Lt. Brian Murphy, a 23-year former Oak Creek, Wisconsin police officer who trains law enforcement officers on situational awareness techniques and strategies, as well as educating citizens on what it means to be “aware of your surroundings.”
1. Pay Attention to Your SurroundingsYou probably think you already do this, but being intentional about locating exits and doors, paying attention to the people around you, and practicing simple habits like looking over your shoulder in a parking lot before you get into your car should be part of your daily routine.
Vigilance is not paranoia, it’s just understanding and being able to process what’s going on around you – it’s a skill and a habit that takes practice – something that shouldn’t be ignored.” – Lt. Murphy.
2. Put Your Mobile Phone Away or Stop Looking at ItNot looking down at your phone the entire time you’re in public fits with point number one, but it warrants its own recognition. Everywhere you go, people have their heads down while looking at their phones, which means they can’t be looking up to notice what’s going on around them. For active shooters and those with intent on harm, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Most people ‘never see it coming.’ “How much are you willing to sacrifice to be ignorant?” asked Lt. Murphy. “Now, that may sound harsh, but to say that ‘it’s not going to happen here’ is giving yourself permission to not be aware of what’s around you.”
3. Businesses & Organizations Be PreparedDo you know if your school, university, workplace, or place of worship has a response plan and training program for active intruder incidents or other emergencies? Not sure? Ask someone.
- If the answer is no, offer to help create one or start a campaign to get a safety response plan in place with the help of your local law enforcement as soon as possible.
- If the answer is yes, great! However, when was the last time there was a drill to ensure every person in the establishment knows what to do? What about members of the response team, including law enforcement – were they able to carry out the proper procedures successfully? Does everyone have a copy of the response plan readily available if an event were to occur? These are all useful questions to start the conversation around training drills.
Immediate notification time is a must – mere seconds make a world of difference when it comes to saving lives. Most active shooters are finished massacring people in five minutes or less.” – Lt. MurphyIn the case of Sikh Temple, Lt. Murphy did arrive at the scene in under two minutes, but if he had been only 15 seconds later, “there would have been another 15 people killed based on how the shooter had people cornered,” according to Lt. Murphy.
4. Take Safety & Active Shooter Drills SeriouslyEmergencies and mass shootings happen all the time. Preparing properly for them and taking safety seriously are essential actions to save lives and mitigate damage. Prioritizing the critical nature of active shooter training and drills is part of that preparation. Whatever you do, do not downplay the importance of the drill or neglect to pay attention to how procedures are carried out as you may be the one who needs saving or could potentially save another life. Lt. Murphy has been onsite at several schools during active shooter drills. In one district, one elementary school passed the exercise while the high school failed. “We teach participants a saying, ‘locks, lights, out of sight’ as a way for people to remember to lock the doors, turn off the lights, and hide if an active shooter were in their school,” said Lt. Murphy. “During the drill, we knocked on doors and people answered them! They were just trained on Friday, and I was there running the drill with them on Monday.” Lt. Murphy’s experience during these exercises is just one example of why consistent training and drills in schools, offices, and places of worship are so important. In these active shooter situations, there’s no room for complacency.
Schools and businesses MUST be prepared for an act of terrorism and they MUST act quickly when faced with it. Denial is a “save now, pay later scheme.” Schools and businesses that continue to be in denial must realize it is not a matter of “if” they will face an active killer or an attempt of mass violence, but rather “when.” – Lt. Murphy
5. Stay Calm, Don’t PanicEmergency situations can and often do escalate quickly due to panic. Panicking adds to the chaos and breeds knee-jerk reactions, causing people to abandon all protocol and enter a fight-or-flight mentality. “I tell this to law enforcement officers all the time when I’m speaking,” said Lt. Murphy. “If you stay calm, you can think, and if you can think, you can make good decisions.” The habit of staying calm in chaotic situations takes practice. First, stop talking so you can be aware of your surroundings rather than verbally reacting. Next, breathe deep through your nose. This calms the body and declutters the brain so you can react appropriately.
Guard911® Helps Facilitate the Top 5 Safety Tips
Whether you’re a citizen or law enforcement officer, practicing these five safety tips daily – which really boil down to situational awareness and proactive diligence – empowers you and forms habits that may help save your life or someone else’s in the case of an emergency.
- Pay attention
- Put your phone down
- Be prepared with a plan
- Take safety and emergency drills seriously
- Stay calm and don’t panic