Personal safety should always be on your radar, but especially during the holiday season when we're often out late in the evening shopping for gifts, visiting friends, or attending parties. So how can we still have fun and prioritize personal safety? We posed that question to a law enforcement officer who spends most of her time traveling, patrolling, and engaging with her community. Sarah Shendy has devoted her career to keeping her community of Copley, Ohio safe. At Mace® Brand, we have a similar mission to provide community and family safety through individual empowerment.
Here are three of Officer Shendy's top holiday safety tips.
1. Trust your gut!
Your gut instinct is your sixth sense. It is there to keep you safe and alive. Human intuition helps to keep us out of harm's way because we really can feel when something is "off" even if we cannot put our finger on it. If you do feel that something doesn't feel right, do not hesitate to take action, leave the situation, or decline another person access your home, car, or personal space.
You should trust your gut and say "no," or call for help. Nothing is worth risking your safety. In the book “The Gift Of Fear” Gavin de Becker details case after case that turned into tragic situations when intuition was ignored and undermined. The fear that we feel is a gift, always tune in to what your body is trying to tell you.
2. Decision making is your best line of defense.
This seems like common sense, but a lot of people underestimate the power of good decision making. Life and death situations are the difference between saying “yes” and saying “no.” When making decisions, think about risk versus reward. "What am I risking if I do this, and what will my reward be?" If the risk posed is your personal safety, the answer is always “no.” Every decision impacts us in some way; whether it is what we eat, drink, the company we keep, etc. Though these decisions may seem small, they can contribute largely to our overall safety.
3. Be vigilant and aware of your surroundings at all times.
I don’t expect the civilian population to be as hyper-vigilant as law enforcement officers, but I do recommend everyone to be vigilant. I will never forget the time I saw a young woman in the airport sitting in a corner, facing a wall, listening to headphones as she typed away on her laptop. I stopped and thought “wow, she has no idea what is going on behind her and wouldn’t be able to react if anything happened.” What if there was a violent incident? What if someone became angry and threw a table or chair in her way? What if a fire started or someone was having a medical emergency? The list of questions in my head was non-stop. The sooner you can spot danger or a threat in your environment, the sooner you can react. You don’t need military or law enforcement experience to be able to read body language, sense agitation, or predict that someone may become violent. If you watch people around you and their behavior, you may be able to guess their next move. Whenever you are in a public space, always know your surroundings: know where the exits are, know your location in case of an emergency, pay attention to other vehicles on the roadway, etc.
Years ago a fellow officer told me about a robbery case she handled. Two cars were stopped on a main road as a train was passing. The suspects' vehicle was closest to the train, in front of the victim's vehicle. After a few minutes of the train passing, two subjects got out of the first vehicle and approached the driver in the car behind them at gun point and stole her car. Thankfully she was not hurt. She told the officers that she was looking at her phone the entire time and could not give the color, make, or model of the vehicle. She didn't even notice the state where the vehicles plates were registered. Despite the fact that she was sitting behind the suspects' vehicle for more than two minutes she was unable to recall any identifying information. Having situational awareness is crucial to your safety.
Thank you officer Shendy for these helpful holiday safety tips. And be sure to spend time reviewing which personal safety device would be best for you. Which Personal Safety Devices are Right for You? (mace.com)
Another story you would enjoy: How to Help Your Child Develop Situational Awareness (mace.com)