There are many ways to update and improve your safety plan. One is to focus on five key elements that, collectively, can provide a solid base of knowledge and resources for appropriately responding to and surviving almost any emergency whether it is a natural disaster or criminal/terrorist threat.
The five specific focus areas for improving personal safety include:
- Situational Awareness and Environmental Knowledge Training
- Emergency Planning and Preparation
- Fire and Emergency Evacuation Training
- First Aid and AED Training
- Basic Emergency Equipment
Situational awareness is being alert to the changing events around you in the environment. This is the state of mind you have when driving a vehicle – you are aware of those around you (to the front, side, rear, etc.) and you calmly expect and anticipate that these vehicles will change lanes, stop, etc. You are also mentally prepared to react to any sudden incident like someone crossing the street. This state of “calm awareness” is the required minimum to function safely in our world.
To be situationally aware, you need to be mindful of the specific “threats” in your environment – anything that is likely to cause you harm or that can affect your safety. This is the age of the Internet and it is easy to find the dangers that exist in your immediate environment. Keep track of local crime (where are hot spots, types of crime, when, etc.), know where the nearest safe havens (police and fire departments) and medical facilities are located. Know the safest routes to and from various locations to avoid potential problems. Also know the exits and entrances of the buildings, offices, schools, that you frequent. Keep up with weather conditions – especially for the areas you travel through and the areas where you work and play. This information will help you be “prepared” to make the best decision possible in reaction to a threat.
You also need to be aware of natural disaster possibilities and learn which events occur in your area, when, and how to react to them. FEMA has very specific guidance on a variety of natural disaster topics such as hurricanes, typhoons, tornados, flooding, as well as earthquakes.
Emergency Planning and Preparation
In preparation for emergency situations you need to be familiar with some basic “emergency plans” such as Fire Evacuation plans (home, work, school), Shelter-In-Place plans (for weather or active shooter) and Natural Disaster plans based on the disasters common to your area to include floods, earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, etc.
Take the time to learn the emergency action plans in place at your work, school, church, etc. Outside of work, you and your family should create some simple emergency plans for how you will deal with a fire in the home (evacuation, rally points, accounting for everyone), a missing person, and common natural disasters. There are numerous examples on the Internet (Red Cross, FEMA, etc.) for you to use to create your own customized plans. The two minutes you use to learn the plan prior to an actual emergency will make all the difference if there is an incident.
In terms of preparation, your emergency plans should account for local natural and manmade threats and include all the necessary equipment to help you survive. The basics include first aid supplies, food, water, shelter, and communications equipment. Know where these supplies are kept and how to use them.
Fire and Emergency Evacuation Training/Drills
Besides knowing the emergency plans at your company, school, or church, you need to physically walk through the steps of these plans. Be sure these plans cover primary and secondary exits and access points as well as rally points and personnel accountability.
Often-neglected subjects include what you should do in a fire and how to use a fire extinguisher. Either through company sponsored training or through your local fire department, learn how to extinguish a fire on yourself or another, how to safely exit a building (feel the door before opening it, touching door knobs with the back of your hand, etc.) as well as how to use a fire extinguisher and fire pull alarm.
First Aid/AED Training
Whether sponsored by your work or done on your own, participate in training in basic first aid and the use of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs). Learning the basics of first aid (bleeding, breathing, circulation) and how to control bleeding are skills that you hope to never need, but can save lives. You should also be familiar with the equipment in your first aid kits, ideally training with them when you receive your certifications. There are a variety of excellent first aid products on the market such the North American Rescue Bleeding Control kits and the Individual and Mass Crisis Kits sold by SSI Guardian, which are state of the art. There are several organizations, such as the Red Cross, that provide this type of training for little or no cost.
Basic Emergency Equipment
Besides first aid kits and AED, there are other basic emergency equipment that you should become familiar with and have on hand. These are items that are so useful that people have chosen to carry them on a regular basis thereby earning them the nickname, “Every Day Carry” (EDC) equipment! One common item is the cellphone with important telephone numbers on the speed dial setting (police, fire department, local hospital, family and friends). There are also a variety of “apps” available for your smartphones that provide excellent first aid and emergency reference material.
Other recommended EDC equipment includes a form of identification, a medic alert card (if you have a medical condition) a first aid card (Red Cross provides these) and a small flashlight. While many cellphones now have mini-lights, a small powerful pocket flashlight is extremely important for not only finding your way but to signal for help and to “blind” a potential attacker allowing you to escape.
You should also have emergency preparedness kits staged in your residence, at your work and in your vehicle. These kits should have survival items such as water, food, first aid supplies, flashlights, tools, etc. Know where these supplies are kept and how to use them.
By applying/updating these five basic security elements to your overall safety plan, you will significantly improve your ability to react to and survive a potentially life-threatening event.
Thomas (Tom) Pecora has 27 years of security experience and served for 24 years with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) retiring as a GS 15 Senior Security Manager. He has extensive worldwide operational security support experience and in depth knowledge of CIA and Intelligence Community security disciplines through overseas postings and travel assignments to facilities and stations in Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.