Today’s guest post comes from Larry Kaminer, President of The Personal Safety Training Group. Several times a year he provides readers of this blog with practical safety advice. Now that it’s becoming dark earlier, he wanted to share some safety tips for us that relate to being aware of our surroundings, especially in the dark. Please check out his company for your safety training needs. You can also find him on Twitter @safetysecurity.
The Animal Kingdom
Think back to the documentary on television where the lioness is hunting. She stalks a herd of deer as they approach a water hole. She waits in the same place because she knows that the deer, being highly predictable, will come by at the same time every day. They must do so to drink.
As she moves in, she stays well hidden and singles out her target; usually the very young or very old, the sick member of the herd or the animal least aware of its surroundings! They are easy or “soft targets”. The inattentive animal doesn’t look up from grazing and hardly scans its surroundings. This is the animal that is also not listening and clearly does not know what is going on behind it. The lioness is much attuned to the body language of the inattentive. So are human predators!
If she is not hunting under her preferred cover of darkness, she will try to have the sun behind her so the herd is blinded making her even more difficult to see. She moves in as close as she can and then launchers her attack from behind, her victim’s blind spot. If possible she will run her prey toward a terrain feature such as a steep embankment to be sure she channels it in the direction of her choosing. By the time her victim realizes what is going on its too late and the attack is complete.
If her intended prey starts to pay more attention to its surroundings and moves back into the middle of the herd where it will find safety in numbers, the lioness will wait, pass over what has now become a “hard target” and look again for an easy mark. This is called the victim selection process and is not unlike the process human predators go through. Victims are chosen, the process is not random and the attack plan well thought out.
Human predators operate in much the same way. Their ideal target too exhibits the three elements that make them “a victim looking for a place to happen”; lack of awareness of surroundings, predictability of schedule, and placing themselves alone in an isolated environment.
Some Tips and Safety Strategies to Consider now that it is Getting Darker Earlier
- If you run with one or two buddies, you are safer and have made those isolated areas less of a threat. This is even more important in early morning and evening low light hours.
- If you walk or run on different trails on different days at slightly different times with you buddy team you have exponentially hardened your target profile. Remember, predictability is one of your enemies.
- Hearing is your parallel primary protective special sense. It’s on par with vision, so leave the head phones at home. People who have had close calls often tell us they heard someone coming up behind them before they saw them, giving them time to react.
- If you must run alone, choose busier well light streets and run FACING traffic, making it difficult for a vehicle to pull along side. Also let someone know your route and the time you expect to return.
- Always know where your “safe havens” are located. This could be a busy coffee shop or retail area, a well light parking lot or even a knowing at which homes along the route people are home.
- Always bring your cell phone with you and be sure to keep track of any areas where there is weak or no signal. Place it in a small Ziploc bag if you are worried about moisture.
- If you carry pepper spray, carry it in your hand with a wrap band. It will only be of help to you if you can bring it to bear and discharge in an instant. Buy fogger sprayers NOT stream dispensers!
- One of the best “things” you can bring on a run or walk is a dog. Regardless of size, they are good early warning systems and are just another layer of complications for a would be assailant.
- If it’s cold wear earmuffs, NOT a hoodie which robs you of peripheral vision. Hoodies can also be grabbed and used as a “handle” by which to control you.
- Remember that the most important area to be aware of is the blind spot behind you. The place ambush or blitz attacks are launched from.
- Carrying a small personal alarm is preferred by some as is a small very high intensity flashlight that can temporarily blind an assailant and illuminate those dark areas that offer great hiding places. These items can be easily clipped onto your waistband which is where your cell phone should be too.
Social Media and your Personal Safety
- Do not plan runs or announce rendezvous points to your exercise buddies via any social media or networking platform
- If you want to post about a pleasant exercise outing, do so after the fact and keep the details, especially the route and location very vague.
The Danger of Complacency
At this very moment and as you read this would be criminals or predators are not your primary enemy. Complacency is. Do not fall into a false sense of security telling yourself “We live in a good area” or “Nothing bad ever happens here”. Anything can happen anywhere. Don’t take chances. Implement your strategy and engage it with discipline. Be smart. Be safe and stay healthy!!