Podcast Episode 041421
Published 14 April 2021
I hear it all the time, the countless stories about being smaller, or petite, having a deep-seated fear about being alone in dark or unfamiliar places. I’ve spoken to hundreds about their perception of injustice with racism, sexism, physical brutality. The story is the same for all situations where a perceived physical inequity could exist between the would-be attacker, and the intended victim. However, I am here to tell you that this does not have to be the case, ever. I have said it time and time again, a little intelligence goes a long way in ensuring that risk is mitigated with a little pre-planning, especially if you are of a smaller nature. Many people have told me about finding themselves in unfamiliar situations, and concerned for their safety, or the safety of the family members. So, in addition, I need to say, that displayed actions are so much more important than stereotypes, being able to anticipate how an individual will respond needs to be based on their displayed actions, and not based on some stereotypical attribute. Don’t be fooled.
Greetings my friends, family members (shout out to my wonderful daughter who enjoyed her 30th birthday yesterday), my fellow Alaskans, and my fellow Americans, where you are, and welcome to the Alaska Outlaw podcast. I am the Alaska Outlaw, and today I’d like to journey back into my “wheelhouse” of personal security. Having spent over thirty years in the security industry I have had a plethora of educational experiences in keeping people, and places, safe and secure. I have served in a multitude of roles, from Maritime Shipping security, to personal bodyguard, to property protection, and through the decades of service I have clearly witnessed, thousands of times, the absolute miracles brought to fruition by a plan. Now, I’m not going to promise that bad things won’t happen, however, I will say that you can dramatically reduce the possibilities by implementing, and strictly following a personal security plan every time you go out. While there may still occur surprises, that need to be adapted for, we can substantially reduce the chances of being taken off guard by implementing some basic security principles in our everyday lives. First and foremost, I want to say that this episode is not intended to be a “fear producing exercise”, but merely an understanding in how to keep one’s self, and one’s family, safe and secure in this modern-day world. Being prepared is the best weapon you can have against the opportunistic criminal element. However, I strongly caution us against using stereotypical profiling in our security plans. By taking our eyes off the objective of security planning based on some imaginary perception, we can fall victim to inciting a possible issue where there wasn’t one to start with.
Talk about a plan types
So, with all that said, let’s talk about our security plans. For all intents and purposes for this weeks discussion, we’ll identify two distinct plans:
- Underway, or moving, and
- Stationary, or residing.
Everything we do in our lives can be categorized within these two states. Essentially, the fundamental principle says that areas we travel to, and from, are “safe”. Now, honestly, this principle is flawed to a degree, because it assumes that the start and end points are safe, and we have witnessed time and time again here in the US where rogue gunman enter a particular location to unleash their wrath on the occupants. But alas, we are getting ahead of ourselves. The first plan is our “underway” plan. You could consider this plan to be sort of like your GPS in your car (or phone), when it realizes forward progress is not passible, so it automatically plots a new course. Same thing applies here. In early October, last year [Episode 100720] we discussed traversing open spaces, we talked about the establishment of the “safe start” location, we well as the “safe stop”, or end location. So, within this part of our plan we’re going to expand on the details to that part of our plan. As with any plan, practice makes perfect, so mentally creating and participating in a plan every time you move through public spaces, the mental preparation becomes easier, and more inclusive of dynamic variables.
Our Underway plan starts at any location, and concludes at a designated location. The start point assumes that you are starting from a safe location, and ending at a safe location. Your plan should include possible safe stops throughout the plan. Essentially there are three overall phases to underway plan.
- Safe start, or secured location. This include the termination of a previous plan portion.
- Traversal of public “unsafe” space, which should include the dynamic elements we find in the community around us.
- Arriving at the next “safe space”, which could be our car, or at our homes, depending on the situation.
The key to the success of our underway plan is that we: A) Don’t unnecessarily invite any risk throughout the plan engagement, and B) We adhere strictly to the plan, and don’t deviate once engaged.
Our stationary plan starts with understanding how an intruder could gain access to your residence, or secured area. The key here is understanding the security protocols that your family , or co-inhabitants, deploy through an average day. So, our residence plan is built around prevention of unauthorized access through one of the egress locations. Examining doors and windows, knowing that the windows have very little chance of withstanding a determined individual, we have to ask ourselves what is the next line of defense? When considering your residence plan, our first objective is to add as many layers of perimeter security as we can. Now, this does not mean we have to consider the iron bars over the windows look in order to be safe. Rose bushes, blackberry bushes, or cacti properly planted can provide an excellent additional layer of perimeter protection. Little tips like installing the screen/storm door to open in the opposite direction from the main door, are additional benefits you can add inexpensively. Our main objective after the perimeter, becomes the response. What do you and your family do if the perimeter is penetrated? Obviously, a plan to initiate contact with local law enforcement, and possibly neighbors. Again, by sounding a loud alarm, many intruders may retreat in search of an easier target. The key is to become aggressive when attempting to thwart someone entering your home uninvited. Another factor to consider is putting more resources in securing the entry level of your home. I’m not saying to ignore the upstairs, just focus on the ground floor. In many cases of break-in, the perpetrators are opportunistic criminals. They are in search of any easy score.
Plan for the unexpected
For most people whom I have worked with throughout the years, the idea of having to “plan for the unexpected” seems to be the most challenging, it is the security orthodox. However, the best way to think about this is to consider the “worst-case” scenario, and plan for it. Most of the time we will find that these planned for events never come to fruition, but having a plan for it gives us some insight when the impossible might happen. As an example, we are driving our vehicle from point A to point B. We know that there are three traffic lights between where we start, and where we end. If we imagine getting crashed into at each of the traffic lights, we then ask ourselves “how can I avoid that scenario?” If we are using “defensive driving tactics”, we would be in the safest lane, and potentially adjust our speed to ensure that there is another vehicle between our car, and the possible threat. This is how we plan for the unexpected. Technically we’re planning for the improbable, but possible nonetheless. Another concept to introduce here, is what I call the “in the moment (ITM)” planning. Thinking about every scenario unfolding, moment-by-moment. So, in this model of planning, we break down events into the collective moments from beginning to end, remaining cognizant of any possibilities that could intersect with our paths at each of these moments. Dull, boring drives should be broken down with all possible modifications to the our plan. By worst-case scenario planning, in a moment-by-moment type of model, unexpected isn’t unexpected.
Public spaces can be the most challenging because of their dynamic nature. Estimating what others may, or may not, do in these scenarios causes many individuals, even within the security industry to vastly underestimate the events that sometimes transpire in these areas, so I would caution you that this is where you will spend most of your time planning for. The idea here in your plan is to take the whole trip and break it down into segments. Within the segments, we can identify milestones that identify transitions to the next segment. As an example here, exiting the front door of the store into the parking area. Once out the door, you find yourself on a sidewalk type of area. This area is open to elevation, and wind age. Looking left and right we should note dynamic elements, other pedestrians, animals, possibly safety concerns such as ice or gravel. Higher priority needs to be given to the elements moving toward us, and less given to those items moving away. Our detailed dynamic plan might also include the highly unlikely possibility of a car driving up on the sidewalk. The highest priority should be given to fast moving elements, such as bicycles or skateboard riders, who can cover more ground, more quickly. As we move toward the actual parking area, now we should identify moving vehicles, as well as other pedestrians within the parked cars, we need to have a plan. Again, we are much more concerned with anything, or anyone, moving towards us.
The other side of the equation is private spaces. Now, when I use the phrase “private spaces”, I’m not technically talking about your home, or a restroom, or other enclosed securable space, I’m really talking about anything not as open as public spaces and does not include any elevation differences. As an example, we have a shopping mall here in Anchorage that has multiple floors that are open in the middle on all the floors except the bottom. This means that being on the “race track” around the rim of the opening, means that we are still in open, or public space. It is not until we enter one of the shops that we leave public, and enter private space. This is a crucial determination. So, having identified that private is very different than public, there are completely different operating rules within the private than public spaces. We’ll talk about that in a minute, but suffice to say for now, the key here is understanding two other big factors when considering what rule set to apply. Private space also says that there are limited exits/entrances, as well as possible other people who can help deter a would-be attacker.
So, we’ve gotten ourselves in a situation where a suspect is tailing us. Tailing is the activity of following a victim without being obvious, so unlike stalking the idea of being unnoticed while following typically evades most lower-leveled attempts. Our first tool is to evade. Thinking about evasion, it can be as simple as moving from a private to public space. Meet up with other people, try to socialize with others in an attempt to get the would-be attacker onto another easier victim. Another potential action would be to change up your activity. The goal with evasion is that you want to be in the drivers seat when it comes to the situation. Sometimes evasion (if safe to do so) means turning the situation back on the attacker by turning into, and challenging them head-on. However, the objective here is to not lead the attacker to a place where an attacks becomes more probable. On the other side of the coin, is avoidance. Avoidance is another side that should be best applied as often as possible. Don’t put yourself at risk, it’s best to avoid this type of situation as best as possible. If you would normally have been going to the gym, change it up and go to the gallery instead. This tactic is focused on your would-be assailant being caught off guard without a good plan of attack anymore. Again, the idea here is to change things up, make the threat have to change their plans on the fly, this most often torpedoes their plan, and causes mistakes to be made. Remember, most attackers are more interested in an easy job. Make it challenging, there are many others out there that are not as prepared as you are.
Whenever you feel that you are under some type of stalking threat, another great tool in your toolbox should be the tool of illusion. I realize that your not a magician, but by creating the illusion of one direction, then traveling another essentially is the art of illusion. Another trick of illusion is ducking behind a sign and changing your jacket or shirt to another color, or ducking into a large crowd hoping that someone with a similar jacket or shirt could cause a distraction, these are all tricks of illusion. In addition, ducking into a shop, then exiting the other side dressed completely differently. While these all may sound like something out of a James Bond film, probably because they are. These are all tricks that field agents of many agencies deploy in hopes of disappearing.
At this point all the other tricks, and preplanning has failed. What many assailants depend on, is the victim implosion. Victim implosion is when the victim ultimately simply surrenders, this happens when the victim has exhausted all their physical strength, or tools in their toolbox, or thinks they have. While many attackers assume that they possess the “upper-hand” due to many different factors primarily physical strength or weaponry, they expect some resistance, and struggle, but ultimately their objective is to mentally control and dominate their victim. There are several tools at your disposal to use in these situation.
- Strike the assailant as fast as you can muster. Don’t wait, don’t hesitate! Strike hard, and strike fast. There are several key areas to concentrate this first strike on. The genitals, the eyes, or the throat, of the assailant. Again, if nothing else you are creating some time and space. By stunning the attacker, this may be an opening to deploy another important tool,
- Alarm anyone close by to your situation. With a whistle, air horn, or other loud signaling device, including your voice, your objective here is to incite others close by to render aid by balancing the perceived physical injustice.
Parts of our personal security preparedness
Most of our personal security plan our mothers told us every time we left the house. Regardless of the sex of the child, our moms knew the path that we need to follow to stay safe. Let’s briefly cover some off those tips that mom gave us:
- Stay with friends. The old “safety in numbers” advice. Great advice it is too. Again, most attackers are looking for easy wins, the larger the group, the less attractive an attack is.
- Maintain a toolbox of options. Ok, mom probably didn’t say this way, but we knew what she meant. Whether you grew up in the pepper spray days, tazers, or air horns, the idea is the same. Sat ready.
- Have a good plan. This one is a much bigger idea than maybe, mom knew about when she said it. But she’s exactly right. Having clear, concise plans that may include moment-by-moment plans to ensure we get home safely.
- Stay in well lit areas. This is certainly great advice, although as life would have it, half the day is dark. So, in the forward direction of enjoying life, maybe a high powered strobe light, and certainly rule #1 applies here.
- Finally, communicate with friends, or other trusted people throughout the evening. Even if it’s a Twitter post, saying where and when, this could give investigators an idea of where to start a search.
Staying safe is not by accident. By having plans in place, and adhering to the plans is what professionals who are responsible for the security of high-value targets do.