Safety in Numbers. Avoiding unnecessary risks.

Podcast Episode 100720

Safety in numbers. Avoiding unnecessary risks

Greetings and welcome to the show. I hope this podcast finds things going in the right direction for you, and that you are able to get out and visit with loved ones, or hang out with friends, even when practicing safe social distancing protocols. This pandemic continues to attempt to smother our independence throughout the country, but we still have the freedom to think freely. While Portland, Oregon still struggles to get their social unrest under control, the remaining tinder-box locations are either, not in the news, or starting to cool off. So, here we are, getting into fall and watching the leaves change colors. Over the entire series of podcasts, I have talked about safety and security methods that you can use to keep your family and yourself safe in most situations. We’ve talked about survival practices and approaches, so we should be able to cover our most basic needs regardless of the situation that unfolds. This week I’d like to expand on some safety ideas for you as you travel around different situations, by deploying some “safety in numbers” practices that we’ll talk about here today.

Throughout the decades of being in the security industry, I’ve had countless conversations with many individuals about the concept I call “physical injustice”. Physical injustice is identified by noting a physical difference between the two parties. The injustice may be the result of one party having an advantage over the other caused by physicality, or by the involvement of weaponry, and/or anything that creates a difference. It may also be adjusted by increasing the number of people engaged in the event. Many individuals have talked to me about feeling insecure in certain situations. That these feelings have forced some to arm themselves with personal defensive weaponry or study some type of martial art, with the objective of protecting themselves. The overall objective here is to make it a fair fight, however, tipping the scale in your favor wouldn’t be a bad thing. He seems the whole idea behind putting one in the win column is to “stack the deck” in your favor, by tipping the physical injustice your way.

With that in mind, let’s look at some ideas to level the playing field. I’ve heard the argument to call 911. As much as I fully support all the men and women of the blue line, they can be up to 15 minutes away. So, we have a little time to account for before the officers arrive on the scene. To that end let’s look at each situation with a strategic eye.

When beginning to look at each scene with a strategic view, there are some critical factors we need to calculate. By learning a little about the strategy in setting up situations for the best possible outcome is what separates victors from victims. But being a victim is more than just a state, it can also be somewhat of a mindset. When thinking strategically, we need to be constantly augmenting our plan based on the variable threats coming in and out of focus during the interaction with our dynamic environments. Weighing the difference between a straight path versus a more publicly visible route is one of the key ingredients to a successful outcome. Throughout today’s discussion, we are going to use several popular stereotypes.

  • The strategic view consists of five (5) points:
  • Departing immediate secure area,
  • Entering the dynamic zone
  • In the center of dynamics
  • Exiting the dynamic area
  • Entering the next secure area.

So, the departure from the immediate secure area is when you are planning the route of travel through the dynamic zone. This needs to be done as safely as possible, so if we are looking out of a retail store across a parking lot, we need to survey (in detail) the route of travel BEFORE we engage in that travel. For the sake of simplicity, this scenario is what we can use for our example. Now, when assessing the route of travel, the prudent planner would include alternate paths, should something dynamically change during our travel. Eventually, you will become very quick at establishing the best route, and be able to perform this function “at-a-glance”. The key is to have a plan locked into your mind. As part of the evaluation of your route, there are several factors that you will want to consider. “Blind spots” where it is difficult or impossible to visually inspect an area within the route. These areas may be caused by obstacles, or low lighting, closed-door, etc.

Obstacles are the most obviously the most challenging, as they may be static, causing blind spots, or dynamic, which creates uncertainty. Obstacles may also include traction issues where forward travel will be interrupted. Dynamic intercepts are those things that may either: impair forward travel, or block forward vision, but the frequency may be sporadic.

After departing the immediate safe area, we are entering into the dynamic area. This portion is where you will hear the warning “keep your head on a swivel”, as you will want to be constantly scanning the environment for any indications of trouble. During this phase, you may have to make modifications to the route because of the dynamic information received. You are going to be counting on the clarity of your eyes for this phase, as you need to survey everything in view.

Now you arrived in the dynamic zone. Your prime objective is to get through this zone as fast as possible. Again, you constantly scanning and giving those blind spots a wide berth to ensure that you have some notice as to something happening. You have successfully navigated across the dynamic zone, but you’re not out of the woods yet. Unfortunately, this can be the most dangerous section of the whole trip. During this phase, your back is facing the dynamic zone, so therefore almost the whole area is a blind spot. This is another area that you’ll want to get through quickly. Frequent casual glances over your shoulders and the gain on those ears turned all the way up, are very important during this phase. Finally, you have reached the next secure area. Upon entry, turn and secure the door you just used to ensure that this area retains its level of security.

Setting yourself up for success in risky scenarios can become second nature with enough practice. The above list is from training I received in moving high-value personnel through unavoidable risky areas and served me very well on the many occasions I had to utilize them. Let’s quickly cover some generic safety measures that used to be common sense, but we all know about that.

  1. Stay in well-lit areas, especially if you are having to travel in visually challenging opportunities.
  2. Travel in numbers if possible. Again, using the physical injustice understanding, we know the more of you, the better your chances.
  3. Be prepared to roll with the changes. You’re in a dynamic environment and things change.
  4. Don’t take unnecessary risks. Plot a route the minimizes you spend in the dynamic zone.
  5. Always keep your hands free, if possible. Having a free set of hands allows you to defend yourself if you have to.

One of the questions I frequently get is “what if I have small children in tow”? Great question. The inclusion of small children should not affect the plan or the route. Where having the littles will have an effect is during the exiting stage. Your objective should be to get the little ones into a safety zone first, then, enter yourself.

In our example we mentioned earlier, I will use a young mother with an infant, and a toddler, doing their weekly grocery trip. She plans her route using a direct path tactic, she has the toddler on a wrist strap, the infant in the cart upper area. Her route exits the store through the exit closest to where she parked the family car, travels down the lot lane, keeping about 8 – 10 feet from the back of the parked vehicles, the toddler is on the vehicular traffic side, close to her side. Upon arriving at the family car, she approaches the side of the vehicle where the infant will be placed. She should already have her keys available in her non-dominant hand (or the remote unlock engaged), retaining one hand free to ensure she has at least one line of defensive actions available. A good 360 degree look around herself, making note of questionable possibilities. A quick scan within the vehicle before opening the door will ensure that the inside of the vehicle is a safe area. Then, she is going to have the toddler climb in first around the car seat, and after performing another quick 360 scans, paying special attention the windows of cars nearby, looking for movement within the vehicle, or on the other side of it, she will duck down to place the infant in the car seat, then, with one hand on the infant, another look around, again noting any questionable scenarios, through the vehicle windows. Secure the infant, and secure the door, before going to the other side to secure the performing similar tasks while securing the toddler. Once the children are in the vehicle, she can load the groceries in the vehicle while frequently scanning the area for threats. Once she is in the vehicle and the doors are locked.

Important notes from this example. Firstly, by having the toddler on the traffic side of her prevents the possibility of a snatch from a blind spot between cars. Secondly, loading the toddler across the car seat minimizes the exposure of the toddler to the dynamic environment. Finally, by keeping her head on a swivel, she is able to identify threats before they arrive in her immediate space. As well, by staying 8 – 10 feet off the bumpers of the parked cars, she gave herself an opportunity to react to a threat from one of those blind spots. These are the key take-a-ways from this example.

We’ve made the best plan possible, we thought we executed it with perfection, but yet things seem to go sideways. Now, it really depends on where you are in your phases. If, you find yourself within the first two phases, your first option may be to return to your original secure area. However, if you are the two next phases, you may need to power forward and will need some actions for a quick escape. Remember a couple of podcasts ago I mentioned the three options you had when confronted by a possible event?

  1. Run for it, or retreat to the last safe place, or advance to the next safe place.
  2. Negotiate. Try to talk it out.
  3. Rock and roll. Remember if you don’t see eye-to-eye, you might have to go toe-to-toe. You will need to whip out the toolbox and level out the physical injustice.

A great starting point is to dial 911 on your cell phone and put it in your pocket or purse. Then commence doing whatever is necessary to bring you out of this on top. Back to our example for just a second, you may want to retreat back to the safe place, for the children’s sake. As you are aware, their safety becomes our greatest objective. However, they cannot be safe without you there to keep them that way, so sometimes retreat is the better part of valor. So, we need to consider our options when actually confronted with a potentially violent situation.

Potential solutions to learn and practice. We have arrived at the time for action. We have made a comprehensive plan, and have executed our plan to the letter, but yet, here we are. The place we didn’t want to be. Using a standard stereotype and our previous example, we have a male suspect Rush the mother and her children. The first step that I encourage all my training participants, is to strike hard, and strike fast. The perpetrator is convinced that the mom will panic and freeze, so an immediate retaliation will completely derail his thinking. In addition, defensive objectives have always taught that it is all about “big parts against little parts”. A clenched fist to the groin or throat as hard as possible should create the desired effect. The effect that you hope for is the immediate stunning of the perpetrator. Long enough to give you some time to form new options. Possibly retreating back into a safe area. Once the suspect has been stunned there are plenty of options to get you and the kids to safety. The good news, by staying in public view, there are plenty of willing individuals who are willing to get involved. So, during the strike, a loud shout may bring even more options to ensure your safety.

When talking about the immediate response, using a firearm, I typically advise against it. There are multiple reasons I try to instill confidence in my students that they have the ability to do what’s necessary. My primary reason is that a very select few trains to draw a weapon in those close quarters and accurately discharge their weapon. In many cases, the children, or bystanders could be shot in the chaos, not to mention discharging the weapon before it cleared the holster. There are multiple examples of innocent people being struck by stray shots. Secondly, once the weapon is out, based on personal distances, the weapon could be forcefully removed, and now the weapon could be used against us, or it then joins the millions of firearms in the black market. If the shooter trains religiously withdrawing and firing in split-second reactions, then, by all means, do what you know you can do. I am only advising here, not commanding. It is up to you as to pulling a trigger or not.


Today we have talked a lot about being safe and planning for the dynamic environment we call our community. We covered the five phases of transporting high-value personnel all over the world every day. We even talked about ways to implement these successful tactics into your daily lives and keep you and your loved ones safe. The best advice I can offer is to constantly consider the “here and now”. Constantly asking what if?

Guys, thanks for hanging out with me and letting me fill your head with knowledge. Please be sure to tune in next week when we’ll be talking about the supply lines here in the United States, which promises to be a great show. I sincerely thank you for allowing me to be a part of your day. As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to send them along, I’d be proud to do some research and get you an answer. Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *