When your life is in jeopardy, nothing else matters.
Personal safety is not a topic I see many bloggers writing about, yet it’s one that’s vital to our well-being. Simply put, our health and safety form the foundation for everything else we do. Maintaining this foundation must come before wealth, success, happiness, and almost every other aspect of self-improvement and personal growth.
As you might expect, preparation is the key. Often there are many simple habits and observations a victim could have followed to prevent their becoming a victim. And sadly, in many cases, these simple habits and observations could have saved their lives.
Remember, there’s a big difference between being scared and being prepared. I am not saying, nor would I ever suggest, that you live so cautiously that you scare yourself out of trying new things and seeing new places. I am simply suggesting that, like a Boy Scout, you adequately prepare yourself before doing so.
1. Let someone know where you will be.
When you live alone, or even when you go out for the night, let a friend know where you will be. This barely takes any effort on your part, and if something does go wrong or you are not back in the morning, somebody will know where to start if they have to look for you.
2. Keep doors and windows locked.
I am always amazed at people who leave all the entryways to their house wide open when they are home, let alone when they go to sleep at night. Although it’s nice to believe that nobody would violate your space while you’re in it, there are, unfortunately, a lot of bad people in the world who would love to take advantage of your naïve, overly trusting habits. Why risk being robbed or attacked in your own home when all you have to do is adopt the habit of locking your door after you go through it?
3. Have an exit strategy.
Do you know exactly what you would do if you woke up to a raging fire in your house? What if there was a sudden earthquake? What if you were driving on a dark country road and you realized someone suspicious was clearly following you? By going over these scenarios in your head, you can come up with plans and strategies to mitigate the inherent dangers. The more you think and plan now, the less thinking and planning you’ll need to do in a moment’s notice.
4. Always be prepared for the unexpected.
Never, ever be so humble as to think that something cannot happen to you. There are simple things you can do to prepare for unfortunate events. For example, keep your cell phone charged and always have some credits available for an emergency call when needed. Keep some spare money in a hidden place (in your car?), in case you are robbed or lose your wallet. Program emergency phone numbers into your phone, because when you’re in shock or in a panic, you will not always be able to think straight.
5. Learn a martial art.
Physical confrontation is always a last resort, but if push comes to shove, you better be able to defend yourself. I suggest Muay Thai for guys and Aikido for girls. Besides the fact that they are both good forms of self-defense, they are also fun ways to exercise. This (and this) is an awesome guide for simple and effective self-defense. You do not need to study martial arts for years to learn and apply some decent self-defense moves. More often than not, the assailant will be male. Attack the weak spots on his body: the eyes, nose, throat, solar plexus, groin, knees, etc. A well-aimed strike or blow to one of these areas can instantly neutralize the attacker.
6. Carry pepper spray.
Pepper spray (or Mace) is an awesome self-defense product. It comes in a little pressurized spray can, and one little spray of the substance in an attacker’s eyes will immobilize them for nearly fifteen minutes. It is legal in most countries, very cheap, and it can save your rear end in a hostile situation.
7. Buy a small keychain weapon.
Get a Stinger or a Kubaton. These tiny weapons will easily fit onto your keychain, and if you ever need to defend yourself in a moment’s notice, these devices will give you a significant advantage compared with just using your hands and fists.
8. Be extra cautious at night.
Do not stop at gas stations or quick marts late at night if anything looks suspicious, or if the area is not well lit or supervised. If you must stop, keep a safe distance from the car in front of you so you have plenty of room to drive away in an instant. Do not walk along streets late at night by yourself or even with friends. Darkness usually invites trouble.
9. Observe emergency exits.
Just as it is important to always have an exit strategy, it is also important to know where the emergency exits are when you are in a public location. The more crowded the location, the more important it is that you know where they are. A good example of this took place at a New Year’s Eve party in 2000 at a nightclub in a small Dutch town called Volendam. The emergency exits were blocked off, the club was packed with partygoers, and a fire broke out. There was a panic and people could not get out easily; as a result, many people were seriously injured.
10. Never trust strangers.
Never, ever trust strangers. I know; it is sad but true. You simply cannot trust someone you do not know. I am rather trusting in nature, but I am very cautious about entrusting any important aspect of my life to someone who has not previously proven their trustworthiness to me. This includes people who claim to be police, firefighters, or other officials. Always ask them for identification or proof to support their position.
11. Trust your intuition:
If an environment or situation feels wrong, listen to your intuition (or gut feeling). Our subconscious mind can often determine when something is not quite right way before we can consciously determine why we have that feeling. It’s smarter to be cautious than careless.
12. Don’t flaunt your wealth.
If you are well-off and possess what others desire, do not be arrogant and flaunt it every chance you get. This is just asking for trouble. Of course, you can and should enjoy the fruit of your hard-earned labor, but try to do it in a way that attracts less attention and is respectful of others who are less fortunate.
13. Ask for help when you need it.
Don’t be scared to ask or scream for help if you think you need it. Wouldn’t you rather risk looking like an idiot than try to be brave and end up hurt or worse?
14. Don’t get intoxicated in strange places.
Sometimes people like to get a little drunk, sometimes very drunk, and this is fine as long as you are in a safe place. But do not get too drunk in unfamiliar places where it is not safe (as in places where you don’t know people like public locations, clubs, and parties at other people’s houses).
15. Avoid deserted places.
When you go out alone, try to avoid deserted places. Sure, deserted places can seem calm and peaceful, but criminals and bad guys always look for easy targets, and someone who is alone in a place where there are no witnesses or people to help out is an easy target. If you do go out alone, always let someone know where you will be and have some sort of weapon with you (pepper spray is a pretty good option).
16. Fight or flight.
It sounds pretty simple, because what other choices do you have, right? Wrong! Many people freeze up due to shock or adrenaline when they encounter a hostile situation. And this is obviously the worst thing you can do. Even black-belt martial artists who are really good in the dojo can become totally paralyzed when confronted with a real fight on the street. You need to make the decision in your head and prepare yourself for intense hostile situations. Either you run and get away (usually the best option), or if you have no other choice, you fight without hesitation and with everything that you’ve got.
17. Get a dog.
If you like animals and have the means to care for one, get a dog. It doesn’t have to be a big, vicious dog either. Most dogs, even small ones, will alert you when they hear unusual sounds around them. Attackers are also far less likely to mess with you if you have a dog walking beside you.
18. Be careful with your personal details.
Be careful about whom you give your personal information to (name, number, address, work location, credit card number, etc). This applies to real life and also to the Internet. Unfortunately, in today’s world there are a lot of weirdos and criminals who try to lure people into giving them their personal details so they can steal their identities and take advantage of them in other ways.
19. Vary your routine.
Try not to follow the same exact routine every single day. If you leave and come home at exactly the same times, or stop in the same spot, or visit the same restaurant at certain times, criminals may pick up on this and target you as a potential victim.
20. Take action when you are being followed.
If you think you are being followed, cross the road. If you need to, do this a few times. If this confirms your suspicion, go into the nearest public place and phone the police. If you are in a car, first confirm your suspicion by turning onto a few different roads. If you know you are being followed, drive to the nearest police station. If someone wants you to pull over on a dark or deserted road and he looks like some sort of official or police officer but is not in an official police car, be safe and drive to the nearest police station.