Personal Safety In The World Part 1

  As one might imagine, the topic of personal safety is an overly broad topic and can cover lots of ground. In this module, we will explore key concepts and tips for maintaining your safety when you leave the comfort of your home to take care of errands, work, school, or social events with friends. Because this topic is so important, we have tried to cover several topics such as what the law says about defending yourself, practicing good situational awareness, how to stay safe on school campuses, the use of weapons, and much more! So much, in fact, that we have divided up the content into two modules and could have kept going. We are only laying a foundation with future courses and workshops to come to cover much more.

What Are Our Legal Rights on Personal Safety?

             You know you have the right to protect yourself from being harmed by others. What you may not be as familiar with is what the law specifically says about your rights, what you are and are not allowed to do, and so on… It is especially important to understand what our rights and limitations are in the face of the law. Now you might be saying to yourself, If I am being threatened or am afraid for my life, you can bet your bottom dollar I am going to do whatever it takes to protect myself! And we here at STRIVE4YOU fully support that sentiment if and only if that primal reaction is a reasonable, justifiable, and appropriate response to the situation! What most people do not realize or do not care about given their situation or personal feelings, is that there are times when self-defense laws do not apply and if a person uses unreasonable force in a situation where it is not warranted, the person executing self-defense may face criminal charges of his or her own. This would essentially turn the self-defender into the aggressor committing assault in the eyes of the law.

             The law says that a person has the right to protect themself, their family, and their property using a reasonable amount of counteracting justifiable force. Both state or federal laws allow self-defense to be used by an individual as a defense within violent crimes and some civil cases. Self-defense laws and procedures certainly vary by states and even by counties, so we cannot stress enough that you should always familiarize yourself with your local regulations. These laws outline when self-defense is permitted by someone or how much force a perceived victim is permitted to use without entering criminal liability. These laws are certainly in place to protect you, the defender, however they also serve to protect the aggressor who is receiving what we are claiming to be self-defense. The key thing to remember is that you can only operate on the right side of the law by using justifiable force during the appropriate situations.

             So, what is justifiable force? Well, the simple answer is that justifiable force is the use of the same amount of force — up to but not exceeding – as the force used against you. For example, if someone grabs you to help you cross the street, you should not proceed to break their arm or pull a weapon out to threaten or use against them. No need to find yourself on the news all because you broke a boy scout who was just trying to earn his merit badge! In contrast, if someone walks up and puts their hands around your neck and proceeds to choke you, you have the right to use deadly force in response. Who determines what reasonable force is? You do! This means that no one can tell you whether you feared for your life in a violent attack. Only you can determine what is reasonable force at that moment, especially if you’re person identified by law to be a member of a high-risk group, or legally viewed as vulnerable, such as a person with a disability, a child, a member of an LGBTQ group, and/or a woman.

            The key thing is that you must recognize and analyze what is happening to you so that you can appropriately respond. During our Functional Foundations module or workshop, you will learn the initial physical & mental techniques to help you accurately assess and respond. If you pursue SEED’s firsthand training, our certified instructors will certainly explain the difference in responses to fit the situation as you build the confidence to react through ongoing training which is crucial to raising the probability of maintaining your personal safety!

Traveling Smart & Safe

            For many of us, getting out of the house to go shopping, catching the bus to make our way to work or school, or attending a social event out on the town with friends are things we enjoy. However, it can be very unnerving given the reality of our society these days, especially if you feel targeted just because you have a disability. Too many times, our SEED instructors have had serious conversations with individuals that either will not for any reason use their mobility devices such as a white cane, a walker, or oxygen when they travel because they fear being “perceived as vulnerable” and therefore targeted, or simply would rather stay home secluded in the safety of their homes because the fear of someone attacking them is so real. Neither option is healthy, physically, or mentally! And yet, both options are extremely valid.

The fact is, the majority of the interactions we face as people with disabilities are, as we define them here at STRIVE, incidents which are up-close, benign infringements on our personal space in which we have been grabbed by someone who is just trying to help the “poor” disabled person. Not a pretty statement or picture, but reality none the less. It is no wonder why traveling independently can be both liberating and unsettling all at the same time! And if you have had a negative interaction such as a full-blown violation, either physical or sexual assault for instance, while you have been out exploring the world, you most certainly will be resistant to getting back out ever again. The only realistic way to get over these fears is to gain the tools and confidence to overcome these concerns and get back out there living life, which is the entire purpose of this course and the entire SEED Program. We want to share with you a few tips we have developed and called the 4-Ps of Personal Safety to help in this vein to give you the confidence to allow you to get out of the house and living life to its fullest!

1.         Present Confidence. The very first tip we have for you is something you have heard before from your mobility instructor or other members of your support team. Present confidence when you are traveling out in the community by keeping your head held high.This sounds like a simple thing but often within the disability world, especially the blind community, we tend to keep our heads down when we walk. Always remember an aggressor is constantly looking for signs that a person is vulnerable and easy prey. When you walk with your head held high, it shows confidence to those around you. Even if you are out in an unfamiliar area, this tip is extremely important. Also, fidgeting with your hand(s) or walking unsteadily without firm, purposeful steps can be signs of someone lacking confidence.

We realize, because we have been there ourselves, that if you are in an unfamiliar place or you are turned around and find yourself lost, it is exceedingly difficult to keep your confident composure. If these are not some tips you are not already consciously doing, please note it will take time to get in the habit, but your own personal body language can tell a world of information about your present state of mind. Now, we are not saying to not ask for directions or assistance if you need it. Advocating for yourself is critical in safety and in life. Even confident people need reassurance from time to time. What we want you to understand is that it is so worth your safety to present yourself confidently, and confidence is your first line of defense when you are out in the community!

2.         Perform Situational Awareness. Our second key to personal safety is actively practicing good situational awareness techniques. Knowing your surroundings — the who, what, where, and why — is primary to keeping yourself as safe as you can. So much of situational awareness is sensory-based. Using your hearing, smell, touch, and even whatever usable sight you may have can give you lots of valuable information about your environment. For those of us in the VI/Blind community, using our hearing is something we rely on a lot. As you walk down the street you should be constantly listening to what is going on around you. This is not natural and will take some time to master. What do you hear? Do you hear footsteps approaching you from in front or behind? Are they breathing erratically or heavily, which might give you some clues about them? If they are talking as they approach, what are they saying? For example, if they are talking with a friend in a pleasant voice that is less threatening than someone talking to a potential partner saying something like “get him/her.” A person’s tone and what they are saying is extremely helpful during the recognition phase and can be extremely empowering to ensure that you are on guard at the first moment you perceive danger or feel threatened.

             Another tip especially for those that are visually impaired to think about is: do you use technology when you are traveling such as Be My Eyes, AIRA, or another app that helps with navigation? This typically requires us to have at least one headphone or earbud in our ear to listen to the directions. This can distract you from hearing other things. Any respectable professional in the personal security field will tell you straight out not to wear both headphones covering your ears at the same time. And this could not be truer for those of us that use our hearing as our primary sense. Even using one earbud can take quite a bit of training of our ears to develop the skills to listen to both the directions through the earbud and the sounds around us.

Too many times people walk around or go jogging listening to music to help pass the time. A potential aggressor sees these people as “vulnerable” or easier prey because they perceive that the individual cannot hear them approaching and that they are distracted. Getting in undetected to catch someone by surprise is their first goal if they want to have a successful attack. One suggestion here is to use bone conduction or a Bluetooth headset that rests around your neck and does not actually go in your ear. The first option allows you to hear what is going on around you while you can still hear what is being said through the headphones. Again, the latter option does the same thing, but might bring a little more attention to you as it is less conducive to privacy. Both still require honed listening skills to ensure you can hear both your surroundings and the directions that are being relayed to you through the earbud. So, keep this in mind as you are moving about.

            You might be saying to yourself, Okay, listening for audible clues seems like a no brainer, but how can using my sense of smell help me in my personal safety? Well, a simple example of this might be if you smell a gas or rotten-egg smell, then your brain would automatically think about the danger of a gas leak. But what about if I hear someone approaching me and then I also at the same time smell the hint of alcohol in the air? I could deduce that the person approaching me could be under the influence of alcohol. And studies have shown that alcohol and substance abuse can easily lead to violent aggressive behavior. If nothing else, this should tell your brain to “raise your shields fifty percent, Mr. Spock!”

            Each one of us has developed over the years a personal space or, as we refer to it in SEED, our “Safe Zone.” This is an individually determined parameter of space around your body that may increase or decrease depending on several situations and factors. When anyone or anything enters this space, and we are aware of it, typically we start to feel extremely uncomfortable and defensive. This is a primal instinct. We strongly advise you to continue to develop and always honor that safe zone. No one without consent should be in your safe zone and you have all the right to protect your personal space. Keep in mind that friends or family, with whom we typically lower our guard, can also unfortunately betray our trust. Look at the statistics of domestic violence, rape, or child abuse for any given year to prove this point. Many survivors of these types of violence, if they even report them, indicate that it was someone within their own circle that perpetrated the heinous act. So, we must always keep some type of guard up to be prepared to deal with any situation from friend or foe that might happen.

            Another related concept in this part of the conversation is your “No Touch Zone.” We typically use this model when working with youth and young children, but it fits here for adults as well. Your No Touch Zone is the area between the shoulders and the knees, and we can even extend that to include your neck and head given their critical sufficient role in maintaining life. There are absolutely zero reasons that someone should touch in this important yet restricted area of your body. Not only does this area hold vital organs and body systems but is also where your most private regions are. Each person’s Safe Zone is different as far as proximity to them and their level of comfort. Tone, action, relationship, and situational factors again are vital considerations.

The very instant you feel someone getting too close, you need to first be on high alert and second voice to them that you feel uncomfortable. Now, how you advocate this to them is dependent most of the time on the situation and the level of danger you feel. So, you might calmly say, “Please step back, you’re making me feel uncomfortable.” Or, if the situation calls for it, you might use words like, “I don’t know you!” or “Stop!” as some of your empowering words. We strongly recommend that if you have not yet taken our Empowering Words Workshop, that you sign up on our website for the next one. However you advocate it, just make sure you say it loud and confidently!

Another use of the sense of touch is if someone of course physically grabs you. Again, an invasion of your safe zone! This is where you use the techniques you have learned from your certified SEED instructor and have actively practiced. We reiterate again the most important thing to take away from this is that NO ONE, in big capital letters, has the right to be in your personal space or make you uncomfortable without your consent! Statistics show that most attacks against women, children, and people with disabilities are up close and personal. Therefore, protecting your safe zone is critical!

            Now, another sense that some can utilize if they have it and can rely on it is sight. We realize not everyone taking this course has usable vision, and a realistic situation might be that your line of sight could be blocked by someone or something, or deliberately averted such as by someone coming up from behind you. As we instruct those with no sight impairment, we never know if we will have the luxury of encountering danger in a well-lighted area from the front or not. More times than not, the aggressor will choose a dimly lit or dark area to make their strike to either add to the surprise factor or to help disguise their deed to any third party. Therefore, we would be remiss in our responsibilities if we did not mention visually understanding and observing your surroundings.

In some cases, you can use other senses to obtain some of the same information as you could with sight. If something is out of place that 90% of the time is not out of place, then this might be a clue that something is wrong. For instance, you walk up to your parent’s or friend’s house and notice the door is slightly open. This might be an indication that something is wrong especially if they are very enthusiastic or safe-conscious about always closing or locking the door. Another visual assessment that is widely used in the personal safety realm is to always check the back seat of your car before getting in, even if you do not drive. This will ensure you don’t have any unwanted passengers. Or thirdly, if you can see a shape or shadow approaching you quickly, at the very least it should give you a pause for thought as to what is or might be getting ready to happen.

The key thing to realize with situational awareness is that time equals distance, and distance equals safety. What we mean is that if you are constantly evaluating and observing your environment, being aware of who is around you and what they are doing, you have given yourself hopefully sometime to react and put distance between you and the potential danger to raise your chance of being safe. Practicing good situational awareness skills gives you the best possible chance to avoid potential situations and if evading is not an option, then you will be in a better situation to protect yourself.

3.         Plan. We are sure that many of you are already doing this when it comes to your travels due to arranging transportation. We are talking about more than that. What are you taking with you on your travels? Are you carrying a bag or other things with you, or are you going shopping where you will have to carry things back with you? Is the bag you are using so big you struggle to use your white cane, guide dog, mobility device, or medical device properly? It is especially important for your safety to have a free hand available to protect yourself or to perform a self-defense technique if it is necessary. Many people do not think about this.

We recommend that you carry a backpack or purse/man bag to help you with things you might need with you while you are active. And if you do carry a bag of some sort on your back or shoulders, make sure it is secure and close to your body. For instance, if you have a backpack put both straps on and snug it close to your body to ensure it cannot easily be taken away from you. The same tip for your purse or handbag. You should always wear the strap across your body rather than on just one outside shoulder. Thieves that are looking for a run-by snatch cannot easily get your bag away from you if you have a single strapped bag, such as a purse across your body. This can simply deter them from even trying. Also, make sure whatever bag you use is closed securely. A simple zipper on a large bag is not what we are meaning here. That can easily be unzipped, and any contents inside can easily be pickpocketed. Bags with zipper locks or zippers with a clasped flap are more secure and more of a hassle than most pick pocketers are wanting. If you’re still stuck in the 90’s and wear a fanny pack — believe us we are not judging here! — your items are going to be safer if you have the pack in front of you rather than on your hip or turned behind you.

Do you carry a wallet in your back pocket? Well, if so, it is a great tip to put it into a pocket that buttons and make sure that you always keep it fastened. If you can’t secure it this way, consider putting it in your front pocket instead, especially if you are going into a high-traffic area where you will be bumping against other people. This is an opportune time for pick-pocketers. Remember, the easier it is to get into the more enticing it is to take!

            Which leads us to the point of making sure that your belongings are always with you and that you are paying attention to them. Laying your bag on the floor under your table while out having a meal with friends or leaving it on the table or in the buggy long enough to take one or two steps away is plenty of time for someone to take it or reach inside. It would surprise you how quickly even an untrained thief can take off with your important belongings. Even when you are wearing your bag or securely have your item in your coat or back pocket, a simple bump distraction can be more than enough time to rip you off!

Also, while we are on the subject, you might think about the type of bag you are carrying regarding your credit or debit cards. Did you know someone can scan them from afar? Your personal information is stolen by that individual even though you have your card securely on your person. It can happen, so specially made bags can be purchased to help prevent this violation of privacy, if this is a concern.

            Are you going to be doing a lot of walking? You might want to think about what kind of shoes you are wearing. Yes, we care about you, but our concern is for your safety, not blisters or your fashion sense! If you are not so stable on those high heels or if you wear flip flops, what you need to think about is that these types of footwear make you less sure-footed, which makes balance a huge issue. If you must defend yourself, you might have a more difficult time keeping your all-important balance and center of gravity. Plus, if a thief wants to push you down before grabbing your bag or wallet, you certainly look like more of a prime target all because of your choice of footwear. Now, we certainly are not dictating your fashion choices or saying you could not hold your own despite whatever you choose to wear. We are simply saying this might be something to consider as you plan to leave for the day.

4.         Placement of Personal Items. When you are going out, think about the important personal items you will need to access without anyone else having the same access. Let’s think about your wallet, keys, bus pass, your debit cards, and money. When you are managing cash, figure out what the bills are and have them properly sorted for easy identification before your adventure. The truth is, if you are taking forever to figure out your money at the register, your chance of them ripping you off increases because you are exposing your cash and exhibiting less confidence. If you know what your bills are and can be as direct as possible, it is not only the easiest but limits your risk. There is nothing wrong with asking for assistance when you need it. Please ask for it at the right times and only with people you trust. Keep in mind there is an app or two that could assist with that!

            Along the same lines, we have been asked by many, What if someone intentionally takes or knocks our white cane or mobility device out of our hand? It is a valid question! First, we recommend that you carry an extra cane with you. This is especially helpful if you lose or break your cane, but can also help if someone deliberately takes it or knocks it out of your hands. Please understand this though, any act of anyone intentionally touching your cane for any reason other than with your consent should be treated as seriously as one in which they directly touched or blocked your eyes. It is an extremely serious threat to your safety, and more than likely more physicality is coming as they try to achieve their objective.

A simple telescope cane is perfect for this purpose. Your O&M instructor has told you that your cane should always stay within arms link if you are active. We agree. Most support and canes for the blind have an elastic strap at the end. We recommend that you be sure and place your wrist through the strap to add extra security that the device is not easily taken by someone or knocked out of your grasp. This can also translate for use with a walker.

If you have a four-legged friend that is a member of your support team, looping your wrist through the leash is a clever idea, however a more realistic tip is to keep it looped around your thumb in case you must drop the harness to put your hands up to protect yourself. Having the leash looped around your thumb allows the added ability to quickly turn your hand upside down dropping the leash off your hand, releasing the dog to hopefully remove themselves from between you and the potential aggressor. Unintentionally, your 4-legged friend could get hurt in the situation if they get tangled up with you and the aggressor if you must engage them to protect yourself. And we are sure we do not have to say this, but as a reminder any assault on a service animal or guide dog is against the law and is prosecutable under the law. And certainly, you have the right to defend your furry friend to the full extent!

            Now in this section we have discussed a lot about personal items such as your purse, wallet, cash, etc. There is no value of items that is worth more than your life! If someone approaches you and asks for one of these items, the best defense from this encounter is simply to give it to them. Chances are, in these situations the aggressor gets what they want and is gone with hopefully no further physical harm to you. Take whatever they want out, toss it away from you, and then step back creating distance and showing non-aggression toward them. Make slow movements, speaking slow and clearly that you are complying. The hope here is to show you are again complying rather than reaching for a weapon. Again, your life is worth much more than any valuables you might be carrying. Bank cards and any other items including social security cards are replaceable. You, on the other hand, cannot be replaced.

Transportation Safety

            Whether you are riding with a friend, taking a bus, paratransit, a local cab, or one of the most popular methods of transportation these days, Lyft or Uber, your safety must remain top priority! It is always a good initiative to use the safety tip to make sure someone you trust knows that you are going out, how long you plan to be gone, who you will be with, and obviously where you are going. We want to take some time in this section to focus more in-depth on ways you can stay safe while in transport from one place to another, as we know from both professional and personal experience that this is a huge concern.

            The first and the most important tip we can give you in this area is to always maintain situational awareness of your environment. This starts well before you ever enter a vehicle and should continue well after you have left your mode of transportation. First, we must look at a few preliminary factors before we even arrange our transportation. For instance, am I using a replicable source of transportation? No, we are not talking about whether they will get you there on time, oh boy do not get us started! We are talking about whether or not they are known for having safe drivers and vehicles. If you ride with the same company for your transportation needs, do they know you or do you have a driver you trust that you can request? It is especially important to establish a good relationship with drivers from your local bus, paratransit service providers, and/or the local cab company that can help increase your safety. Also, along these same lines, how safe do you feel where you are going to be waiting on your ride? Is the area well lit? Is the neighborhood safe and is there a lot of traffic flowing through the area? Remember, potential aggressors are looking for the off-the-beat, less-trafficked area to help set up the perfect opportunity to spring their plan into action.

            All right, your ride pulls up. Time to jump in and get going! Well, hold on a minute there, Sparky! For those with a visual disability, there absolutely must be another step that we can often overlook – and it has nothing to do with vision! This indispensable, must-do step is one that everyone should do before getting in a ride. That tip is simply verifying the ride is indeed for you! Okay a no brainer, right? Potentially, however repeatedly the method people use to verify this fact is completely unsafe. What we are meaning here is that typically someone will approach the vehicle open the door, and then ask are you here for “insert your name”? Wrong, wrong, wrong on several levels. Number one why would you approach a vehicle that you are not sure about? The closer you get to that vehicle the higher the level of danger. Let’s say though you do approach the vehicle and you do not perceive a threat. Asking the driver, “Who are you here for?” is a better and safer question than, “Are you here for Sally?” We do not want to ask yes or no questions, but rather specific questions that require them to give factual answers that you are the only one who can verify. This might save you time in your commute by avoiding getting into a vehicle that is not for you and takes you to a different location than you wanted to go. But more importantly it keeps you safe.

From past examples of this very incidence, an unexpected passenger gets into a vehicle and is taken to a secluded, predetermined location and is attacked in one unimaginable way or another. We do not say this as a scare tactic, it is reality. The best approach to this situation is to stand back from the vehicle, ask through a passenger side window, and ask a factual question to confirm the rides is indeed for you. Ideally, send a text ahead of time or within your profile to simply ask the driver to identify themselves upon arrival. It is your own personal preference whether you include information with this request, such as that you are visually impaired. Giving that information is viewed differently by each individual and certainly has potential safety concerns.

            Okay, so you have verified the ride is for you. Surely it’s time to get in now and get going, right? Well, first, don’t call me Shirley, and unbelievably there are a few more things you should take into consideration before making that move. First, is there anyone else in the car? In some cases, depending on the type of service you are using, there could be another passenger inside. Again, with your safety in mind, knowing this information can help you to take some additional steps to increase your safety. How so? Well, think about this: if you are a single female or simply do not feel comfortable getting into an already occupied cab late at night, you can decline the ride and opt to call another cab. This information might also tell you where to sit in the vehicle. For instance, if the driver is one of your regular drivers that you have built a trusting relationship with, or if it is a friend that came to pick you up and there is a third person in the back seat of the vehicle, then you might feel more comfortable riding in the front with the driver. However, you should avoid this arrangement if possible if you are the only passenger in the vehicle.

            Did you realize your decision on where to sit in the ride can drastically increase your level of safety? Using the example from above if you are the only passenger in the vehicle sitting in the back seat provides some extra protection and adds to comfort. In addition, sitting in the back right passenger seat will increase your safety as well. As we said earlier in this module, time equals distance, and distance equals safety! So, if the driver means harm to you, they must first exit the vehicle and come all the way around the vehicle before getting to you. Or they must enter the opposite side of the back seat and crawl over. Either scenario adds valuable seconds before the aggressor can close the distance, leaving you time to exit and potentially run or at least exit the vehicle to put yourself in a better position to defend yourself. The simple act of standing up for yourself could be enough to deter the would-be attacker.

            Getting back to the situational awareness, one huge thing that we all do when we are riding is to pick up our phones and check out of reality, into our own world full of social media, email, YouTube, or even a simple phone call. This is problematic when you get so involved you are oblivious to what is happening around you. More specifically, are you paying attention to where you are going? Now you might say to yourself, Well I am blind so how am I going to know where I am going anyway? Well, we would counter that by saying that there are clues that you can physically feel within the route that might give you some hint that you are not on the right path to your destination. Especially if this is a normal trip you often take. For example, if you know you are supposed to be going to downtown and you hear no cars around you, then that is a potential indication that something is not right.

Nowadays, most people use some type of GPS device that might be giving audible directions. You also have the option of pulling out that smartphone of yours and asking, “Where am I?” Your phone can tell you where you are to ease your fears or put you on guard if you need to make that emergency call. Sure, in any of these scenarios there is no guarantee, and you could simply be going to the destination for the very first time and have no idea how to get there. The point is, you have zero chances of being remotely safe if you are not paying attention and are not aware of your surroundings. At least in comparison of if you are indeed paying attention. Another great tip is to use the resources provided to you using good old technology!

Technology & Personal Safety

To say the least, technology has come a long way, especially when it comes to safety. In this section, we want to give you a few technology tips that can help keep you safer and provide family and friends with information if something does happen to you. Keep in mind no tip or technique that a self-defense or safety professional teaches you is guaranteed to 100% protect you from harm. These tips are simply intended to raise the odds more favorably for your safety.

           In the above section we gave you some tips for transportation and we want to expand on the topic using technology. Did you know that when you use Lyft or Uber, you have some safety tools built into their apps? One great tool you can use is to share your ride with a family member or friend. The next time you are in a ride-share service, scroll down the app to the safety tools section and choose Share Ride. You will then fine a prompt to select a contact to share the ride with. You can even setup to automatically share your ride with these individuals and choose the timeframe like only at night. The person will get a link through text or email will allow them to monitor the progress of your ride, view it on a map in real time, and receive a notification when you arrive at your destination, complete with location. Pretty cool!

            Another safety feature inside the Lyft or Uber apps is an “Emergency” button which you can find in the safety tool section on both platforms. This will immediately contact the local 911 call center and alert them as to your location and personal information, so even if you need to contact them for help silently you can. Also, remember both companies want to hear from you regarding service. Contact them through their app via email or through the safety hotlines for each.

            Both Lyft and Uber have safety tips like we have outline with more information on their respective websites. We highly recommend you taking a moment to review this information.

            Lastly, you have the ability at the end of every ride to report your driver right in the app by leaving a rating and comments on your ride. Use this feature because they cannot fix the problem unless they know about it! We here at STRIVE4YOU are all too aware of the feeling that reporting does not do any good because no one listens. We know this feeling because most of us in the SEED program and on the STRIVE team use these same services and have had our own problems. However again, if we do not say anything, we can never expect the situation to ever get better!

            By now many of us that have a smartphone have heard about the Find my Phone feature. This can be helpful for those of us that can’t find the dang thing, but it also can potentially help with your safety when you are out and about. Similarly, Find My Friend is also a great option. Both options allow your friends to view on a map the last known location of your phone. Yes, we get it — this can be viewed as an invasion of privacy, and we can’t change that. However, using these tools could help in your safety or in the unfortunate event that you go missing by potentially helping authorities in their investigation and your location. A dark thought we know!

            Another safety feature that your smartphones and watches have is the Panic or Emergency SOS feature. These features are extremely useful in scenarios when you need to relay your location or a distress signal silently. By marking your family member or close friend as an emergency contact, you can send out a single SOS signal, your very own Batman signal, to multiple contacts at the same time. Likewise, there are features where you can hold down a series of buttons to activate this same feature which will call emergency personnel and notify your emergency contacts as well. There are lots of documentation on the web including both the Apple and Android websites. We also recommend our friends over at the Firsthand Safety Podcast which have several podcasts on this topic and many others!

            Continuing the wonderful world of apps. Typically, we use these applications for entertainment purposes, but there are apps that have been designed specifically for safety and security. Let’s cover some of the general ones.

  • News channel station apps. Yes, a local news channel app can be helpful. Think if you lived in a big city and walked around town independently. You might want to know if there was a shooting going on ahead of you. You could also download a news channel’s app in the town you are going to visit to get the same alerts. You can always delete the app later. These apps also offer services of different weather alerts you might need to be aware of in your area. For you country mice out there, weather may be a big concern.
  • Neighborhood watch apps. As these types of apps become increasingly popular, they will be everywhere. For now, they are in most major cities and growing all the time. In these apps, you can communicate more with your neighbors to know what is going on without having to hold a conversation with them.
  • Facebook.  Yes, we said it, and here is why. It is as common for some to have a Facebook account as email. Different communities have started Facebook groups so they can communicate with their neighbors. This can be beneficial if you are in a new area, so you have an idea of what is going on and who in your area does what.
  • Alerting friends. There are apps out there that you can set up to have the app connect you to your friends if you need them. Much like the built-in features we mentioned above, there are a few different applications out there that are the same concept just different approaches on how it works. If you find one you think we need to add to our references, we welcome the information.

            If you are a millennial baby or older, you will remember the commercial of the older person who had fallen and could not get up. Lucky, they had their button to signal for help. Either way, if you remember it or not, we have come a long way from just a button. There are several types of personal alarm devices that you can purchase that omits some horrendous noises at decimals that will not only bring attention to your situation but may deter a potential aggressor from ever getting close to you. More than likely they will run just to get away from the sound that makes their head feel like it is going to split open. Remember, any aggressor is looking for the opportunity to get in and out of their crime with the least amount of attention to what they are doing. Purchasing one of these necklace or keychain alarms certainly can be lifesaving.

            Likewise, similar devices can be purchased for someone’s white cane, again going back to the scenario of someone intentionally knocking your cane out of your grasp or if you are in an altercation, you’re going to have to at some point drop your cane to defend yourself. In this situation you, in your chaotic mindset, might lose not only your orientation but your mobility device. Having a cane finder clipped to your mobility device will be heaven-sent to help you locate it as you try to flee to safety.