Personal Safety: Staying Alert, Staying Alive

(This article first appeared in the May edition of the Baptist Courier)

In addition to being a professor and preacher, I have the privilege of teaching self- defense skills to people in my community on a weekly basis through my self-defense company Peaceful Warrior, LLC..  Although most people we encounter in life are law-abiding and peace-loving people, there are folks we might encounter who intend us harm.  We might run into them in our home towns or as we travel abroad.  How can we protect ourselves against potential harm from ill-intentioned people?  What steps can we take to insure our safety and the safety of our loved ones?

The following steps are just a few personal safety tips that will help you protect yourself and your loved ones at home and abroad:

  1. Always remain situationally aware. Be aware of your surroundings.  Know what’s going on around you.  Keep your head up and your eyes scanning your environment.  Don’t focus on your cell phone.  Walk casually, but aware.  Try to keep a 360-degree field of vision by scanning around you as you walk.  By staying situationally aware in this way, you will identify potential threats before they evolve and give the impression of being a hard target to people who intend you harm.
  2. Secure your home. Keep your doors locked while you are at home.  Make sure that the outside area of your house is well lit.  Cut the shrubbery around your house and windows low and away from the house so that potential burglars cannot hide behind them.  Purchase a home security system.
  3. Stay alert when you are driving. Keep your vehicle’s doors locked.  When driving on the interstate, know that state’s highway patrol cell number. If you feel another driver is threatening your safety or are fearful, call the number and keep the dispatcher on the phone until the problem is resolved.  When parking, park in a well-lit area.  When you are walking to your parked car, be aware of the area around your car.
  4. Carry pepper spray or other self-defense items on your person. If you purchase pepper spray, be sure that you know how to use it.  There are practice bottles of pepper spray with which you can familiarize yourself.  Know the expiration date for your pepper spray, the chemical agent does dissipate.  You can also purchase a siren that produces a high-pitched alarm at loud decibels when triggered.  In addition, a number of self-defense companies offer portable stun guns that can stun an assailant and provide an opportunity for escape.
  5. Take a self-defense class or classes. The more you train in self-defense, the more prepared you will be if someone attempts to attack you.  Find a certified self-defense or martial arts instructor.  Self-defense classes grant skills that people hope they will never need to use but might save their lives in a life-or-death encounter with an assailant.
  6. Steps to take if you encounter a suspicious person on the street. If possible, cross the street and walk on the other side. It’s always preferable to avoid a potentially harmful situation.  If you cannot avoid the person, make eye contact with them.  Observe what they are wearing and their physical description.  You can even greet them as you make eye contact.  These steps will usually rattle and deter people who might mean you harm.
  7. Steps to take if you are attacked. Yell loudly to bring attention to yourself.  Keep fighting your assailant.  Try to strike your assailant in five target areas: ears, nose, eyes, throat, and groin.  Such strikes allow you to break free and run away from your assailant.  Once free, call the police and report the attack.
  8. Consider obtaining a concealed weapons permit. Some states allow their residents to obtain concealed weapons permits to carry firearms.  If you live in one of these states, you might consider obtaining such a permit and carrying a concealed firearm for personal protection. 

While the steps I’ve mentioned do not include every possible way you can promote your safety and the safety of your loved ones, they do offer some measures that you can take for self-protection.  They all begin with situational awareness and seeking to avoid a potentially threatening situation or confrontation.

Tim is the Associate Professor for Youth Ministry & Missions at Anderson University and is the Executive Director of Youth Ministry Round Table. He is the author of No Better Gospel and the coauthor of the upcoming Raising the Bar 2nd edition.