By Petra Paulson
Safety and Security 101: While At and Away From Home
Whether traveling overseas or in the comfort of your home, safety, and security is a priority. Travelers are exposed to certain safety risks, but those who remain in their home are not free from threats. In addition to the threat that tourists face overseas, natural disasters and fire are just two examples of devastating events that can strike while in the comfort of your home. It is imperative that everyone institutes thorough safety and security methods in order to be thoroughly protected from harm. Make certain when leaving the country to notify the state department and if traveling locally, leave your information with a family member or trusted friend. By creating a safety plan ahead of time, you can make certain that you have done everything within your power to remain protected.
Considered the most important aspect of security, residential security is the practice of making sure your home is protected from outside intruders. There are several areas where well meaning citizens put their safety in jeopardy. This is often seen by those who leave a key under a mat, a flowerpot, or by a lamppost. Intruders can easily find these spare keys and enter your home at will. Homeowners should regularly assess entrance points to their home and make certain they have professional quality locks.
Establishing a Safe Haven
There are several situations that may result in the need for a safe haven or a safe room. These are often referred to as panic rooms. By creating a safe haven, you have the assurance of knowing that should you need to find shelter without leaving your home, you can secure yourself within the safe room. A safe room may be used due to natural disasters or an intruder that has gained entrance into your home. It could be as elaborate as a specially designed addition to your home, or a reinforced closet or bathroom area. The key to establishing a safe haven is in preparing. Make certain that you have a designated room with communication installed, and include an emergency medical kit, at least five days worth of food, at least one gallon of water per person per day, a fire extinguisher, and items that you think would be beneficial.
Home Security While You Are Away
Homes may be their most vulnerable when the owner is traveling out of town. It is imperative that those who are traveling ensure they do not broadcast their information. If you have a family member or trusted friend, let them know of your plans and arrange for someone to check in on your home. Having someone pick up your mail will help prevent unscrupulous people from realizing you are away. You may install electric timers that will automatically turn lights within your home on and off. This excellent strategy can fool possible intruders into believing someone is home. Update insurance policies before traveling and take photos or videos of your most important items, should you need to file a claim in the future.
Personal Security While Traveling
It is not enough to protect your home while you are traveling, but you must make sure that you do not let others know you are a tourist. Familiarize yourself with the local customs of the place you are traveling and keep your passport and important documents out of site. Make certain not to isolate yourself, especially when traveling on trains, busses, or planes. Never doze off while using public transportation, always remain alert. Look for emergency exits and alarms when entering an area and situate yourself near them.
Personal Security in Hotels
Protect your personal details when staying in hotels. Never discuss publicly your personal itinerary or travel plans to prevent them from being overheard. Stay in hotel rooms that are either on the third floor or higher. Those worried about fire escapes will find that a room located no higher than the fifth floor will provide the fastest escape route. Guard your safety and do not become too friendly with strangers. Under no circumstance should you invite strangers back to your hotel room. Use a safety deposit box for valuables rather than leaving your items in the hotel room. Be wary of the kindness of strangers and locals. Many travelers have fallen prey to seemingly helpful locals who sought to take advantage of them.
Fire Safety at Home
Make certain that your home is well equipped to detect fires. Install smoke detectors as well as carbon monoxide detectors. In addition to detectors, ensure that your family has an exit strategy and designated escape route. Make certain to include a predetermined meeting space where everyone who has escaped the fire can meet up. Practice regular fire drills to ensure that your children know what to do in a fire. Keep fire extinguishers in your home and perform routine checks on electrical wiring and sources of gas such as propane heaters to make sure your home is not at risk of fire.
Security Do’s for Children
The world continues to pose more threats to children, and kids of all ages should be prepared for situations. Children should understand the dangers associated with strangers and know never to go with them or let strangers into their home. Children should know their basic information such as first and last name, address, and telephone number as well as how to call 911. Teach children that if they are home alone, never to answer the phone and let someone know this. If someone calls for an adult who is not there they should say, “I’m sorry, he or she can’t come to the phone right now. May I take a message?” Never should they say, “He or she isn’t here right now.” Children should have an emergency escape route or a safe room in which they can hide should trouble strike.
Letter and Parcel Bombs
Children and adults should remain vigilant when it comes to mail. Teach children never to open packages that come to the home. Adults should beware of suspicious packages and mail, especially those that do not have a return address or one that is misspelled. Watch out for packages that state you must open them with writing such as “personal” or “confidential.” Never open a package that has a strong or strange odor or stains on the package. Parcel bombs may appear misshapen, have an excessive amount of postage, or are very heavy. If you suspect you have received a letter or parcel bomb do not touch it, call authorities instead.
Motorists must take proactive steps to help prevent carjacking. Though there are many good Samaritans that would like to help someone stranded on the side of the road, this is a common ploy used by carjackers. If you see someone stranded on the side of the road and feel you must do something, call the authorities and let them know. Other possible carjacking frauds include faking accidents, approaching vehicles at stoplights, or approaching motorists when they have just entered or exited their vehicle. Always get in your vehicle quickly and immediately lock the doors. If you have an automatic car door opener, wait until you are at your car before using it. Do not walk towards your vehicle with your keys in hand. Never leave your vehicle parked with the windows down or unlocked.
Surveillance is the practice of criminals scoping out an individual or home in order to learn their routines so they can find an opportunity to perform a criminal act. It can be difficult to determine if you are under surveillance. Check rear view windows for signs of being followed or watched. Vary your routines each day in order to throw off anyone who may be surveilling you. Look for vans with large windows in the back that are posing as utility or professional companies. Surveillance vans are often disguised to appear as legitimate companies. Contact the authorities if you suspect you are under surveillance.
Sexual Assault Prevention
Many women who take self-defense classes gain the self-confidence needed to increase their chances of successfully preventing sexual abuse. Women should consider carrying items such as mace and a whistle in case of an emergency. Sometimes the loud blow of a whistle is enough to scare off a perpetrator and mace may give you the edge you need to get away from an assailant. Those whose vehicles break down often find they are in a vulnerable position. If a stranger approaches you and offers to give you a ride, stay in your vehicle with the windows up and the doors locked. Ask the stranger (through closed windows) to call for help for you. Women walking or jogging will find that it is best to do these activities with a friend rather than alone. Always trust your instincts. If someone or a situation makes you feel uncomfortable, leave immediately.