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Self-Protection Training and the SAFE Method

In the aftermath of Hurrican Irma, now is the time to be especially dilligent in your awareness and self-protection skills. An elderly lady was assaulted and robbed last week after a couple posing as good samaritans offered to "help" her unload her hurricane supplies. Natural disasters bring out the best and worst of society. There are many great Americans out there volunteering their time and effort to help. There are also a few real scumbags out there taking advantage of people affected by the storm. Be careful and be safe.

What is self-protection? To me, it is anything you can do to make yourself safer. We hear a lot about self-defense training but not so much about self-protection training. Self-protection includes self-defense but is much broader. Self-protection includes steps to be aware of dangerous situations and to avoid them if possible. I use the word SAFE to describe this holistic approach.

S for Situational Awareness

A for Avoid Trouble

F for Fight if you have no other good options to


Today we will touch on situational awareness. In its most basic form, situational awareness means to pay attention to you surroundings in context to your situation. For instance, if you are driving down a busy highway you should be paying attention to vehicles around you, what is up ahead in the road, exit and entrance ramps, and other things that can have a direct impact on your situation, which is driving. If you are walking down a sidewalk in an urban area, your situation is different. You should be paying attention to the people around you, vehicles driving on the street next to the sidewalk, alleys, and entrances to businesses. In both of these situations, you should be aware of escape or evasion routes in case a dangerous situation develops. A car several cars in front of you stops suddenly. A heated argument spills out of a doorway onto the sidewalk next to you. An ambulance is approaching from behind you with lights and siren on. If you are aware of your surroundings, you should be able to take action quickly to move out of the way and avoid getting into a bad situation.

None of the above examples had anything to do with someone intentionally trying to hurt you. However, the same principle applies to situations where that may be the case. Being aware of what is going on around you and having an escape route works either way. That is why we call it self-protection. It doesn't matter what the threat to your well being is, (assault, fire, accident, earthquake, etc.) you are able to protect yourself from it by first being aware of it.

There are many techniques that can help you be better aware of your surroundings and potential danger areas. When you sit in a restaurant, are you able to see the entrances? How many entrances and exits are there? If an active shooter came in through the front entrance or a car came crashing into the front entrance, do you know where another exit is located? A helpful technique I use is once I am seated at a restaurant, I go to the restroom to wash my hands. On the way there I look for any other exits and if they appear to be functional. Many times there is an exit near the rest rooms.

Situational awareness comes with practice. So, this week when you are out and about in your normal routine of life, try a few of these techniques.

When walking constantly identify safe places you could move to if there was a dangerous situation near you.

When driving, mentally catalog the cars around you: what color, description of the driver, is the driver paying attention, etc.

When in a restaurant or bar, can you see the primary entrance? Where are the other exits? Where could you go quickly if there was a fire, violent attack or other disturbance in the establishment?

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