Not all organizations have large security teams observing and protecting employees and their customers during their day-to-day operations. Small office environments who lack the resources for security staff are often left scrambling when something doesn’t feel right, or, conversely, overreact when presented with an unwanted situation.
However, employees and business owners working at organizations of all sizes can do more to be proactive about workplace safety.
Trust Your Intuition
It may sound simple, but office safety starts with shifting your mindset to practice “Situational Awareness.” Pay attention to your surroundings and be alert to anything that seems “off.” Even though others may help to respond, do what you can to keep yourself and those around you safe. Heighten your awareness in unfamiliar areas, but it’s even more important to do so in places you know well — like your home, office, or stores you visit frequently — so you don’t become complacent about possible threats.
Here are a few key ways to practice Situational Awareness:
- Trust yourself. If you feel that trouble is close, leave the situation as quickly as possible.
- Be alert and keep your head on a swivel.
- Make eye contact with people you pass on the street.
- Stay focused. Stay off of your phone when you are walking into and out of your workplace, school or home.
- Distance is your friend. Watch for potential threats in the distance — see the threat coming so you can avoid it and create or expand the distance from potential threats.
Strategies for Small Offices and Specific Locations
Routine personal security and situational awareness can only benefit a broader office environment, as the more people who are looking for things that do not fit, the more threats you may be alert for. Time and distance from a threat actor is always your friend.
Here are a three concepts to consider that are specific to locations where you reside or work:
1. Have a Plan – Understand what’s in the environment that can be used in an emergency situation, where you can hide, and places where you can exit quickly, flag for help, or escape from a window. Sometimes there are no good options to various criminal scenarios that unfold. For example, when a threat actor intends on taking hostages with duct tape, flex cuffs or handcuffs, the situation is dire. You will have seconds to decide a course of action; know that fighting back is an option. Most threat actors won’t expect a victim to attack.
Once your mind registers an attack you must respond immediately using one of the response strategies below:
- Safety should be your first priority — if possible, run and attempt to put as much distance as possible between you and the attacker.
- If you’re not able to escape, hide and take cover.
- If you are not able to run or hide, choose to fight as a last resort, using any weapons available.
2. Have Appropriate Tools and Supplies – Put together an Emergency Action Plan. Collect the tools you need such as locks on doors, panic alarms that quietly alert the police, a safe haven or area to retreat, first aid kits, and phone numbers posted where needed. Additional resources include “Stop The Bleed” kits and smoke hoods (in case of fire, smoke, or toxic fumes) in your safe haven area.
This includes natural disasters where adequate supply of water and food is necessary in the instance of gas cut offs, etc. Training must be conducted regularly, as repetition is key. Practice.
3. Work to Prepare Others – Share the Emergency Action Plan with others in the home or workspace, and make sure they’re prepared and have an appropriate mindset to prevent and respond to incidents. Having one person who keeps the plan close and doesn’t allow others to know details will only result in confusion and missed signals, should a threat arise. Again, practice.
Training for family and/or office employees is strongly advised, as resources and action plans are only valuable if people are properly informed on how to use them.
Let’s face it: crime and scary situations happen every day around the world. It never hurts to review some basic concepts of personal security that anyone can implement in their homes, offices and other areas they visit frequently. Being aware of various situations and response plans in your mind will give you confidence to protect yourself and those around you.