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Virtually all activities in life entail some level of risk, and we all have different attitudes toward risk. At one end of the scale is refusing to engage in an activity by exaggerating the level of risk involved. At the other end is engaging in very risky activities while refusing to take any precautions. Neither of these attitudes are useful for living an empowered life. What is useful is to accurately assess the risks, take those precautions that make sense, and live as fully as possible.

In Your Home, Apartment, or Residence Hall

  • Have lights at all entrances.
  • Have a wide-angle door viewer on all exterior doors.
  • Have good locks on all doors and windows —— and use them!
  • Do not use your full name on your mailbox, in the telephone directory, or on your answering machine.
  • Do not leave a schedule of your times away from home on your answering machine.
  • Know which of your neighbors you can trust and depend upon in an emergency.
  • Check who is at the door before opening it, and do not open the door to an unexpected visitor.
  • Don’t hide extra keys in easily accessible places. Criminals will find them.
  • Ask for photo identification of all repair persons. If you are suspicious, call to verify employment.
  • Never give personal information to telephone solicitors.
  • Consider creating a “safe room” with a separate telephone line or cellular phone, and strong locks. If someone breaks in, you can retreat there and call for help.
  • Do not let strangers into your home or apartment to use the telephone. Offer to make the call for them.
  • Use security bars for added security on sliding exterior doors.

On The Street

  • Never hitchhike! It’s not worth the risk!
  • Be very careful using outside ATMs at night or in unfamiliar surroundings.
  • When walking, walk in the middle of the sidewalk and walk facing oncoming traffic.
  • Try not to overload yourself with packages or other items. Keep your hands as free as possible.
  • Do not wear music headphones while walking or jogging.
  • Do not read while walking or standing on a sidewalk.
  • If you wear a purse with a shoulder strap, be prepared to let it go if snatched. Otherwise you could be knocked down and hurt.
  • A good suggestion for men is to carry a second wallet containing a few dollar bills and old expired credit cards, which are normally destroyed or discarded. If confronted at knife or gun point, give the suspect the second wallet and concentrate on a good physical description to help the police in making the arrest.
  • Avoid being on the street alone if you are upset or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • If you carry a purse, carry it close to your body, preferably in front. Carry no more money or credit cards than you absolutely need.

In A Car

  • Keep your car in good working order and the gas tank at least half full.
  • When you approach your parked vehicle, visually check the area around the vehicle for any suspicious persons or activity. If you observe anything suspicious walk to where there are other people and call the police.
  • Always park in visible, well-lighted areas.
  • If you drive a car, attempt to avoid parking next to a larger pickup truck or van. The can be easy to hide behind.
  • Have your keys ready when approaching your vehicle to reduce the time needed to enter.
  • When operating your vehicle, keep the doors locked and the windows rolled up.
  • Drive with all the doors locked.
  • Any valuables in your car should be placed in the trunk or otherwise kept out of sight.
  • Exercise extra caution when using underground and enclosed parking garages. Try not to go alone.
  • When stopped at traffic lights or in traffic, allow space between you and the vehicle in front of you so you can drive away if necessary.
  • If someone approaches your vehicle and attempts to enter, blow your horn to attract attention and drive away.
  • Many people consider a cellular telephone to be a good investment in safety.
  • Do not pick up hitchhikers!
  • Do not open your window if someone approaches your vehicle to ask for directions, the time, etc. Keep the door locked.
  • Never leave house keys attached to car keys at service stations or parking facilities.
  • Do not stop for a stranded motorist. Instead, go to the nearest telephone booth and call the police for assistance.
  • If you have a flat tire, drive on it until you reach a safe, well-lighted and well traveled area.
  • If your vehicle becomes disabled and help is not immediately available, raise the hood of the vehicle (if you can safely do so), attach a handkerchief to the door handle, and then stay in the vehicle with the doors locked and the windows up. Activate your hazard or parking lights. If someone stops to assist you, ask them through the closed window to call the police.
  • If you can afford to have one, take a cellular telephone with you when driving.
  • Criminals sometimes stage a motor vehicle accident known as a “bump and rob.” The motorist is robbed when they exit their vehicle. If you are involved in a minor accident under suspicious circumstances, stay in your vehicle with the doors locked and the windows up and await the police. If you believe you are in possible danger, write down the license plate of the other vehicle involved in the accident and drive to a safe location to report the accident to the police.
  • If you are being followed, don’t drive home. Go to the nearest police or fire station and honk your horn. Or drive to an open gas station or other business where you can safely call the police. Don’t leave your car unless you are certain you can get inside the building safely.
  • Carry in your car —— a flashlight, fix-a-flat, maps, comfortable warm clothing, a portable fire extinguisher, first aid kit, empty gas can, white cloth to tie to door handle or antenna to signal distress and a cellular phone.
  • If you are driving somewhere you are not familiar with, plan your route and check a map before you start out.

 In A Building

  • Avoid isolated corridors or hallways.
  • Be extra careful in stairwells and isolated or poorly-lighted restrooms.
  • Avoid entering an elevator which is occupied by only one other person who is a stranger.
  • In an elevator, stand near the controls and locate the emergency button.
  • If you are assaulted while in an elevator, hit the emergency or alarm button and press as many floor buttons as possible.

Providing Personal Information

In today’s information based environment, protecting personal information is as important to your overall safety as the aforementioned strategies. Often we give out our name, address and phone number without a second thought. In a perfect world, companies would protect your personal information. Unfortunately, this is not often the case.

Below are practical prevention tips on how you can protect your personal information yourself:

  • Always read the fine print on sales agreements. By signing you may also be giving the organization permission to add your name to a marketing list. Check the “no thanks” box, or write and initial a short note on the document saying you don’t want your personal information shared with anyone else.
  • Many retail stores ask for your name, address and telephone number when you make a purchase. If the store cannot give you a satisfactory reason for collecting the information, don’t give it out.
  • Information collected on product warranty cards is very often used for marketing purposes. You are not required to send in a filled warranty card – your receipt is all you need to make a warranty claim.
  • Charities and other fund-raising organizations often share donor lists with one another. If you make a donation and do not want your personal information to be given to any other charities, enclose a note with your payment.
  • If you don’t want your personal information out there, avoid filling out ballots for “free draws” or other promotions. These are surefire ways to get your name, address and telephone number on a junk mail or telemarketing list.
  • Many stores offer “rewards” or “points” programs. Often stores see your participation as consent to share your information without directly asking for your permission. If you want to avoid getting junk mail or other promotional material, either don’t join these programs, or ask the stores not to share your personal information.
  • Look through a copy of any magazines to which you subscribe. Most mention they may give your name and address to other companies for one reason or another. They also offer you the opportunity to opt out of this “service”. Do it!