Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Managing your vulnerabilities

We’ve all heard the safety and security tips before: lock your doors, don’t go to the ATM late at night, remove bushes and shrubs from around your windows, walk with confidence, etc., etc. etc.

For some people, the sheer amount of information about all the aspects of personal safety and security is too overwhelming. Terrorism, 9-11, Katrina, crime, murder, rape… It’s too much. They simply tend to ignore the realities of living in a cruel world and develop the common “it’s not going to happen to me” mentality.

For some other people, the solution to this overwhelming amount of threats is to get “something” to protect them. In the U.S., this something is in the form of a firearm, pepper spray, ninja key ring, electronic alarm or other piece of equipment or tool.

Neither of these solutions is adequate.

At Defend University, we sometimes joke about the difference between being prepared and being paranoid. If you are constantly thinking about what you would do if you were attacked, that’s being prepared. If you are constantly thinking about what you would do if you were attacked by vampires, that’s being paranoid.

Let’s face it. There are multiple ways that we and our families can be hurt. Perhaps it might make it easier to take on this lifelong task by introducing a concept – vulnerability management.

We cannot possibly be “safe” all the time. There are times when we are more vulnerable than others. Quite often we are more vulnerable than we think – you are way more likely to be hurt in your car and around your home than by criminals or terrorists.

So, we need to think in terms of managing those vulnerabilities that can and could touch us as we and our loved ones move through life.

Think about where you are most vulnerable at home, on the road, at work and out in the community. Fires, accidental falls, domestic disputes, car crashes, workplace violence, robberies and muggings. Those are the types of life-threatening incidents you are most likely to face. Despite the hype in the media, you are not likely to face a terrorist act, skyjacking, crazed gunman in the mall or an asteroid strike.

But, when planning for your response, you should address the wild card – the odd chance that you could find yourself threatened or embroiled in a situation that is none of your doing. This can be the fleeing felon who randomly comes up to your car and pulls open the door. It might be the crazed gunman in the mall or the robbery that occurs while you are in the convenience store.

Fortunately, you can address a myriad of these vulnerabilities with a standard set of tools:

• Knowledge;
• Awareness;
• Adherence to procedures.

Know what are the vulnerabilities your family and you face in your particular set of circumstances -- families with young children will face some different challenges that single women or an empty nest couple. Having a self-locking pool fence is incredibly important to the family with young kids, but not important at all to the other groups. Professionals call this a vulnerability assessment. The other aspect of the “knowledge” portion are the skills you need. Know CPR, know how to physically protect yourself -- while unarmed and/or armed. Know how to avoid a skid in your car.

Be aware of who is around you. Look for the situation that is “odd” or out of place. Cultivate the ability to live in the present so you can constantly monitor the ebb and flow of normal activity in your surroundings. Use your awareness to gauge when you are getting into a situation that could be a problem. Like Mark Twain said, “It’s always easier to stay out of trouble than to get out of trouble.” Take a look at where the emergency exit is when you are in a different place. Check out the nearest fire extinguisher.

Procedures? Okay, maybe I should have said positive habits. Always lock your doors – including your car doors! Always close and lock your windows. Always make sure the smoke alarm batteries are fresh. Don’t get too drunk in public. Wear your seat belt. Have your car properly maintained. You get the point. These simple procedures should be automatic. You don’t have to think about them, you just do them. Unfortunately, us as the good guys have to be vigilant all the time, the bad guys just have to be lucky once.

Don’t be overwhelmed. Start with the small stuff, the stuff that you can do right now. Then add what you can. Keep at it, but most importantly, do it. You probably won’t be able to get it all – you’ll never be able to live a risk-free life. But intelligent management of the most common and threatening vulnerabilities will serve you well in the future to provide realistic security for you and your family.


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