A few weeks ago, I was about to cross the road to the parking lot after getting off work when I noticed a strange man coming towards me. As he started approaching me faster, I froze in fear before I turned around and started walking away. “Oh you’re gonna walk away from me?” the man said. That was when I started to sprint. I could hear him running after me as he continued to yell, “Get back here! Stop running from me!” I came to the door of the building and it was locked. I pounded my fist on the door until one of my coworkers ran up, unlocked the door and pulled me into safety. This is when I knew I needed to be more informed about how to be safe in public, and I decided to talk to Full-Time Army National Guard and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jeremy Toppe.
According to Toppe, in dangerous situations there are three possible things that can happen. You either fight, flight or freeze; you never want to be in a situation where you freeze.
Toppe said, “A phrase the military uses for when someone freezes is called the X. You want to get off the X. Get off the X means that when you’re confronted with a threatening situation, you’re going to do one of three things. You’re going to fight, flight or freeze. The worst of those is to freeze. It’s when you’re stuck on the X and you don’t realize that all you need to do is get off the X. If you find yourself standing on the X, you need to identify that you are on the X and that you need to move.”
According to Toppe, noise and distance can be your best friend, but if moving is not an option, plan B is to fight back. He said that there are certain objects you can use to defend yourself like pepper spray.
“If you buy pepper spray, buy two. You try one out so that you know how far it’s going to shoot. Is it going to spray on your hands when you spray it? Key chain pepper spray is one use. So if you miss or it sprays in the wind, it’s done. You’ll need a plan B. My wife carries a different kind of spray. It’s called the Kimber Pepper Blaster 2,” said Toppe.
The Kimber Pepper Blaster 2 is nonlethal and looks like a small plastic handgun. It can shoot up to 20 feet away, against 20 mph winds, and comes out at 90 mph plastic pepper spray at your target. While regular pocket/keychain pepper spray has only one shot, the Pepper Blaster has two. It is electronically charged and can be clipped to a waistband.
Toppe said, “We could go on and on about things you could carry to keep you safe, but the best thing that you can have in your arsenal is your presence. If someone sees you, what vibe are you giving off? The number one thing to keep you from being a victim or being victimized is your presence and energy. Yeah, tools and gadgets can come in handy, but the most important is your confidence. Don’t look timid. Don’t look like you’re someone’s target.”
Another key step to stay safe is being aware of your surroundings. To do this, you must have all access to your senses. For example, the sense of hearing is being eliminated when someone has earbuds in. Vision is eliminated with someone is looking down at the ground. Be sure to walk with your head up. If someone suspicious is staring at you, stare right back. This shows strength. Another thing Toppe mentioned is to never make a tight turn around a corner. You don’t know what might be on the other side, so always make a wide sweep.
“Recognize your environment. Take a look around. Get your face out of the phone when you’re walking,” he said, “You observe through your senses. You need to be able see, hear, even smell what’s going on around you. If you take one of your senses away, especially such a critical one like hearing or sight, then you’ve taken part of your arsenal away. You’ve completely disarmed yourself if you can’t hear or see what’s going on.”
Toppe also said you can not always avoid certain places even if they may seem dangerous at the time. He said that you never know when you might need to run to Walmart and it could be dark out. You can not always think that you must avoid certain things, but to always be prepared instead.
“Telling you to avoid certain things is like telling you not to have fun. What I have learned by dealing with this is to not feel like you have to avoid anything, but bring with you your presence and situational awareness. Be aware of your environment. Places you should avoid are places that you already know are a bad idea. Places that might contain drugs or places that might have high crime rates. Things you may already know. By just simply being aware of your surroundings, you should be able to tell what a safe place is.”