Use Cooper’s Color CodesOur main goal should be to avoid dangerous situations before they happen. According to bodyguard and personal protection expert Nick Hughes’s book "How to Be Your Own Bodyguard," 75 percent of self-protection takes place before an attack. Hughes writes that the “soft-skills” of personal protection—avoidance and deterrence—are more important than the “hard-skills”—the use of force. “If you [put] into practice the soft skills, the chances of you ever needing the hard skills will be greatly diminished.”
In Condition White, you are unaware, unprepared, and oblivious; you aren’t thinking about the possibility of a threat at all. In Condition Yellow, you are relaxed but attentive and monitoring for any potential dangers. Condition Orange means that you’ve identified a specific potential threat and are ready to act; you’re on high alert and you’re considering your options should things go south. In Condition Red, you are in an actual dangerous situation and taking action; you’re focused on the emergency and trying to resolve it. If you slip into the final zone, Condition Black, you’re in a state of panic or shock, leading to a collapse of physical and mental performance.
Establish a Baseline and Look for Unusual BehaviorEvery public setting has an expected atmosphere. There are normal behaviors for people to engage in for that particular place and time. When you enter a new situation, ask yourself, What is normal behavior for this time and place? That is the “baseline,” and it helps you better identify anyone or anything that stands out as abnormal—an anomaly. In "Left of Bang," Patrick Van Horne, veteran and instructor of the Marine Combat Profiling system, writes, “An anomaly is any variation in the baseline—and what we are primarily searching for is anomalies. Anomalies are things that either do not happen and should, or that do happen and shouldn’t.” And they can often be clues to impending danger.
If you’re at a movie theater, for example, normal behavior would include people sitting in their seats, eating snacks, watching the screen, laughing or crying or whispering in response to the movie, checking their phones, etc. Someone standing at the side of the theater for a long period of time and looking at the people in the audience instead of the movie would be unusual behavior. That’s an anomaly, and it’s something to pay attention to.
Van Horne discusses how people often have a “gut feeling” that something isn’t right prior to some tragic or dangerous situation. This happens when we subconsciously notice anomalies. The more we can consciously notice anomalies, the greater our advantage. It’s important to trust that gut feeling.
Don’t Get Selected by CriminalsAnother way to keep yourself and your family safe is to avoid being selected by the bad guys as a target. Criminals tend to avoid people who exude confidence and readiness. If they can, they will choose someone who does not appear alert, ready, and prepared to fight.
Specific Points for Women and ChildrenSipes says that the number one method of preventing violent crime is to stay with someone else at all times because most violent crimes occur when you are alone. This is true of both sexes and all ages, but common sense tells us it’s especially important for women and children. If you have a large number of children, it can be hard to keep tabs on them all the time. To help with this, one firefighter and paramedic I spoke to suggested using the “buddy system.” Older kids can be assigned to stay with and watch over younger kids at all times. You can even make a game out of it.
In addition, Sipes recommends keeping a cell phone with you so you can call for help if needed—just remember not to get sucked into your phone to the point you lose awareness of your surroundings or appear like a distracted, easy target to the bad guys.
Everyone—but especially women with children—should keep their car doors locked and windows up at all times. Make sure you have plenty of gas, and leave lots of room at stoplights (Sipes says two car lengths between you and the car ahead of you).
When a woman is a victim of violence or assault, she usually knows the attacker. Women need to be particularly careful whom they let into the home and whose home they go into. In some cases, it might be necessary to leave your own home to reach safety. Always make sure someone knows where you are.
It’s possible to have age-appropriate conversations with children about safety. It’s key that children feel comfortable talking to you about whatever they might be experiencing. They should never be made to feel that they are responsible for attempted victimization. As in the case of women, if someone hurts or tries to hurt a child, the child usually knows them. Sipes writes, “The more you talk to your child, the less he or she will be victimized or use drugs or alcohol to harm themselves.”
It's not about being paranoid. It’s about being prepared so you can protect your loved ones.