There is nothing more important than your personal security and the safety of your loved ones. I and my fellow NJPDA instructors have said this so many times even in the short amount of time we’ve been live, you’re probably sick of hearing it. But, it needs to be said over and over and over again.

In this article, I offer five very simple yet effective things you can do to live a safer life. They don’t require much effort, only a few common sense changes of mindset and awareness.

1. Get Off the Cell Phone!

don't walk and text!Yes, that means you. If you are walking down the street spending more time checking out who’s tweeting about their lunch and not paying attention to your surroundings, you have compromised your personal security. There is nothing so important going on with your cell phone that can’t wait until you get to your house or your car.

This also includes having your headphones in with the music playing so loud that you can’t hear what’s going on around you. Car horns, footsteps, people talking… removing any one of your natural sensory alarms (hearing, sight, etc.) is a no-no, so knock it off!

2. Don’t Get Stuck in Handbag Hell

The picture on the right not only applies to our first tip, but our second one as well. And before you get all bent out of shape, we’re not just talking about women. Men are guilty of this security violation just as much as women. Handbag, backpack, briefcase, workout bag, lunch bag, shopping bag. If you are carrying so much stuff that you can’t freely use at least one of your arms, you are carrying too much stuff.

If you want to know what an attacker’s ideal victim looks like, find someone walking down the street with both arms full of stuff and staring at their cell phone.

3. Put Your Head on a Swivel

Every morning on the way to work I have to walk through a park. As I approach the park, I start to scan what’s going on — how many people are in the park, are they on their way to work or did they sleep there, are they looking at you or someone else too intently; you get the idea. The point is, I’m paying attention to what is going on before I get into the park, not once I’m already there.

As I start to walk through the park, I evaluate once or twice more just to get a feel for where everyone is. If it sounds paranoid, you aren’t thinking about it the right way. It’s not paranoia, it’s awareness.

Dark parking lots or garages, side streets, blind spots, or any other potential hiding spot for those who may do you harm; put your head on a swivel and pay attention.

4. Carry a Backup Plan

Unfortunately, in the state of New Jersey it is all but illegal to carry a concealed firearm. We live in a state where money and jewelry is inherently worth more than the lives of our loved ones, as the only people allowed to carry concealed are bank or armored car security, jewelers, and politicians or the very wealthy. Knife laws are pretty crazy here in NJ, too. (For insight into the laws of what we can and can’t do, check out attorney Evan Nappen’s work, especially his books on NJ gun laws and NJ gun and knife laws.

Guns and knives aside, there are other alternatives. Pepper spray, for example. (Just make sure you do not carry more than 0.75 ounce; anything more than that is illegal in the state. Yes, that’s 3/4 of a single ounce. You don’t like it? Write your politicians.) Here are some other things you should consider carrying (we’ll do more on this in a future article):

  • Small flashlight
  • Whistle
  • Keys (keep them in your hand)
  • a pen
  • a knife (watch the laws!)

If you live in a free state — in other words, not New Jersey — you have more options. Just be aware of the laws of your state and protect yourself in accordance with local statutes and state law.

5. Listen to Your Sixth Sense

The Gift of FearGavin De Becker wrote a wonderfully enlightening book called The Gift of Fear. In the book, De Becker reminds us to embrace our inner warning signal. The hair sticking up on the back of your neck, or the strange feeling you get when you feel like someone is staring at you, only to find out when you turn around that you were on the receiving end of a person’s stink eye.

Fear, in many forms, can be a very powerful tool for personal security. It’s when we ignore our natural instincts for recognizing fear that we get into trouble. When we allow normalcy bias to take over and we start to disregard the natural danger signals because “it can’t happen to us,” we become vulnerable. As strange as it may sound, we must train ourselves to identify and react to our natural ability for detecting danger.

And Above All…

Make it important. If you treat your personal security as an afterthought or a burden, you significantly increase your chance of getting hurt. These are common-sense measures; there is no need to go completely over the cliff and think that every strange person walking down the street is out to get you. But the other end of the spectrum — assuming everyone in the world is a happy-go-lucky person spreading cheer and handing out flowers — is probably not a good idea, either.

However you decide to walk through life, please do it safely.

Keep Going!