Lenor Simpson has spent nearly 30 years training others in security and public safety.
She understands that most of us feel the world is increasingly unsafe.
“Most of us by a certain age are a victim of something, that’s just the reality,” Simpson says. “But what can we do to not further that? What can we do to make ourselves and our loved ones safer?”
She shares several tips for keeping our home and life safer.
When you’re out and about
Simpson advises us to be observant and aware of our surroundings, especially when entering or leaving a business.
“Train yourself to look through the glass doors,” she says. “A lot of the establishments have the glass doors. So, if you just pause before you go into, for example, a supermarket, a restaurant or a bank, look through the door to see what’s going on inside. I might keep myself out of a mess of trouble.”
If you looked through a store window before entering and saw people with their hands up, running or laying down on the floor, it gives you an opportunity to back out, she says.
Under those circumstances, Simpson advises getting back in your car, driving to a safe location and calling 9-1-1.
“Don’t sit in your car and make the phone call,” she says. “There are usually lookouts.”
When you call 9-1-1, expect to hear a recording. Central Lane Communications filters incoming cell phone calls by asking the caller to press any additional phone key or to speak directly into the phone.
This is because more than 30 percent of cell phone calls are accidental “pocket dials.”
Before you call 9-1-1, determine whether it’s an emergency. If it’s a crime in progress, that’s an emergency. But if the crime has already occurred and the perpetrator isn’t in sight, then use the non-emergency numbers.
When paying for goods and services with cash, be discreet, Simpson says, by keeping your extra amounts of cash, Simpson says to be discreet by keeping your extra amounts of cash out of sight.And avoid audibly offering your phone number within earshot of others.
Carry your automatic garage door opener, rather than leaving it in your car. Should a thief break into your car and find a garage door opener, all they need to do is find your vehicle registration, locate your address and use the automatic opener to gain access into the garage.
It is also a good idea to always keep your valuables in the car out of sight, Simpson says.
“When you’re leaving a store, have your keys out before exiting,” she says. “If you feel someone watching or following you, ask a store employee for someone to walk you out. Two together is a lot safer. It just wards off a problem.”
When driving home, if you feel like someone could be following you, then keep on driving, Simpson says. Take a few extra turns, and don’t lead them to your home.
“A lot of attacks are made on men and women, especially seniors, that people think might be living alone, that they see at the supermarket and they follow them home,” she says.
When you arrive home, look around and be observant. If you see someone you don’t recognize, let the groceries wait. Keep your doors closed and locked while you wait.
If you live with someone, create and understand signals, such as driving up and sounding the vehicle horn if you need help.
“A lot of the attacks can happen just coming from your car into your home with your groceries, because usually people carry in one bag at a time and they’re not going to turn around and lock the door behind them each time,” Simpson says. “So that little extra prevention is worth it.”
If you’re coming home and you have a garage door that opens and closes automatically, drive in, turn off the car and wait for the garage door to close. Before exiting your vehicle, be sure no one has followed you into the garage.
Keep your front and back door locked, Simpson says. Most break-ins can occur even when you’re home.
“These are cheap insurances,” Simpson says. “Most thieves will try the door and if it is locked they’ll go to the next house. If they hear a dog barking, they’ll go to the next house.”
A lot of people believe they live in neighborhoods where they don’t need to lock their doors, but Simpson warns that “bad guys don’t go to the worst neighborhoods, they go to nicer, more naïve neighborhoods.”
Are you really willing to gamble an unlocked door versus not having to deal with a situation one-on-one or even a physical altercation, she asks. “It’s better to simply lock your door as a simple deterrent.”
Many intruders attempt to come into your home through the front door, even when you are home, so always use caution. But keep trees and shrubs trimmed to eliminate places intruders can hide.
“A lot of attacks can also happen after a loved one leaves the house,” Simpson says. “Within 15 minutes you hear a knock at the door, you think they forgot something, so you just open it and it isn’t them. Make sure to ask, ‘Who’s there?’ and know the voice answering.”
If you don’t have a peep hole to look through or don’t recognize the voice on the other side of the door, do not feel obligated to open it.
“One thing people feel habited to do is to respond to someone knocking on the door or ringing the doorbell,” Simpson says. “You can answer them through the door. There’s no rule that says you have to open the door. So, know who’s on the other side of the door.”
Simply speak through the unopened door, and say “no thank you” or “please leave.”
If you see a stranger in your backyard, that person has already disrespected your boundary. You can tell them through the window to get out of your yard while you call 9-1-1, which is much safer than opening the door.
Simpson’s motto: “There is nothing outside worth your life.”
When calling 9-1-1, be ready to tell the dispatcher that someone you don’t know is in your backyard and give them your location. “And never hang up on a dispatcher until they tell you to end the call,” she says.
When it comes to home security systems, there are many options. Many are fairly easy to install and can be operated through your smart phone or computer, so you can monitor your home while you’re away.
“You can also have information sent to another family member’s phone, so they can help keep track of a loved one,” Simpson says.
There are many protection devices and choices beyond lethal weapons.
“Consider a dog,” Simpson says. “Even a small one can warn you when something isn’t right; actually, cats can too.”
Other non-lethal devices include air horns, tasers and pepper spray.
“Train yourself and know, if you have chosen to carry some sort of defense tool, that you know how to use it properly,” she says. “There are plenty of instructors around who are willing to help people learn.”
Carrying pepper spray can give a false sense of security, especially if you’re not trained in how to use it.
In fact, pepper spray may even work against you, so it’s best to enlist the help of a certified instructor before carrying pepper spray. Consider looking online for classes that can be viewed from home.
Simpson holds a strong conviction that anyone in possession of a fire arm needs up-to-date instruction.
“My response about fire arms is that no one should have one without having training,” she says. “There are people who have grown up with them all their lives and they think they are safe, and they aren’t safe. They have habits that were passed on to them. I’ve even had retired professionals (like police officers) taking a class who say they got something out of it that they didn’t know before. If you’re going to carry something that could be a lethal tool to defend yourself, then absolutely, take a course on that and know exactly what you’re doing.”
Laws for carrying a concealed weapon can change by state, county and even city. Therefore, Simpson insists that if you possess a firearm, take the responsibility to know the laws surrounding them.
Keeping you and your family safe requires an investment that comes in giving time toward education and prevention.
There can also be a financial investment in education, devices and systems. Yet Simpson views the cost as minimal, especially when asking about the value you put on your life and others.
“The idea is to not live paranoid, but to live safely,” she says. “You can take those precautions, the minimal ones that you can, and then you’re going to lessen your odds of being a victim.”