So how do you use the signs of danger and how to combat them if you are a lone worker? Well, a lot of the signs are very similar, they will still shows signs of flight or fight but they may be harder to spot when you are busy with other things and in an open environment. For this instance I will use the example of a health visitor arriving for an appointment although the same would apply to anyone in a public space.
The first thing you have to do is to research the area you are going to, how far do you have to park to get to the property you are visiting? Is it a known area for attacks, drugs or theft? How far away from a main road is it? Are there any bus stops or other public transport links nearby? The more informed you are of the area the easier it will be to formulate a defence plan and remember in these situations the easier it is to get away from danger the better.
Before you even get out of the car make sure you take a good look around at your surroundings, are there a lot of people about, is there a group of people who seem to be looking in your direction, are they there with purpose or are they just ‘hanging around?’ Is there a clear path from your car to the property? Can you identify the front door and see it? If you are meeting someone there and have their contact details it might be worth calling them to advise them where you are and how long you will be with them, if you do notice something unusual mention it to them for example ‘Hi I’ve just parked in the car park so I will be with you in a couple of minutes, can I just check your house number? There is a group of teenagers on the corner are you near there?’ This may prompt your visitor to advise you of the best thing to do i.e ‘Oh they are a nightmare, I’ll leave the door open for you so just come straight in.’
Once you have established the situation has the potential to be dangerous then make sure you make the journey from your car to the property as quickly as possible. You may have equipment you need in the back of the car, be vigilant (don’t look down) but don’t make eye contact with anyone. You will know their intention just as you would in the workplace, they will be walking in a straight line, they will be looking around for witnesses and your escape route in order to block you. They will be looking to enter into dialogue with you, they might ask you the time or for some change or even ask you where you are going, who you are etc. anything to distract you from what you are doing. This is where you need to be deceptive although your instinct may be to ignore them, this could anger them so answer politely but without giving them any opportunity to have completed their distraction. If they ask you for something say you don’t have it, inform them you are running late and you are expected somewhere. NEVER admit you don’t know the area, walk with purpose and keep walking, a moving target is always harder for them to attack. Make sure you are in a position to get to either – your destination, a main road or back into your car and make sure your hands are always above your belly button in order to defend yourself and NEVER put your hands in your pockets or your bag.
When you get to the property you are visiting make sure you tell the person you are meeting what has happened and call back to your office to tell them too. Depending on how you feel about the incident, and the seriousness of it you may feel it is appropriate to call the police. If you feel unsafe it may be necessary for a colleague to come out to meet you to make sure you get back to your car safely unless there is someone at the property who could help you with that.
Remember the 4 D’s –
If you are a lone worker your employers should have a process for you if you are in a dangerous situation. Make sure you are aware of it and know the safe words that you need to make your colleagues aware of the situation.