Stay alert

The world is going through an unprecedented experience. One that the last few generations have never experienced, and hopefully future generations will never have to endure. Around the nation, events have been canceled, schools and businesses are closed, stores are struggling to keep basic necessities on their shelves, and families are being advised to “self-isolate.” That’s crisis-speak for “Please stay indoors away from other people.”

The uncertain nature of this crisis has caused people to become hyper-focused. They are moving into self-preservation mode. People are so focused on getting what they need that they are moving at a fast pace. They are throwing caution to the wind. Everyone is speed walking or driving too fast just to get to their intended destination and back home as quickly as possible.

When you move at this pace, you develop tunnel vision. You do not see what or who is around you. People who are in this mode lose a basic fundamental of safety and security: situational awareness. The individual is not aware of what is occurring around them. The individual becomes unaware of their surroundings, whether it is a car backing up in a parking lot or whether they are about to become the victim of a robbery.

A prime example of this happened to my wife a few days ago. She drove to the local grocery store and pulled into a parking spot. On her right side was a cart corral and on her left side was another empty parking spot. As most of us usually do, she checked her left side mirror as she stopped the car and turned the engine off. It was all clear. As she opened the car door, another vehicle whipped into the empty spot and struck our car door. The impact shoved our vehicle into the cart corral on the right side and knocked my wife off her seat in the car!

When the other driver was asked why he was driving so fast, he stated he was in a hurry to get back into the grocery store because he had left his cell phone in there. This is a prime example of not slowing down and getting tunnel vision. Just a second or two later and he would have killed my wife.

This is the time for everyone to slow down, take a deep breath, and become aware of their surroundings. As times get tougher and as the stress of this pandemic starts weighing on all of us, people will only become more desperate. Jobs are being lost which adds even more stress. Some people might do things that they would not even consider doing under normal circumstances.

At WJ Cousins and Associates, one of our specialties is personal security and safety training. Along with the advice to slow down and look around, here are some additional pointers.

  • Going to the ATM? Don’t go alone. Take someone with you. As you are withdrawing the money, have someone stand by you and make observations, such as is anyone watching you? Does another individual all of a sudden approach the ATM machine behind you? Are they watching your withdrawal? Having an observer with a mobile phone handy provides another layer of security and acts as a deterrent.
  • Going to the store? Only carry the necessary amount of cash needed to complete your transaction. Criminals will use this time of uncertainty to their advantage. They know you are in a rush, not focusing on your surroundings, so you become a perfect target for a pickpocket or robbery.
  • Stop and look through the window before you walk into a fast-food store or gas station. Are people moving around naturally? Is the business being conducted as usual? If not, do not go in. Back off and call the police.
  • At night, only park or walk-in areas with adequate lighting. Never park way out in the parking lot by yourself in the dark.
  • When walking, keep your head up and look around. At all times, be aware of your surroundings!

These are just a few pointers to help you get through this difficult time. We can all get through this safely by just slowing down and practicing situational awareness.

WJ Cousins and Associates conducts travel and personal safety seminars for corporations, organizations and individuals.

If you have any questions or would like further information, please do not hesitate to contact me at bill@wjcassociates.com.

Stay safe, healthy and aware of your personal surroundings.