Staying Alert is the Cornerstone of Personal Safety

By Tim Miller, Founder and President of LionHeart International Services Group

Stay Alert, Stay Alive! As a young Marine officer, this mantra was drilled into my mind by experienced Gunnery Sergeants from day one. While most of us understand the dangers of combat, the experienced military professional realizes that the normal day to day operations of our armed forces are full of potential threats. Rumbling tanks, spinning helicopter rotors and moving cargo containers are just a few of the daily hazards encountered by our armed forces. Simple things like igniting a field heater or just pounding a tent stake into the ground come with risks. The experienced sergeants understand that day to day tasks are full of inherent risks. This same mindset applies as we go about our daily routines at home, school and work.

Put Down Your Phone

This isn’t to shame anybody’s screen time or go on about the virtues of a phone- free dinner conversation. It’s simply a fact that when you are focused on your smart phone, you aren’t alert to your surroundings. So many of us go through the day with our heads buried in a smart phone that we rarely look up to even notice the people around us. Before you start firing off emails while walking down the street or posing for a selfie in front of that cool mural, take a moment to scan the space around you. A security minded rule of thumb would be to put your phone away while in public – and stay aware of your surroundings. Doing this may allow you to spot a threat before it can get to you.

Look at People

Many of us were taught to greet people by looking them in the eye and extending a firm handshake. The same concept holds true in staying alert to your surroundings. Make eye contact with people and acknowledge that you see them. Police agencies have long advocated “great customer service” as a deterrent to bank robbers who don’t wish to be seen or remembered. The same holds true for many would-be criminals that wish to anonymously target you for a robbery or worse.

Know the Routines – and Notice the Changes

Whether it’s our neighborhoods, schools or workplaces, take a moment each day to take note of the routines around us. Services deliveries and trash removal usually occur at a similar time and consistent entrances / exits. Your colleagues or classmates will typically park their vehicles and arrive or depart at similar times each day. Observing the everyday routines around you will make you more alert to any changes as they occur.

Take Note of Clothing and Accessories

The coffee shops and stores that we frequent will typically have customers that dress consistent with the location and type of business nearby– be it a warehouse district, downtown financial center or even just a touristy part of town. Bookbags and briefcases can be very common near school campuses or corporate work spaces, but large backpacks might be out of place. Sunglasses on bright day can be very common on a busy street, but less common inside an enclosed shopping mall. Be alert to things that don’t seem to quite fit in to the environment.

Being Alert Makes the Difference

Being alert to your surroundings is the cornerstone of personal safety. Whenever a threatening situation develops, being alert will enhance your ability to quickly assess the threat and react to it and can make the difference between being a victim and returning home safely. Whether stepping into a commercial office, concert venue or even just a local shopping center, our awareness of the people and structures around us can make the difference in a violent situation.

Tim Miller is a 30-year law enforcement and military professional. As a Secret Service Special Agent assigned to the Washington Field Office, Tim coordinated all aspects of security for the President, Vice-President, and foreign heads of state on a regular basis.

Tim Miller