How to Develop a Personal Safety Plan

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If you find yourself in an abusive situation or are the victim of a violent outburst, a personal safety plan is an important way to protect yourself and other family members in the event of further violence. A personal safety plan is a thorough and prepared series of steps you or your children can take as soon as a violent situation occurs. The plan dictates what specific actions are to be taken to ensure the safety of everyone involved and eliminates the need to formulate a plan while in the midst of a dangerous situation. No one can control the actions of others, but having a safety plan in place can help protect you and your family from a violent crime. Be sure your children know the plan so they know what to do even if you are unable to tell them.

  • Know when to call 911 or other emergency services. Teach your children how to call 911 and what information to give the operator. That information includes their names, address and telephone number as well as a brief description of the emergency that is taking place at that specific time.

  • Tell a trusted friend or family member if you feel threatened by anyone, such as a stalker or someone in your own household. Let your employer or co-workers know about your situation as well. If you have children, inform their child care provider about what is going on. Don’t forget to tell your health care provider as well. Give them as many details about the threat as you feel comfortable with.

  • Plan in advance where you and your children will go if you feel that violence is about to occur. Choose a place where the person threatening you would be unlikely to look for you. If you are being followed, seek shelter at a police station, fire station, hospital or other public place. You can even go to the drive-through of a fast food restaurant and ask for help. Many communities have established safe houses for victims of domestic violence. Remember that domestic violence is not just when a family member or spouse is threatening or abusing you -- it also applies to roommates and someone you have a child in common with. Depending on local laws, it can even be someone you have lived with in the past.

  • Keep copies of all important paperwork in a safe at an easily accessible location or give copies to people you trust. Include identification for you and your children (driver’s licenses, social security cards and birth certificates), insurance and medical information. Keep an extra set of keys in a safe location in case you need to leave quickly.

  • Retreat to an area free of weapons if you are unable to leave or call for help. Avoid confrontations in kitchens and garages as these contain many objects that can be used as weapons. As soon as possible, leave and call 911.

  • Change the locks on your doors if you feel threatened by someone who has a key to your home. If possible, replace wooden doors with metal ones that are harder to break down. Adding additional locks to doors and windows will also hinder someone attempting to break into your home.

  • Screen your phone calls, both at home and at work, as part of your personal safety plan. Let the answering machine or voice mail pick up the call. Your co-workers can also screen calls for you, taking messages without revealing if you are at work or not.

  • Ask people you trust to walk you to your car. If no one is available to walk with you, stay within a group and park in well-lit areas. Talk to someone on your cell phone (or pretend to talk to someone) if you are walking alone.

  • Carry a cell phone with you at all times. Even if the phone has been turned off or your pre-paid account is low or without minutes, you will still be able to call 911 in case of an emergency.

  • Install a security system in your home. Include motion detectors in the system, both inside and outside the home. Additional outdoor lighting acts as a deterrent to someone trying to get into your home.

  • Yell “fire” if you feel you are in danger. This draws more attention than screaming “help.” Think of something shocking to say that would attract attention, such as “naked man” or “ugly woman.” It may sound rude at the time, but people will turn to look.

  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times, whether walking or driving. Pay attention to poorly lit areas. Look around and under your car for people hiding or something that could damage your car. Always keep your car doors locked so no one can hide in your car.

  • Photo Credit evgenyatamanenko/iStock/Getty Images
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