2020 was notable for its level of civil unrest. The director of the FBI, Director Wray, testified before Congress about the FBI's focus and concern around civil unrest and the phrases domestic terrorism and right wing extremist threats. There were protests, beginning with George Floyd and his tragic death and culminating in the storming of the US Capitol in January, 2021.
RANE’s Director of Safety and Security, Brian Lynch, shared some best security practices for these unprecedented times, where you can be caught up in a protest anywhere you may find yourself. Whether that's in a capital city like Washington, D.C. or any of the other state capitals around the United States. Lynch says, it really comes down to, “If I do get caught in that protest or I might be part of a protest that turns into a riot, what is it that I can do to make myself safer and if I'm with my family, make my family safer? Or if I'm with friends, how do I navigate that with my friends as far as extricating myself from that situation or doing the things that we teach to make yourself as safe as you can be?”
There are practical concepts to consider to keep yourself safe. RANE classifies this as street survival. Ask yourself, “How do I survive when things are going awry, whether that's civil unrest or I'm traveling and something happens near me, near the hotel, what is it that I need to do? How do I protect myself? What steps can I take to make myself safer?”
Lynch calls this a process around five steps: Awareness, assessment, options, risks, and action.
Be aware of your surroundings and the people who are around you.
Once you become aware, you assess - what does this mean to me and my safety?
“Once I assess that, then I'm looking at what my options are. Then once I have figured out what option works for me, I have to assess what that risk is. Then I act. Once I decide what to do, then to do that as quickly and as safely as I can.”
Whether you're going out to a protest or you're traveling, RANE suggests you blend into the surroundings relative to the clothing that's worn, the type of clothing, the colors that might be used. Pay attention to that type of wear that you might decide to put on for that particular day. We talked about awareness before and scanning the area.
Lynch says, “That means look at people, but don't really look at people, avoiding direct eye contact. Some people take direct eye contact as a threat.”
If you're in an area that has a protest or it's an unplanned protest and it somehow just percolates and you're now involved in an area that is under protest activity, what we're saying is if you're not interested in staying, if you don't and did not have any intention of being in that protest, then it's really to your best interest to move away calmly, but quickly. As you're doing that, avoiding choke points, areas that have people and that there's a very narrow way to either depart or there seems to be some sort of a traffic jam, if you will, with people.
Avoid the display of any wealth, either on your person or in your vehicle as you park it. Hide those computers or wallets, anything else that you may want to leave in your vehicle trunk or in the glove box.
“Then, of course, try not to wear the watch, the jewelry, et cetera, when you're out, because they may become a target for the particular group or individual who is in that business or sees the opportunity.”
The last thing really is about being situationally aware. That is really about” who's with you, who's around you, who's walking next to you. Why is that person getting so close to me? All those things that you should be aware of as you're as you're moving about and doing your business.”
And before you go out, be cognizant you may have to defend yourself. Consider taking defensive classes, defensive tactics classes and understanding that staying in shape is important and being able to defend yourself when you need to. “I’m not talking about walking around with an attitude. It's more along the lines of preparation.”
Be mindful about how you are walking or carrying yourself. Lynch says, “We always advise RANE clients, when you're in an airport and you're walking, are you walking on the tips of your toes? Are you leaning forward or do you look like you're walking with a purpose? That's critically important to understand how you are viewed by others.”
Finally When you're parking your vehicle, where do you park it? Is the area well lit? Are you hiding items that can be seen if somebody peeked into your car?
“When you approach your car at night, do you have the keyless entry in your left hand, your weak hand, so that your strong hand is available in case you need to use it to defend yourself.
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