There are times when you may have to work alone on certain jobs and in certain areas. Here are some suggestions on how to keep yourself safe when working by yourself.
Thinking things through and planning for the unexpected helps you to feel confident and react well in emergencies. Before you ever go to the worksite, have a plan for everything you can think of. Plan your route to get to the worksite, plan the tools to use, plan the lay-out of the job, etc. Plan your route to avoid deserted streets and dark parks or alleyways. By planning ahead, you can take precautions to avoid problems before you encounter them. You can make sure you have the necessary tools to do the job, and replenish any materials used from the previous work period.
You should also look at the way you will be perceived going into certain areas. What does your clothing say? Does it seem to be out of place for the area you are going into?
Make sure that before you leave for a job site check in and let someone know you are traveling and the time they can expect you to check in after the work is complete. That way, someone can follow up with you if you are late calling them. Also, be sure to check back in if there is a change of plans. If you encounter traffic or some other issue that delays you from getting to your destination.
When you are at the work site, take a minute to look around at what is going on. It’s a lot easier to assess the situation when you are inside a locked vehicle determining if the job area is safe enough to allow you to begin work, than it is to decide it’s not a good time to be in the area and to try to flee. Are there people in the area? Are they overly interested in your activity? Are you in a position where you can do the job quickly and safely? Are there strange cars in the area? Anything that would make you feel uneasy should be observed. If for any reason you feel there is cause for concern, or you feel unsafe, you should not step out of your vehicle. You should leave the area, call the supervisor, explain your concerns and drive back to the office.
Always have your cell phone handy and have a hot key pre-programmed to dial 911. In an emergency you can speed dial emergency services when needed.
Do not use headphones (or earbuds) or chat unnecessarily on your cell phone. This will not only distract you from what’s going on around you, but it will limit your ability to communicate with others should an emergency arise.
If you hear or see trouble ahead, then turn off or turn around before you get to it and head to the nearest safe place, such as a garage, police station or anywhere where there will be lots of people. If possible, get back into your vehicle and drive away.
Try to avoid confrontation. Do not meet aggression with aggression. If you are trapped in an aggressive situation, try talking your way out of it. Stay calm and speak confidently, slowly and clearly. Breathe out slowly to help you relax. Physical self-defense should only be a last resort. It limits your options and commits you to a fight you could lose. It is not weak to walk (or run) away from violence.
Avoid an aggressive stance or posture: a boxer stance, crossed arms, hands on hips or a raised arm is challenging and confrontational. Avoid looking down on anyone or touching someone unnecessarily.
If someone is becoming agitated or aggressive, don’t crowd them. Invading someone’s personal space will only make them more uptight and defensive and therefore more likely to become violent. Also, the greater distance you can keep, the better the chance you will be able to avoid being struck or grabbed.
If you see someone else being attacked, it is not always the best idea to rush over to help as this could escalate the problem and you too could end up being attacked. It may be better to stand back at a safe distance and call loudly for help and use your cell phone to call the police. Seeing what you are doing could stop the attacker, while leaving you safe.
If you are attacked, try to make it to a safe place so you can call 911. For instance, if you are on a billboard deck and someone is attempting to climb a portable ladder to reach you, push the ladder down and used your cell phone to call 911. If you are on the ground and see someone come toward you aggressively, get into your vehicle, lock the doors, and call 911. If you can run into a nearby business to call 911 that’s ok as well. Just get away if at all possible.
If it’s a robbery, give the robber whatever they demand, but throw it in one direction and run the other way. For example, if the robber has a gun and demands your wallet, throw it to the left and run to the right to get away.
If there is no other option and you are physically struck and you cannot get away, try to protect you vital organ area (heart, lungs, solar plexus, abdominal area) as well as your head. Tuck your elbows in front of you and place you open hands in front of your face. Try not to make this appear to be an aggressive pose. If you are on the ground, try to curl up into a fetal position and cover your head.
If you have been attacked and your assailants have left, try to get to your vehicle and lock yourself in. Call 911 and wait for emergency services to come to you. This will allow you to receive medical attention as well as aiding the police in searching for the attackers, unless staying presents a greater risk. Then leave and go to the nearest safe place and contact the police.