Public Safety Awareness: No, You’re Not Being Paranoid

Author: IAFF Staff

August 24, 2017

More and more acts of violence or unexpected disasters are occurring in public places. Afterward, people may become fearful and overly aware of our surroundings, but many eventually forget and move on with their daily routines. Living in constant fear isn’t healthy, and being prepared for an emergency in any situation is a great way to eliminate unnecessary apprehension. This can become a natural habit, one that could save lives.

You can’t predict when or what type of emergency will occur, but you can increase your awareness of public places and make fast, simple assessments that could have a dramatic impact later. When you’re in public places that generally have crowds, such as concerts, malls, restaurants, sporting events and bars, you may not notice all of the available exit routes unless it’s part of your job. But being aware of these routes is extremely important. There have been many incidents, such as fires and mass shootings, in which lives could have been saved if people had used another exit instead of the route through which they entered.

Some simple observation habits can help prepare you and your loved ones. They can also ease some of the underlying worry that public disasters or acts of terror are completely out of our control.

Tips for Scouting Public Places for Safety:

  • Make sure you locate all the available exits as you enter a public place. Some will be in front, and some will be in the back. Be prepared to use the closest exit as your way out, as the way you entered may not be available or too congested. It’s common and tragic when people panic and only remember the way they came in as the exit, which could be a fatal mistake. Knowing there’s a potentially faster, safer way out can make the difference between life and death.
  • Make sure your exit path is clear. Check that doors are not chained or locked. If there are not at least two exits available, or one of the paths is blocked, report the violation. In addition, accidents including fires occur all the time in places with kitchens. Will a fire happen while you’re there? It’s unlikely, but possible. Be prepared, just in case.
  • Ask yourself if you feel safe. This is where intuition kicks in. Once you begin to assess public places, you’ll get a feel for when it seems unsafe. Practice being aware and proactive in situations that seem unsafe. Other questions to ask yourself include:
    • Are there fire sources, such as burning candles, a cigar room, pyrotechnics or other heat sources?
    • Are there safety systems in place that you can see, such as alternative exits, smoke alarms or sprinkler systems?
  • If you feel unsafe, do something about it. You’re in charge of your own safety. When you feel unsafe in a public place, leave and report your reasons for concern to someone who can help, whether it’s a police officer, security guard or manager. You could be saving lives.

If you’re struggling with substance abuse or PTSD, you’re not alone. The IAFF Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery has helped countless fire fighters work through substance use disorders and the co-occurring conditions that often drive them. Admitting you have a problem is the first step to starting over, and asking for help is a true act of bravery. Reach out and speak to an intake coordinator today.

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