Questionable Safety Tips

The Mrs. handed me a sheet of paper that she had received at work. A co-worker had been passing them out to others, and felt it offered priceless advice to prevent abductions and attacks.

The title of the handout is: Safety Tips from Abduction or Attack.

Listed were 10 “…things to do in an emergency situation.”

I read the recommendations and the explanations. Some made sense, others were questionable. The list is a bit long so I won’t reprint it, but you can see the handout here.

Perhaps, you may have seen these recommendations previously or received a similar email.

As the historian in me took charge, I quickly Googled some of the handout’s contents to determine its origin—and Snopes provided the answer.

Versions of the list have been around for eight years and are believed to be derived from notes of an attendee of safety consultant Pat Malone’s workshops.

There are good common sense points included like: 1) avoid taking the stairs in large buildings, 2) be aware of your surroundings, and 3) if you are thrown into the trunk of a car, try to kick the back tail lights out as an option (looking to see if there is a trunk release lever is also wise).

As with many of these Internet lists, there is also questionable advice such as:

The elbow is the strongest point on your body. If you are close enough to your attacker to use it, do!
Using your elbow may be a good tactic, but chemical spray, stun guns, eye gouging, kicks to the lower lower mid section, or running and screaming may be more viable depending on the situation and the victim.

Advising folks to start swinging elbows in an incident as the best choice could certainly be counterproductive.

Some of the directive’s content is also concerning:
If the predator has a gun and you are not under his control, Always run! The predator will only hit you (a running target) 4 in 100 times; and even then it most likely will not be a vital organ…
Different situations may require different responses—telling a victim to “always run” does not recognize the diversity that exists in criminal encounters (I have never seen the 4% chance of being hit stat before).

Also, the "don’t worry, you are not likely to be shot in an appendage that you need" comment reminded me of the Old Western movie where the hero is pointing a two-shot derringer gun at a group of four bad guys. One of the bad guys says: "come on boys he can only take out a couple of us before we get him."

The hero then responds with: "Which two of you are going to take the bullets?" To which none of the four assailants advance.

Now which four of us "running victims" are going to take the bullets?

Finally, the last two recommendations relate to alleged ploys by criminals to get you to open your front door at night—one involving turning on all of the water faucets and another using recorded cries of a baby.

Being careful about opening your front door at night, regardless of the reason, is simply good advice, but the specific scare reference in the document to a serial killer using the latter tactic in Louisiana has been shown to be unfounded.

In sum, the document contains items to think about regarding personal safety, but falls short as an appropriate guide to prevent/escape from abductions and attacks.

What is the most surprising thing about the list?

That it is posted to the Carrington (ND) Police Department’s website as a form available for citizens. I hope this is an oversight, and they are not portraying this flawed document as the gospel on safety.

Now that would be a serious gaffe...


Note: The photo is of the Stun Master 200.


copswife said...

OH MY GOSH! I've been in that town. I went at it from the home page and couldn't find the link. I wanted to see how it was labled.

I've gotten that email list several times over the past 6 or 7 years. Personally, I think it is important to be aware of your surroundings, yes, but focusing on all that COULD happen is an invatation for constant fear. One email list couldn't and shouldn't cover every possiblity, like you said, every situation is differnt.

LOUD&PROUD ♥MoNeeKa♥ said...

I have seen this list and wonder if anyone has actually done these "tips" and if they worked?run in a zigzag if they have a gun?I wuoldnt remember to do that!

Slamdunk said...

Thanks for pointing that out CopsWife. It looks like the forms area that the safety tips list appeared is currently not directly accessible from their current home page.

My guess as to what happened is that this form and others (the traffic accident reports and other forms that I located for the department) were directly available previously (the form is labeled February of 2009), and access was not properly removed by their website administrator whenever he/she updated the agency's website.

Perhaps, it would be better for me to say that the agency was endorsing the safety tips form online up to at least 2/2009 and unfortunately still makes it available to the public via a search engine.

Expat From Hell said...

It seems so hard to unlearn that which we learned from our parents, and now to try and re-learn that which law enforcement makes available to us. However imperfect. Far better than running around with a popsicle stick in our mouth (grounds for a serious tongue lashing in Los Angeles in the 60s). Great post, and more food for long drawn-out thought. Thanks again! EFH

angelcel said...

Interesting and thought provoking (as usual). I remember (er...on Oprah!) some chap wibbling on about 'the gift of fear' and it was really quite profound.

We're almost trained nowadays to ignore and suppress our instincts and yet if we listen to them we can usually save ourselves from a lot of potentially dangeous situations. What these lists do is remind us of some of the obvious things, but crumbs, others are good to know but give me the heebie geebies - I'm thinking of the scenario of helping out someone in need. Everything in me says help, my logical brain says walk away. What kind of society are we in that we should walk away!? ...Yet I know the reasoning.

I just need to just say that the advice about elbows is something that I think I can appreciate where it's coming from. Both my girls did 'Aikido' before going off to college college. The intention of the class was *never* to be as a self-defense lesson, but I can tell you that if you know even basic Aikido you're probably a whole lot safer than your average punter. It's *clever* - using an attacker's own force and aggression to escape. To quote Wikipedia: "blending with the motion of the attacker and redirecting the force of the attack rather than opposing it head-on". God bless, neither of my girls have needed it, but I can kind of see the relevance of the elbow. When needed...Aikido manouevre, elbow, then run like hell.

Roanoke Cop said...

Get a gun.

terri said...

I check all similar emails on Snopes, but would never have thought to check a handout for accuracy. It's frustrating how much false information is circulating.

Natalie said...

I'm all for eye gouging, especially if I have my keys with me. I've mentioned his book before, but Gavin deBecker's Protecting the Gift gives some awesome (and achievable) pieces of advice that officers in the hubs department uses in their own self-defense classes.

Looks like angel mentioned his first book, Gift of Fear. Great info!

Together We Save said...

Run, Run, Run... that is what I tell my girls and scream fire. The whole topic scares the heck out of me.

JennyMac said...

Now, having a Father in law enforcement as you know, I was the beneficiary of ongoing and constant updates on what is and is not safe. Self defense? check. And my first police issue pepper spray when I was about 12. I never told him I was barely comfortable carrying it around after he warned me of all the damage it would do.

I think safety is so important and often overlooked. I came upon a child in a shopping cart at the grocery...her mother in the next aisle over. So safety and lack thereof abounds doesnt it?

J. J. in Phila said...

I twas looking at the Nicols case, the man who shot the judge in the Atlanta, GA courthouse in 2005.

At least one of his potential victims got away by screaming and running.

Stephanie Faris said...

It still amazes me how few people check before forwarding things like this. At work last week someone sent around a warning about leaving your iPod or iPhone charging in the car all night. It showed pictures of an explosion inside a car...but the e-mail said it had happen to a friend of the person sending it. The picture on snopes was of someone's supposed "friend" who had it happen. The explosion hasn't been proven or disproven yet, but it's still a viral e-mail...and I couldn't believe this woman sent it around to everyone we worked with.