Do you know how you would you react if your family was in immediate danger or to what lengths you would go to keep them safe? Would you fight or hop on the next flight? If you skew towards the latter, we get it, avoiding dangerous situations grants favorable safety odds... until what keeps you safe becomes the threat, which happens all too often. And for those of you who choose to fight, you better make sure you know what you're doing or you've just doubled your danger. Regardless of which instinct kicks in, a little planning and education will only help, so check out our list of essential safety tips below.
Stop, drop, and develop a safety plan
If your house caught fire in the next minute, would your family know what to do? Getting the entire family on the same page is a lifesaver during emergencies, and like most types of plans, the foundation relies on communication.
- Establish two meeting areas (one main and one backup) inside the home, somewhere close to the ground and without windows.
- Know where the home's exits are and how to use them, especially if you have a fire escape, otherwise, it wouldn't earn its name.
- Don't forget to agree on two meeting points outside the home as well, in case you're separated during a fire or apocalypse.
- Make sure your kids know when, why, and how to dial 911, how to use the fire extinguisher, and what to do with smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
- Draw easy-to-read diagrams and maps so that everyone can figure out all of the above.
- Practice scenarios (aka drills) with all of the above in order for your kids (or everyone, really) to feel confident.
Fortify your walls
There are many things in life that are beyond your control, but your home isn't one of them. These small measures will greatly lower the chances of home invasion or robbery.
- Burglars want easy targets. Make sure your home always looks occupied and that external doors and windows remain locked at all times.
- Keep trees and bushes around the home trimmed so that they don't provide cover for thieves.
- Make sure the area around the house is well-lit.
- Don't leave spare keys in an obvious place. (A professional burglar will be pretty good at guessing where these are hidden.)
- Recruit allies. Make friends with your nosy neighbors and adopt a big dog. Almost as good as a high-tech home alarm (almost).
Lock and don't load
Nosy neighbors, dogs, and flood lights aren't enough for some people, and many choose to keep their home safe with the help of a firearm. It's important to note that, statistically, keeping a gun in the home means the chances of homicide or shooting a family member is greater than shooting an intruder.
- Anyone living with a firearm must know the safety guidelines inside and out. Bribe them, quiz them, whatever it takes.
- Store guns with a trigger lock, gun case, strong box, locking steel cabinet, or gun safe.
- Firearms should always be stored immediately after use, and they should always be unloaded when not in use.
- Ammunition should be stored in a separate location.
- The gun's muzzle should always be pointed in a safe direction, even when stored.
Most Americans don't realize it, but driving is one of the most dangerous activities that they take part in on a daily basis. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for people aged 1 to 33. It's important to always drive safely with a family on board, this means:
- Today, most electronics are hands-free: Don't text and drive.
- Old rules still apply: Buckle up. Don’t drink and drive.
- Child safety seats should be used whenever possible and installed properly — nearly 80% of child safety seats aren't installed correctly.
- The middle backseat is the safest spot in the vehicle. Do not seat children in front of airbags or in the front seat.
- Create a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement that puts these rules in writing to set clear expectations and limits.
Stalk your children
- Always set a meeting spot and teach your children how to be aware and smart in public (unless you want to give your children that classic “lost in the mall” experience).
- Have their photo ID's taken every few months. Make sure all medical records are up to date.
- Make online safety a priority. Be aware of your kids' Internet activities and remind them to never to give out personal information.
- Make sure that everyone's phones are charged (buy a travel charger) and all important numbers are memorized.
- FindMyFriends, FindMyPhone, PokemonGo, connect every kind of stalker app imaginable.
- Don't make them a target. Kids trust adults who know their names, don't dress them in clothing with their names on it.
When it's time to fight
Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid physical confrontation. Risking your health to save your family’s health makes perfect sense in these situations. Fortunately, anyone can learn effective self-defense techniques. Teach your children how to:
- Get loud, push back, and fight back.
- Channel velcro -- find something to hold on to and don't let go.
- Strike the most effective parts of the body: the eyes, nose, throat, ears, knees, and groin.
- Use palms, knees, and elbows for maximum force.
- Play dirty. Fish hooking or gouging the eyes is perfectly acceptable when being attacked.
- Consider their surroundings and use items as weapons. Hold keys or a pen between fingers and throw dirt into an attacker's eyes.
Plan their escape
While no parent wants to think about their child being abducted, it does happen. Make sure they know what to do if that should ever occur:
- Never walk away with someone that's not a parent or babysitter, never get in their car.
- Adults don’t need to ask children for help and children should not feel obligated to help.
- If grabbed, make lots of noise, grab onto something, or swing arms around like a windmill.
- If trapped in a car, reach for the door immediately.
- Show them where to look for the release panel on the inside of a trunk. Tear at everything to get hand out the back and wave for help.
Know your resources
- Home Safety Tips from Today
- U.S. Department of State Carjacking Tips
- Child Abduction Safety Tips
- Self-Defense for Young Women
- Firearm Safety at Home
- How to Avoid Looking Like a Victim