Saturday, October 26, 2013

Not Just another safety tips article for women


If you are a women / lady / girl who needs travels on her own to work / college, then I am sure that you would have read several 'safety' articles … especially in the past few months after the much publicized Delhi rape case and the more recent Mumbai rape case and the countless others that happen around the country. You might have also attended some session on safety and would have seen more vigilance measures adopted by your company or society. You might have found yourself being more alert and often paranoid about your own surrounding when returning late to home or when travelling alone in early mornings.

Well … this article is for you. The lady who is worried about her safety and is slightly confused after reading the countless articles about safety and almost on the verge of buying or already in possession of the 'pepper spray' !!

I write this article in response to the various 'safety measures and advice' that is floating around. Some I find very very useful while some I find not so useful and some even foolish.

Please Note: these are my personal feelings and thoughts only and are not based on experience but pure speculation. Please use your own head and use the tips you feel comfortable with. Your own ready presence of mind is your biggest and most efficient defense.  

Let me first begin with the usual ones and my view on them ... then move to some of my own ideas (just one or two) and then close with regular ideas. I might not stick to the number 10.

1. Pepper Spray - somehow this features in almost all the article that I have read. This seems like the most recommended one but I have my doubts. My question is … when you are sure that a guy is going to pounce on you or has already done it … Will you have enough time to open your purse, locate the spray (I m sure you realize the challenge of locating anything in your purse in under 2 seconds), hold it the right way and spray in the eyes of the threat ????

I hope u have heard of the girl(s) who sprayed it in their own face since they were not holding it correctly. Suddenly, the pepper spray does not look like a great defense mechanism. Also, another problem is that the assailant might just grab that from your hand and spray it in your face using sheer muscle-power!!! And what if all goes well and when you actually spray, nothing comes out because the nozzle was clogged since it had been lying in your purse un-used for several months.  So I have my doubts. I would love to hear their opinion from some lady who had hands-on experience with using the pepper spray herself when needed.

On the other hand, a slim bottle/can of Deo can prove a nice alternative to pepper spray. It might scare your assailant away, he might not have time enough to register in his mind that it is a deo and not pepper spray. And of course, you can spray it in his face too.

2. High heels recommended since they are good weapons ... but how do u propose to run in them?? Can you really run in high heels? My thoughts - If you are wearing them, they can be good weapons but try not to wear them for the sake of using them as weapon

I am not sure how much time you will have to remove the high heels, hold them properly to attack the assailant. But, if you are wearing one and can remove them to strike the assailant properly striking him on his face or head with the pointed heel … that is good. But remember to remove the other one too before you begin to run !!

3. Carrying sharp objects is another recommended one ... but if your job requires you to travel in flights, they will be screened at airports and dumped in bins. Some other security checks at theatres, offices also might screen it away. And of course, the sharp object may damage your purse and you might accidentally cut yourself while rummaging through your own purse. So I would say NO to sharp objects like knife in purse.

Rather, empty your purse and lay out all the items in front of you. Look at each one and see if you can use anything as weapon – something that will not get screened at security and something no one will suspect as a weapon even if they saw u holding it in your hand. Look at the comb you might be carrying or a pen or a pencil which can act as defense mechanism. Even a bunch of old keys can be mighty good sharp weapon – just ensure that you have a nice key ring and key chain attached so that you have a nice grip when hitting your assailant.

4. Setting important numbers (Dad, Brother, Best Friend etc) on Speed dial is another recommended idea. I like it. It is easy, practical and easy to use. BUT (there is always a but), the problem is the changing phones. Nowadays your smart phone doesn't really have a key pad. Touch screen phones are a vogue and you are using one I suppose. This means, to use the speed dialing, you will have to first unlock the phone, call up dialing screen and then 'precisely' press the required number button. I am again not so sure if you will have time for all that in a crisis situation. I am not saying, don't do it. Do it by all means and use the speed dialing facility of the phone, crisis or no crisis. In cases where you feel threatened and the assailant is not right upon you, this can prove useful.

5 Keep someone informed of your whereabouts. Always! Yes, calling up someone after something has happened is reactive. Proactive is keeping someone informed beforehand. I have the habit of calling home when I leave office and telling them expected time of arrival which is usually 1.5 hours. Trust me, my wife or my mom will call me the moment the ETA is up. Yes, they may worry for a few minutes but allowing someone in family to know your whereabouts is a good idea. If you are in some crisis and you are not able to reach them for whatever reason, they know when to call you and when to 'panic' and reach out for help. If they just assume that you are working late when in fact you are surrounded by 4-5 assailants who have kidnapped you and taken to a secluded spot … they can't do anything, they won't suspect anything; they won't be able to help.

The young girls reading this post might discard this as 'invasion of privacy' but my dear friend, believe me. This will help you a lot and also cement your relationship with your mom/brother/father. A 1-minute phone call made couple of times a day can do wonders to the relationship and of course protect you too.

6. Apps that send message to key contacts in case of emergency. There are a couple of apps that have this unique feature of sending your 'Help me' sort of message to some selected numbers along with your GPS coordinates. This is an interesting one. I am assuming that the apps have a easy interface, you unlock the phone, fire the app and it shows u a large button to hit. And the message goes out to 5 pre-selected people along with your GPS coordinates. It's a good idea but you should be mindful of it.

One – inform all these 5 contacts that you are setting their number on your emergency app and if they receive an sms from you with the GPS coordinates, they should immediately rush to help you and possibly inform police first so that policemen from nearest police station should rush to the spot before they arrive. Second – hardly any point of sending such a message to a non-smart phone user since they may not be able to appreciate the GPS coordinate thingy. Lastly, don't depend on help to arrive because of the sms. Sms delivery can be affected by network traffic and people who are busy may post-pone checking out sms on phone if they are busy, so your sms might not be seen immediately (although with msg going to 5 people, someone ought to see it right away). In summary, a good tool that can bring help but not immediately !!!!

7. Maps – If you are taking the cab and the cabbie takes you through an unfamiliar route; the maps functionality on your phone can actually help you alert yourself early on. You may or may not know that part of the city and the route to a new place and the driver might offer to take you by a short-cut or a route with less traffic ... especially at night. Avoid. You never know where the journey might end.  

If you have a smart phone, you have maps and you have GPS. Together they will tell you where you are and where you are supposed to be going (once you key in your destination). If it is a unfamiliar route you are taking, you can track the movement of the cab and enquire with the driver whenever he is going off track or too much away from regular route. Your questioning will make the driver feel that you know the route and he won't veer off.

8. Inform someone about your cab. I have read about this one several times and kind of like the idea. When you get into the cab, call up a friend or family member, inform them that you have taken a cab and will reach home/destination by approx. time; also asking your friend/brother/family member to come and pick you up from the spot (which can actually be your destination). Ask the driver his name and vehicle number and inform the person at other end so that they can identify the cab easily when you reach. This tells the driver that someone knows his name and cab number and is expecting you to reach destination in certain amount of time. He will have to think a 100 times before attempting mischief.  It's a good idea, do this !!! <Even if you have no one to call up, put your phone on silent and just make a fake call. Putting your phone on silent is important temporarily so that it does not ring while u r on the fake call>

9. Smart Phone Battery Life and Power Banks – In the 2-3 earlier points, I have talked about using your phone with the GPS on. Smart phones are battery guzzlers and GPS along with different active Apps (including your 24X7 whatapp) are all guzzling your phone battery faster than you think. So if it is dark and you are exhausted at the end of the day, chances are that your phone battery is also similarly exhausted and you won't be able to call for help, send SOS message through an app or track your cab movement with maps if your battery is already in red.

This is where I recommend that you carry a power bank with you which you can use to charge your phone if running low. Power Banks are available from 200 to 2000 INR range. I would suggest you pick a good one which can charge your phone fully and if you think it is worth the investment, spend a little more and buy one which can charge your phone fully several times. Good travel companion. Not just emergencies, but a power bank will be handy in daily life too. Pay attention to the power bank and ensure that it is always fully charges. Charge it whenever you have used it.

10. Learn self-defense: You have surely heard this before BUT who has the time to go and attend martial arts or judo-karate classes in this super-busy life. Right?

So, I do not recommend you attend a full-fledged judo-karate-whatever program and become an expert fighter. You don't need that for self-defense. All you need for self-defense is knowledge of a few basic moves and techniques. If you were to attend a 2 hour self-defense seminar and just observe carefully and practice a few times (hopefully finding a volunteer in your friend, brother, boy-friend or husband – god help them); that should be just fine. THIS, I will strongly recommend.

The best offense you can mount on the assailant is with your bare hands with basic self defense knowledge. More than 50% of the time, the assailant will retreat and run for his life, the moment he sees you in action. Another 25% will be put out of action by your moves. I hope you don't encounter the remaining 25% who are tough to overcome.

Never think for one moment that you are not strong enough. can go take a hike. A correctly placed hand-jab or kick or a straight-up punch below the jaw-line can effectively incapacitate the assailant for at least half a minute – giving you enough time to RUN. Mind you, if you have hit him and sent him reeling (in short if he sees stars – din main taarein nazar aana) then you can run as fast as you can and most probably he is not going to follow you. Remember, your knee and elbow are the strongest point in the body and so are your knuckles, while the soft targets of your assailant are many – nose, face, ears, lower jaw, groin, fingers (bent backwards).   

Well, this has become quite a long post and you might be tired if you have reached till this point; or may also have discontinued reading at some point already. Anyway, I have a lot of more points to share but they are mostly run-of-the-mill and you can google and find them all.

I wrote the above points, because I felt strongly about them. Some widely recommended ideas which I did not agree with and some which I think are far more feasible. Let me just list down a few more which you will find useful.

11. Maintain a confident body language: Projecting a confident body language is going to send a signal to a possible attacker that you are possibly a tough nut to crack. He will rather stay away or divert attention to an easier soft target

12. Report crimes: If you are the victim or know someone else or have seen some anti-social activity in a particular area of your routine travel; figure out a way of reporting it to the police. It may not help you directly, but chances are that the police will probably start monitoring the area and increase their patrolling of the areas. THAT will definitely discourage the anti-social elements in the area,

13. Be Careful. Be alert. One can always blame the assailant for what he did but that does not absolve you from the responsibility of taking care of yourself. Be alert and mindful of your surroundings, dress appropriately, don't travel alone if you can avoid, don't travel lonely lanes and by-lanes if you can avoid. The list is long but intuitive and you already know it. Don't throw caution to the air and take risks. It's not worth it. I am not saying live a scared life, but just be alert. Avoid lonely areas and use paths which have some crowd or people walking by. There is always safety in numbers.

14. Phones are a distraction. While we have talked about your phone coming in handy; it is also a great distraction which will only reduce your alertness towards your surroundings. So many times, I have seen people with 100% attention on their phone screen, while walking dark alleys, crossing the road and so on. When on the road, focus on the road. Don't make the phone screen the center of your living life.  

15. Be Fit. Last but not the least; Be fit and healthy so that you can not only defend yourself but run for your safety if required. Not being fit can cost you dear in crisis. Be fit, be healthy.

Well … now this post is really very long so let me end here with a short note on why I even wrote this post. The post was inspired by a blog post on where they encouraged people to post their 'smart suraksha' tips.

I am sharing my Smart Suraksha Tips at the Favorite community of Indian Bloggers - BlogAdda - in association with the Smart Suraksha App 

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