The world is a funny place. You might be spreading the word of peace, tolerance, and kindness, but there’s a chance that others might not be so welcoming of your message. You have a message you want to spread, but you need to be safe in order to keep fighting the good fight out there.
Safety can mean a lot of things, to a lot of different people. Each of us has a different tolerance to the challenges that surround us and seemingly varying degrees of threat levels to be concerned about. But no one thinks that there’s going to be an incident at a type of event until there is one. So here are some good things to keep in mind (not obsess about, mind you) while you’re out there trying to do good for the world.
Make sure people know where you are. If you’re going to a rally, make sure to email a friend or family member, etc. Also, get into a cadence of checking in with someone when you get home. Checking in on Facebook or another form of social media is debatable here. Yes, the police can easily navigate where you have been; however, so can others.
Find My Friends. Share your location with a friend. Not only does someone know that you went to an event using the above item, but now if something happens, you can hopefully easily be located. I know lots of people who just leave a feature like Find My Friends on all the time for general safety. But if you’re roaming around areas otherwise foreign to you,
Travel in groups. It’s much more difficult for something to happen to multiple people than if you are alone. Make some friends (they may just turn out to be life-long friendships). This is a great aspect of joining a group; there are always plenty of like-minded people to go to events with. Also, in areas that experience heavy traffic there’s another benefit: carpools!
Don’t wear headphones. Yes, you want your very own Bieber soundtrack! But being aware is one of the most important safety tips to consider. And it’s hard to be aware when you’re listening to music or books on your phone, catching up with others on Facebook, etc.
Walk with a sense of purpose. Don’t look scared; that makes you a target. When you are walking with a sense of purpose, others are less likely to engage with you, which reduces a number of threats, especially escalating attention from those you might not want that attention from.
Don’t be rude or ignore, but don’t stop if someone engages with you. When people do, keep in mind that you can control the escalation or de-escalation of an interaction. And if needed, simply duck into a corner store or a place with cameras to avoid further interaction. Crowds can be as anonymous as dark alleys.
Never take technology out of your pocket. Your phone or other devices can be a reason for someone to stop you. Having said that, using a tool like the SOS feature on an AppleWatch (or a similar tool) can be a great way to have access to technology without taking higher value assets out.
“Hey Siri, take me to the closest police station.” I know a number of people who have used a tool like Siri or Google Maps to stay safe in their car while using technology but still being able to avoid taking a phone out of their pocket and exposing their technology assets to people who might want.
Take an Uber or taxi rather than drive. There’s nothing like walking through dark areas to find your car. Uber also takes a lot of security precautions that help to speed up leaving a location and tracking your location as you leave. Finally, there’s safety in numbers, rather than driving alone, there’s now a second person in the Uber driver.
Avoid being impaired. This includes of course illicit drugs and alcohol, but also keep in mind that legitimately prescribed drugs or an illness can also impair you. In some cases, not only are you going to not be as cognizant as you normally would, you might also be able to get arrested more easily for the behavior.
Don’t bring weapons. Bringing a gun or another lethal weapon to an organized event that could feasibly inspire violence is always, always, always a terrible idea. If you suspect that there will be violence, you shouldn’t attend an event. No cause was ever made better by violence and brandishing a weapon only ever escalates violence.
When walking alone, keep your hands in your pockets with your keys. Keys are sharp. Yes, I know I said don’t take a weapon to an event. But this is a purely defensive thing, on the way back to your car or home. It’s a habit, and not a bad one even when just randomly walking around any city.
A few minor safety tips not only help to keep you personally safe, but also to keep any media coverage of your organization in alignment with your message. Not all of these tips impact just your personal safety. If you get arrested, or there is any kind of violence at an event, the entire mission of the organization is placed into jeopardy. Not only is there a higher chance of media coverage, but any kind of a scandal impacts the legitimacy of the entire organization.