This article was first published in DAWN Magazine
In a society where food delivery reaches faster than an ambulance, law enforcement or the fire trucks, the one question occupying everyone’s mind is how does one survive?
The simple answer is: “Be prepared”. Prepare everyone including family, friends, colleagues and neighbours for the worst case scenario.
What does one prepare for?
Think about the following:
Is the extension cord overloaded with plugs for the iron, TV, mobile charger and computer?
Are sharp objects left unattended when there are children around?
Are seat belts being worn or helmets used?
Is a list of emergency contacts for everyone in the household available?
Now evaluate your answers and you’ve got the first draft of things to do for your safety.
Safety, however, is not just about objects; it’s all about people and how they interact with others or use the objects that will drive their safety needs.
The next step is to create a comprehensive security plan, and here’s how you do that:
1: Understand travel routines for all family members and educate everyone in the family on what they need to consider:
— How do they travel?
• By public transport
• Do they inform someone in the family once they arrive at their destination?
• What will happen if they fail to inform?
• Will someone check on them or not?
• Are the relevant emergency contacts available?
• Do they know what to do if something happens on the way to/from wherever they are heading?
• Has a safe muster point along the route been identified in case the person can’t reach their destination? (Relatives, home, parent/siblings’ work place)
• By private transport
• Is the primary and alternate route known?
• Does everyone know what to do in case of an emergency en route? (Protest, accident, diversions, etc.)
• Is the vehicle road worthy?
• Are valid vehicle documents available?
Do not forget to keep these safe commuting guidelines in mind:
• Vary routes and times on a regular basis
• Do not pick hitch hikers or strangers under any circumstances. Do not leave a child unattended in a vehicle
• Do not sit in the car while waiting for passengers
• Remain vigilant while approaching your vehicle and look out for persons lurking around
• Keep to the main roads as much as possible
2: Know all that you can about the routine locations visited by all family members:
— Educational institutions:
• The emergency contact to be reached in the event of an incident
• Is there an alert service or does one has to call to get information on the institute’s opening/closure, especially in case of unforeseen security issues in the area?
• Does the institute require a guardian to pick/drop the student?
• Is a school ID card mandatory to pick/drop the student?
• Is it clear that no exceptions are to be made unless the guardian is called first?
— Work place: Know the emergency contact to be reached in the event of an incident
• Is there a mechanism in place for someone to check on an employee who hasn’t shown up to work?
• Is medical support available and how would it work if there were a need either at work or outside the workplace?
The key is to be aware of where your family members are at any given time.
3: In the home: what various individuals do and need:
Step 1: Identify all the hazards in your home:
— Conduct a Hazard Hunt. Make it fun for all, reward those who find the most number of potential problems. Here are some of the most common hazards that can immediately be spotted:
• Exposed wiring
• Placement of UPS (out in the open or in a closed room)
• Loosely bracketed wall fixtures
• Doors (locked, unlocked, reinforced)
• Keys (for all locks, kept in their proper place and tagged)
• Household cleaning liquids (kept away from the reach of young children)
• Utilities meters (protected or exposed)
• Iron properly stored when not being used
• Slippery floors
• Objects strewn on the floors that people could trip on
• Storage rooms organised or unkempt
• Are utensils stacked properly (out of children’s reach)?
— There are many hazards unique to your lifestyle and can only be spotted on keen observation. Therefore involve all family members and don’t forget the domestic help.
Step 2: Identify special needs of everyone in the home:
— If any family member needs regular medication keep the following in mind:
• Where are the medicines stored?
• What dose is to be administered?
• Is assistance needed in administering the dose?
• What needs to be done in case of an adverse reaction
— Special dietary requirements
• In case the person is allergic to certain foods
• Is everyone aware of it, especially the domestic help
— Mobility: Does anyone need support in walking?
• Ensure the floors are never polished, unsure footing could cause a fall
• Does anyone use a wheelchair?
• Are passages kept clear?
• Are items of daily use kept at an appropriate level for access. Is there access to a lift in case the residence is above the ground floor level?
There should always be at least one person besides those attending to special needs cases to know what to do.
Step 3: Prepare your plan to address the hazards at the earliest and ensure continued education on hazards
— Who needs to do what?
• Take advice of a professional no matter what the situation. Google doesn’t have all the answers and ‘do it yourself’ videos work on the premise that standards are met.
—When to do it?
• Anything related to utilities (gas, power, water) must be addressed on a priority basis
• Loose fixtures must either be immediately fixed or the area be restricted till you can
— It’s done, now what?
• Continuous education on the rules for all members of the household is imperative.
• Who answers the door? (Adult family members, not children, where possible not even domestic help)
• What to do in various situations (fire, earthquakes, floods, etc.)
• Maintain an emergency list that has contact details of all of the following:
• All family members (mobiles, office phone, etc.)
• All domestic staff including emergency contact for them
• Family doctor
• Fire service
• Nearest police station
• Bank (for credit, debit cards)
• Educational institutes
• Work organisations
Personal safety is everyone’s responsibility, whether at home, while commuting or at the school or workplace. Your responsibility levels may differ but are never eliminated at any time. The home is the most difficult to police but, if not done, the loss is yours and only yours. Start today, it’s never too late and you will be surprised how easy it is to limit hazards. Happy Hunting.
Norbert Almeida is a security advisor.