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REALTORS®: Be aware of danger and survive

posted Mar 16, 2018, 1:53 PM by Joyce Evans   [ updated Mar 16, 2018, 1:56 PM ]
By Lt. Al Owens (retired 
Escondido Police Department)

REALTORS® can find themselves in personal danger every day, and, unfortunately, many don’t even know it. Typical everyday activities, such as meeting new clients, showing properties, hosting open houses, driving strangers in your car and even your business cards, may be jeopardizing your personal safety. People are in danger, primarily, because they’re not sure about how to deal with unknown situations. In today’s violent culture, real estate professionals are at risk at so many points, ranging from sexual assault, stalking by predators, robbery, and bodily injury.

As a former U.S. Marine with more than 20 years of experience in law enforcement, I’ve taught safety awareness, self-defense, and survival tactics to more than 4,000 people throughout my career. Many of my students have been REALTORS®. Here are a few potentially dangerous situations that REALTORS® can face on a daily basis.
  • Entering foreclosed or vacant homes by yourself can pose a risk because you might find unexpected house guests, including squatters or even former homeowners who refuse to leave. Before you leave to visit an abandoned property, tell coworkers where you are going, or take a buddy with you. Before you enter the property, walk around the perimeter and look for open doors and shattered windows. If you suspect someone is in the property, call the police. Don’t confront a squatter or trespasser. And never go at night.
  • Meeting a new client for the first time can put your safety at risk because the person could potentially be a criminal, stalker, thief or worse. An initial, first meeting should be at a public location, perhaps a coffee shop or your broker’s office. Have all prospects fill out a questionnaire that includes spaces for personal identification, contact information, and employer information. Tell them that it’s company policy to make a photocopy of their driver’s license.
  • Showing a property alone can be risky. You still should consider bringing along a coworker or, at least, let others know where you are and tell the client that people know where you are. If you sense a feeling of being uncomfortable for any reason, tell the person that your “cell phone just went off and I have to call the office” or “another agent with buyers is on their way.” Trust your first gut instincts; if you are feeling in your heart and soul that something is wrong, it usually is. Also, don’t go into confined places. Let the potential buyers lead with you walking behind.
  • Open houses can be an invitation for anyone to walk through the front door, which could include robbers and assailants. Stow away your valuables. Never leave your purse, laptop or wallet on a kitchen counter in plain view. But, keep your cell phone nearby so you can call for help. Thieves often will work as a team and distract an agent while their partners steal valuables during the open house.
  • In the event of an active shooter, here’s how you can survive. Always have a plan for escape. Mentally prepare and know this may be the toughest event you will ever face. Run and escape if you can. Remember the rules of hide-and-seek cover and concealment (cover can stop bullets and concealment can hide you.) Lock and barricade the door if you can’t escape. Stay out of the line of fire. Also, stay quiet (mute cell phones) and plan for an attack if a subject enters. Fighting is a last resort. But, if you have to fight then commit with all your energy by using improvised weapons, swarm techniques or take down the attacker. Key chains and writing pens can work as improvised weapons. You can also use your own body as a weapon, including your knees, palms, and elbows to strike vulnerable parts of the body, such as eyes and the groin. Don’t let the bad guy win.
With the right safety training, you can become more self-confident and aware of danger clues and your level of risk when in unfamiliar situations and neighborhoods.

Lt. Owens, retired from the Escondido Police Department, will host “Safety Awareness and Self Defense for REALTORS®,” a class from 9:30 a.m. to 12 noon, Wednesday, March 21, at the North San Diego County Association of REALTORS®’ (NSDCAR) Escondido Service Center, 1802 S. Escondido Blvd., Escondido. Admission is free for NSDCAR and PSAR members. Topics will include danger clues, situational awareness and how to analyze neighborhoods, as well as tools for self-defense and safety techniques. The class is approved to apply towards Risk Mitigation Specialist (RMS) certification. To RSVP and for more information, visit www.nsdcar.com/education, or call (760) 734-3971.