Personal Security 101


“If you should, on some summer’s eve, catch a glimpse of shadow cast upon the dewy grass, impatient youth, don’t venture far from light and sound and home. For, if you wander in the night and pass the place where shadows hide the quiet ones…who with whispered laughter call your name; you might find the secrets that you seek and the dark souls that you fear.”

Daniel C. Chamberlain

If you get your hard news from metropolitan news papers or the local and nationally televised news outlets, you may have already come to the conclusion that the world you live in is no longer very safe.  Don’t be totally disheartened.  The truth is, the world never was safe, for you, your parents or their parents.  What has changed over the years, is the  “dynamic” of an individual’s personal risk and the constant media reminders of it.

Our lifestyles have changed so dramatically from those of our parents and grandparents, that what we emotionally accept as being a world outwardly dangerous to us, might actually be less so than in years past.  While that which we have emotionally accepted as being relatively safe, might actually pose a greater risk to us than we realize. My purpose is to help you recognize and adapt to that dynamic and realize how easily you might minimize the dangers as they relate to you as an individual or to your family.

After nearly a life-time spent in professional law enforcement, personal safety as well as industrial and personal security, I’ve sometimes found myself mildly befuddled when it came to instilling in my family members the same sense of security awareness that I’d accepted as being a routine part of my life’s work as well as in all aspects of my personal life.  As a husband and father, I took to the role of “protector” and, while I made numerous attempts to pass security awareness on to members of my family, I have to admit – for the most part I wasn’t hugely successful.  It wasn’t because the advice wasn’t sound, but rather, because they weren’t ready to accept the information from the standpoint that it appeared relevant to them at that particular point in each of their lives.  So, it remains my responsibility to make the decisions regarding safety and security for my family and my hope is that some of what I have taught and demonstrated will have rubbed off.

Sadly, for too many, it takes a wake-up call to get the average person to accept that safety and security is in their hands.  You may find yourself in a similar situation and are looking for guidance.  Perhaps you are out on your own for the first time, or have experienced a situation that called into focus your lack of preparedness to handle matters of personal safety and security.  Maybe you, like those in my family, have always had someone you trusted to make the decisions regarding personal safety and security and that “security blanket” is no longer available.

It’s difficult for those who have never experienced a bad situation, to accept that bad people are there in the shadows before them, behind them, or in the sunlight right beside them.  For those of us who have discovered that fact, the hard part then is getting other people close to us to accept what we’ve discovered; that we’re uneasy at times and we want to know why and we want to know what to do about it.  We say we are “uneasy” at times, when in truth we mean we are afraid. Have you heard the accepted aphorism “knowledge conquers fear?”  Well it doesn’t!  Fear will always find a crack in our armor.  Fear should be what tells us it’s time to act, not what prevents us from acting.  Knowledge allows us to act appropriately, despite our fears.

The truth is, most people simply don’t want to think about it.  It took me a while to realize that normal social human beings don’t want to look at life as being fraught with danger.  Life is generally an enjoyable pursuit.  Why muck it up with thoughts of unease and foreboding?  So, if we’re like most people, we teach our children the basics of survival from a very early age even though we know instinctively some of our instructions are lost to their innocent minds.  Yes, they can recite the mantra, “don’t talk to strangers,” but in their youth and lack of worldliness and experience, they don’t really understand why; cannot understand why and sadly they often become easily victimized because they simply don’t look at fellow human beings as threatening.  A part of life we find most enjoyable can be forever diminished if we’re forced to look at our fellow human contacts as potential threats.  Both children and adults find themselves victimized for exactly the same reasons.

I’ve found that beginning a discussion of this topic with people who might be seriously considering it for the very first time is a daunting task.  I’ll try not to bore you with a lot of personal anecdotes as you’re not reading this to get to know me as a person and that shouldn’t be my aim.  However, it may be necessary from time to time to resort to a personal anecdote to illustrate a point and to support my contention that in order to approach the subject of your personal safety and security awareness, you have to think and act a little bit like I do.

One thing life has taught me, when it comes to personal security, few people consider all the possibilities and fewer still are prepared for even a small number of them.  The aforementioned newspapers and media broadcasts tell us morbid tales every day.  This would be less the case if personal security was a subject most of us gave thought to.  News papers are not in the business to educate us on how to avoid being a victim.  They exist, rather to make sure the community knows that someone was victimized.  But as the tales of victimization and tragedy play out day after day, it becomes obvious if you consider the events carefully, that there are a finite number of scenarios we should really bother to concern ourselves with and focus on preparing a plan to deal with them.  This focus will greatly aid in our routine preparedness.

Often the greatest mistakes people make is to assume that they cannot prepare for every eventuality and therefore, they prepare for none.  Personal security is a subject that we are all instinctively prepared for, even if we’ve forgotten the lessons of our childhood…Don’t run with scissors! Wash your hands after using the restroom…particularly a public restroom! Look both ways before crossing the street!  Don’t talk to strangers! Finally, don’t put your tongue on a metal pole in the wintertime when the temperatures are below freezing! (I personally didn’t listen to that one but I swear it was my sister’s fault.  The good news is, I didn’t do it twice.)

Many people are blessed with parents who take seriously the “safety” education of their children.  There is a very blurred line between the subjects of safety and security.  Of course, children being children, most of them (or insert “us”) neglect many of those pertinent safety lessons, considering them unnecessary impediments to the overall enjoyment of life.  Thankfully, providence allows us to survive in great numbers and negative experience reinforces those lessons.  We all learn from the skinned knees and close calls.

Life, you see is full of risks.  We each must determine for ourselves which ones are acceptable and which ones are not, unless of course our jobs or other circumstances add to our risks and these circumstances appear to be beyond our control.  If we are blessed with an adequate amount of common sense, we strive to stay within the boundaries of our instinctive ability to identify those risks that we dare not take.  Again, we do so if life and circumstances allow us that luxury.  There are always going to be unknowns that will appear periodically to bite us on the behind.  How often they bite, and to what extent our behinds get gnawed on will ultimately depend on how prepared we are for the knowns, and how much that preparedness spills over collaterally to help us deal with the unknowns.

An example would be:  It’s a “known” part of life that women and children are accosted, kidnapped and murdered from public places in far greater numbers than adult males.  It’s an “unknown” part of life if the local mall we are visiting today has just such a predator laying in wait for an unprepared victim.  So, we can lock ourselves up and not visit the mall, or we can go shopping forearmed with the knowledge that we are not going to be on that predator’s shopping list because “WE” are different from the rest of society!  How are we different?  I’ll tell you as we go through this together.

The sad part for so many past and unfortunate future victims is that it takes so little effort – almost an unnoticeable amount really – to protect us from that unknown part of life.  The news media let us know every day that someone was not prepared.  We have to assume then that someone is lurking in the shadows near us and use that information as if it were a foregone conclusion.  You see, there’s more to being a “smart shopper” than looking for the “red-tag” specials.

So, what do we do?  Well, like the addict who first must admit they have a problem before they seek treatment, we must accept that our world not only is a dangerous place in general, but that it very well could become a tragically dangerous place to us in particular!  That’s the first step.  Believe me, that is actually the most difficult step for many, yet it’s the one that will yield the greatest opportunity for enhanced personal safety and security – even if a person takes no further action!

What follows is a bit of a road map to help you begin to recognize many of the daily risks you face that heretofore you have ignored or intellectually suppressed, and help you navigate the potential dangers like a ship’s captain in charted waters.  Have a little patience as we begin.  Before we can get to the main course, I want to devote some time to an overall philosophy I’ve developed about safety and security in general as it relates to us as individuals.

More to come.

If you like my writing style, you might check out my novel:  “The Long-Shooters.”



About danielchamberlain

Former Chief of Police. Former Special Agent, AFOSI (Retired). Former Director of Security of multi-national corporation. Currently, Registered Nurse. Father Husband Outdoorsman
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2 Responses to Personal Security 101

  1. Dan, this looks like a great thing you’re doing here. As one of those who “had someone you trusted to make the decisions regarding personal safety and security” and sadly lost him, I’ll be reading regularly. And thanks for the earlier info on long guns. I know a bit about pistols, but rifles and shotguns are out of my realm, so I’m always looking for brains to pick!

  2. Justine, thanks for visiting. This is actually a book I wrote on personal security that I never got around to publishing. So, I’m going to do it here on the blog, chapter by chapter. Thanks again.


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