When emergencies occur, you don’t always have the time or opportunity to call 911 and wait for someone to come to your rescue. It pays to plan before an emergency occurs so that you know just what to do when one does. Here, Clint Emerson, a retired Navy SEAL who spent 20 years conducting special-ops missions, shares his strategies for surviving three terrifying emergencies…
Before there’s a problem: If you are in a high-crime area, leave at least one car length’s space between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of yours when you come to a stop at a red light or stop sign. This greatly improves the odds that you will have sufficient room to speed away in an emergency. While stopped in traffic, keep your car doors locked, windows up and transmission in drive (or in first gear if the car has a standard transmission). Monitor your side and rearview mirrors, and glance out the side windows. Drivers who focus only on the traffic light or who become distracted by their phones or radios at stops are more likely to be targeted by carjackers.
Also, pay close attention to your surroundings when in parking garages and when pulling up to drive-through ATMs—these are common carjacking locations. If you see anyone lurking, drive away and find a different parking place or ATM. After using an ATM, don’t stop to count your cash or put it in your wallet—drive away quickly.
During an emergency: The best response depends on how the carjacking occurs…
If you are walking in a parking area when someone demands your keys, locate an exit for an escape on foot and then toss the keys as far as you can in the direction opposite this exit to allow yourself time to run. What you hope will happen is that while you are making your escape, the criminal will go in the other direction to pick up your car keys and then simply will take your car. If there is no nearby exit, toss the keys and take cover behind a solid obstacle such as a concrete pillar. The carjacker will get your car, but removing yourself as a factor as best you can decreases the odds that you will be kidnapped or harmed.
If you are stopped at a stop sign or red light when you see someone approaching with a weapon, drive away even if this means going up on a sidewalk or running a red light (assuming that you can do so without causing an accident or running over a pedestrian).
If a carjacker gets into the passenger seat of your car while you are stopped, immediately jump out and run. If he shows a gun and orders you to drive, offer to surrender the vehicle. If this offer is rejected, speed up, then slam on the brakes and quickly get out and run, ideally toward nearby people or into a building.
If a carjacker sticks a gun or knife through your driver’s side window while you are stopped, offer to surrender the car. If the carjacker refuses and orders you to slide over to the passenger seat, raise your arms slowly as if in surrender and then suddenly use your raised arms to push the carjacker’s arm forward into your dashboard while simultaneously flooring the gas. The carjacker will not expect this, and his attention will immediately shift from stealing your car to not being hurt by your car.
Emergency: Home Invasion
Before there’s a problem: Identify escape routes from your home. These should not just lead out of your house but also off your property. The ideal route exits your home only a short distance from a tree line or a neighbor’s home that can shield you from view. Your escape route should conclude at a “rally point”—a predetermined place where family members can gather safely.
Keep your car keys, cell phone and flashlight near your bedside at night. These can come in handy (see below).
During an emergency: Resist the urge to turn on a light if you think someone has broken into your home at night. Light might make you feel safer, but turning on a light actually shows the home invader which room you are in. It also robs you of a tactical advantage—you know your home’s layout better than the home invader does, so you can navigate it in the dark better than he can.
Grab your cell phone, car keys and flashlight…gather other members of the household…and head for your escape route. Sometimes it is not possible for everyone to move together as a family, so everyone, including children, should know that escape is the priority. What you don’t want is your family waiting around while Mom or Dad confronts the intruder. If your car keys have a fob with a panic button, press this—the sound of your car alarm might scare off the home invader. Even if it doesn’t, the alarm may provide a distraction that buys you time to escape while also alerting your neighbors. If you have a home-security system with a panic button, press this, too. (You should have a wall keypad or remote alarm button in your bedroom.)
Dial 911 as you proceed along your escape route or when you reach a safe spot—do not halt your escape to make this call. Do not hide inside your home unless you see no way to escape and/or there is a secure safe room in the home. Running is better than hiding because people who hide usually are found.
Warning about guns: If you are proficient with a gun, use it. But if it sits in your nightstand and you never use it, you should run rather than pull your gun—the last thing you want is to shoot a round through a few walls and injure or kill a family member or have the gun used against you.
Emergency: Office Fire
Before there’s a problem: Learn the location of the primary and secondary fire escape routes from your office.
In your desk in a backpack or some other easily carried “bolt bag,” keep a flashlight, a bottle of water, a dust mask (douse the mask with the water to make a short-term smoke filter), a whistle (to alert others of your location) and chemical lights (sometimes called glow sticks).
During an emergency: Grab your bolt bag and your phone, and head for the closest emergency exit. If fire blocks your escape, try the secondary exit. Encourage other people to join you—bigger groups have more eyes, ears and brains to help them locate a way out. Use the glow sticks to mark your escape route to help other people follow you out…or help emergency services personnel find you if you cannot escape.
Flashlights Can Be Tactical Tools
A flashlight can do more than light your way during an emergency. You also can…
Shine a flashlight into a neighbor’s window or at passing cars to signal for help if, for example, you are pinned down inside your home.
Disorient a home invader by shining a flashlight in his/her eyes in a dark room. Then quickly turn the flashlight back off and run—the light burst should temporarily rob him of his ability to see in low light.
Use a flashlight as a club. This requires a big metal flashlight loaded with heavy D-cell batteries. It can be an effective weapon or can be used to break a window.