Homestead Survival

We were honored to have Erin’s article “7 Self-Defense Tips for Women” published on Homestead Survival. It’s a really great blog that encourages self-reliance and country living.

Here’s the article.


Packing Your Bags? Read Here Before You Jet Set…

So it’s that time of year. If they’re not already, exams will soon be only a bad memory. Class – that two or three times-weekly appointment you usually skip – will be a cramp in your schedule no more. It’s time to throw a dart at the map, make a quick stop at and hit the open road (or skies!). Summer vacation, prepare to be executed in style.

But before you throw caution to the wind, it would serve you well to brush up on those travel safety tips you probably heard ad nauseam a couple of months ago, just before spring break. I’m sure you all are safe vacation experts by now, but indulge me in reviewing with you one more time the best ways to not be robbed, abducted or just generally hassled during the course of your summer gallivanting.

1. If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: buckle that seat belt!

2. If you’re staying in a hotel, keep the door locked and dead-bolted at all times, and (if you’ve got one) use the safe for your valuables. Better SAFE than sorry? Ha! Get it? OK. Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system…

3. Try not to use an ATM alone or after dark, and always be completely aware of the surroundings. If something feels wrong, or someone is creepin’ you out, find another ATM. Or better yet, just borrow cash from one of your buddies!

4. If you drink, do it responsibly. I don’t need to belabor this point. The drunker you are, the more vulnerable you are, so keep it together. If you do get too drunk, make sure you’re with friends who will have your back until you’re safely passed out in your own bed.

5. On that note…stay with your friends when you’re out! You don’t have to be all up in each others’ space, but at least know where your buds are and check in every once in a while. Most bad things happen at clubs when girls get separated from their pack, either by accident or voluntarily. Don’t be the loner.

6. And finally, the mother of all travel safety advice, TRUST YOUR INTUITION! In every situation, at all times, let your intuition guide you. If you get a bad feeling about a bar, a person, a hotel, a cab driver, ANYTHING, go with that feeling. Even if it doesn’t seem logical, it’s there to protect you. Listen.

Alright, if you keep these six rules in your back pocket, you’re bound to have an enjoyable and safe summer vacation. Unless your flight is delayed. And unfortunately, I don’t have any rules to prevent that. But here’s hoping!

Online Privacy? Not as Much as You Might Think.

Your name is not on your Twitter account. Your Facebook profile is set to private. And you would never, ever give out your social security number online. You’re safely anonymous online, right? Not so much.

I read an article today in the New York Times about increasing concerns over online privacy – how people compromise it, whether it exists at all. For the safety-savvy woman, the Internet presents a host of challenges that cannot afford to be breezed over.

The article contended that researchers were able to piece together individuals’ identities – sometimes down to their social security numbers – based on information gathered from their often-anonymous social profiles and those of their cyberfriends. To be more specific, by examining statistical correlations, scientists were able to identify 30 percent of Twitter and Flickr users and accurately predict the social security numbers of an estimated 8.5 percent of people born in the U.S. between 1989 and 2003.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Now let’s put this in perspective. Am I advocating that you remove all trace of yourself from the Internet to protect your privacy and your safety? No. You couldn’t do that if you wanted to. What I am saying is that as technology evolves, we inevitably become more vulnerable. Rather than blame technology or blame the scientists or blame our loud-mouth friends, we need to step up our own game and take what steps we can to stay safe online.

Someone who scours your profile and your friends’ profiles may be able to piece together information about your life, but that certainly doesn’t mean that we should just lay it all out there. What we’re trying to do here is be a “bad victim” or a “hard target” online. If a criminal is going to stalk someone or steal someone’s identity, chances are, they’re going after the easy prey. Most criminals aren’t trying to make life hard for themselves! So if you are discriminating about what you post, and you pay attention to where you show up on other people’s profiles, you will make the would-be cyberattacker’s life just that much harder. Chances are, when they realize they can’t find much information on you, they’ll move on to an easier victim.

I’m talking about things like posting online where you work, what time you leave at night, where you live, whether you’re alone. What kinds of pictures of you can people find online? When you’re considering posting a tidbit of information or a photo to your Facebook page or your Twitter account, stop and ask yourself three questions:

1. Would I want my mom to see this?
2. Would I want my boss to see this?
3. Would I want a serial killer to see this?

Because, like it or not, all of those people are looking. When it comes to protecting your privacy online, follow one simple rule: Avoid TMI (too much information).

I’m not saying you shouldn’t “play” online. But I am saying that you can’t hide behind anonymity when you do. You should always act like you’re being watched because, well, you are. As Cornell computer science professor Jon Kleinberg told the New York Times,

“When you’re doing stuff online, you should behave as if you’re doing it in public — because increasingly, it is.”

Just a hunch? Maybe not…

A piece in the New York Times this week, third in a series of stories about the research of “Brain Power,” sheds interesting light on the existence and importance of human intuition.

The concept of a hunch, or a gut feeling, is explored as it relates to soldiers’ abilities to detect hidden explosives in war zones. Woven through the research is the story of Sgt. First Class Edward Tierney, who impulsively ordered his patrol of nine men to fall back from a car holding two small boys parked unassumingly on a sidewalk in Iraq. Seconds later, the car exploded.

The story concludes:

“Since then, Sergeant Tierney has often run back the tape in his head, looking for the detail that tipped him off. Maybe it was the angle of the car, or the location; maybe the absence of an attack, the sleepiness in the market: perhaps the sum of all of the above.

‘I can’t point to one thing,’ he said. ‘I just had that feeling you have when you walk out of the house and know you forgot something — you got your keys, it’s not that — and need a few moments to figure out what it is.’

He added, ‘I feel very fortunate none of my men were killed or badly wounded.'”

The article delves into the science behind this phenomenon of intuition, explaining that the humans are often subconsciously aware of details that accompany danger, and they feel a sense of urgency even before the brain has time to process those details.

‘”Not long ago people thought of emotions as old stuff, as just feelings — feelings that had little to do with rational decision making, or that got in the way of it,’ said Dr. Antonio Damasio, director of the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California. ‘Now that position has reversed. We understand emotions as practical action programs that work to solve a problem, often before we’re conscious of it. These processes are at work continually, in pilots, leaders of expeditions, parents, all of us.’ …

As the brain tallies cues, big and small, consciously and not, it may send out an alarm before a person fully understands why.”

The importance of listening to intuition – whether you are on bomb patrol in Mosul or meeting a new “friend” at a party – cannot be underestimated. One of the leading books on this subject is called “The Gift of Fear,” by safety expert Gavin de Becker. GDB describes intuition as knowing something, without knowing why. The book goes on to explain that two facts about intuition are always true:

1. Intuition is always based on something, even if you can’t consciously see a reason to be wary.
2. Intuition will always lead you to a safer place, never into danger.

Trusting our intuition is one of the greatest tools we have as humans to guard our own personal safety. But going through life ever vigilant and prepared to listen to our survival signals does not mean that we live in constant fear. On the contrary, because we know our intuition will warn us of danger, just like Sergeant Tierney’s intuition warned him of an imminent explosion, we feel at peace, unthreatened, comfortable in our own skin.

This confidence we gain by acknowledging and trusting our intuition, in fact, allows that very intuition to function more effectively. Consider this statement in the New York Times piece:

“In war, anxiety can run as high as the Iraqi heat, and neuroscientists say that the most perceptive, observant brain on earth will not pick up subtle clues if it is overwhelmed by stress.

In the Army study of I.E.D. detection, researchers found that troops who were good at spotting bombs in simulations tended to think of themselves as predators, not prey. That frame of mind by itself may work to reduce anxiety, experts say.”

Thus, our intuition makes us feel more confident and secure, and that very confidence allows our intuition to function at a heightened level, keeping us even safer, making us feel even more confident, and the upward spiral continues.

The moral of the story is:

1. Intuition is one of your most powerful safety resources.
2. What appears to be just a “hunch” is likely a signal that your brain has not even processed – listen to it!
3. Trusting your intuition will raise your confidence, allowing your intuition to thrive, keeping you safer, and so on.

Next time you know something without knowing why, trust your instinct. Your brain knows more than you realize!

Should I live here?

With the summer months comes the season of moving. For those of us who are fortunate enough to rent an apartment, the eventual time comes when our lease expires, rents are hiked and we have to look for a new abode. Knowing this, I started looking for apartments months in advance to try and get a good idea of what buildings were available and what safety measures are taken to ensure my safety as a tenant. The findings diverse, I wanted to take just a moment to write down some safety ideas in contrast to the unsafe things that I saw on the apartment trail.

Mail boxes and apartment signage: Not many people really think about the information that is posted on their mail box or intercom system, as we want to get the correct mail and have friends access our apartment easily. The problem comes however, when people we don’t know or “scary bad guys” get a hold of the same information. Instead of writing your full name on your mailbox and intercom, consider putting only your initials. Your friends already know your name and if they are privileged, you will have given them your address information prior to their visit. Same goes for your mail or delivery person, who will have your address in advance.

Invitation only: During visits to potential apartments, I walked into several complexes by way of people opening the door for me without question or doors being propped. I even called random apartment codes addressing myself as a delivery person and don’t you know, they buzzed me up. Scary! Communities and individuals need to take responsibility for their own safety as well as their neighbors. A word of caution that propping doors is a big no-no. It only takes a moment for someone to gain access to your building and front door when you prop your doors. Think smart! No invitation, no access.

Peep holes: Should you be fortunate enough to find your next awesome apartment, check to see if your door has a peep hole. If it doesn’t, ask your manager about installing one. S/he should be more than happy to assist you with this, but should they decline ask if you can install one yourself. Peep holes are super simple to install and are a cost effective way to add an extra security measure to your home.

Lighting and overgrown foliage: I went to a few apartments at night, for the sole purpose of seeing what the complex and area was like at night. At several of these locations, I saw things that I would have missed during the day, one of which was lighting of common areas. I brought the lack of lighting to the attention of the managers, who quickly replaced the bulbs and instantly made the space safer visually. Be sure to report lack of lighting and even overgrown shrubbery on site to a manager, so that they can remedy the situation.

Locks: In addition to the common sense that doors should always be locked (I’ll save you my rant on that one…) be sure to check to see if the locks on your new potential apartment are new. Many managers do not change the locks with each new tenant, which is simply not cool. Despite the fact that some keys are marked with a lovely “Do not duplicate” engraving on them, this is no deterrent for  key cutters to make extra copies for you. (Yes, I have tested this theory) That said, we can never know how many previous tenants and extra copies of your apartment locks are floating around. Let Managers know that new keys are a must for all apartments. If their response to your comments or suggestions goes unnoticed, pay attention and trust your instinct about whether this is somewhere that you want to live.

Apartment ratings: Go online and search ratings for the apartments that you are interested in. Speak with current tenants on-site (away from the Manager) and casually ask them questions about their time there. You will find some surprising comments that may convince you to rent or look elsewhere. Factor in that some people are just never happy with apartment managers and often take out their frustrations online as a form of retaliaiton. Do pay attention to the numbers and feel free to use this tool as a guide to help you find the right place for you.

Finally, trust your intuition! Pay attention to how you feel as opposed to how your roomate reacts or Manager speaks about the building and apartment. Ultimately, you will be the one signing the lease and living there, so trust your gut and listen to yourself. You are your own best protector….

Good luck and happy house hunting!

Be a Bad Victim . . . And Look Good Doing It!

Very recently, I took one of my favorite people to a krav maga class to put her on the path to becoming her own best protector and to show her fighting is not about strength or size (she’s “fun sized” like me), it’s about spirit and will. Well, she loved the groundfighting portion of the class and is figuring out a plan on how to fit more classes into her life and budget. Mission accomplished!

However, we were driving back from the martial studios and she asked me a very common question: How do I keep bad guys away from me? I started talking to her about being a bad victim/hard target, especially on the street when she popped in a surprising question. She asked me, “What do mean bad victim . . . like wearing pants?” Now keep in mind my friend is a strong, educated, and successful woman. However, she also proved that there are still unfounded stereotypes about how women should act in the world if they want to avoid attackers. For example, if you don’t want to be attacked, don’t do the following: wear a skirt, wear a dress (especially if it’s short), wear high heels, or go out by yourself at night. I think it’s time we put these ideas and stereotypes to rest because they’re not accurate, they’re not empowering, and they’re not even practical. I do not know one woman who never has to walk to car by herself or occasionally dress up her style with an adorable dress or skirt. And you know what? We have every right to do both of those things. That’s right, it’s your right to walk around by yourself and look fabulous doing it!

My friend and I kept talking about what it really means to be a bad victim on the street and I did my best to explain to her that it’s really not about what you wear. It’s how you carry yourself. Carry yourself with confidence, use strong body language and make a choice to be aware of what is around you and you are being a bad victim, even if you are wearing a skirt while walking to your car by yourself at night. I encourage all women to be a bad victim but I also encourage doing it with style!