This article in our Situational Awareness series will give you “tools” to keep yourself safe when you are in a parking lot or garage and is one of the top requested scenarios for us to blog about.
Whether you are on the road or just stopping by the store, imagine the following scenario:
You are walking to your car in a dark parking garage and you think you are all alone, but then a nice looking man in a suit appears “out of nowhere” and seems to be headed for you.
Before you know it, he’s at your side asking to help you with your bags.
What’s going through your mind right now?
Do you have a plan if this happened to you
later today or this week?
If you answered “no” to the last question, please take a few moments to keep reading. We’ll help you come up with a plan.
So let’s assess the situation and ask yourself questions to help you develop this skill in the parking garage scenario:
- A man suddenly appears out of nowhere. Where did he come from? *RED FLAG
- He seems to be headed for me. Why? *RED FLAG
- He wants to help me with my bags? Why would a stranger want to help me with my bags? *RED FLAG
Parking lots and garages are “fringe areas”, meaning that they are a higher risk for an assault or encounter by a predator so make sure you heighten your situational awareness skills and pay extra attention in these areas.
If you are difficult to surprise, you are difficult to harm.
What Can You Do TODAY?
- First of all, don’t go to sketchy stores that allow people to sleep overnight in their cars in the parking lot since this is an obvious area where many transients will be. An example: Walmart.
- Park closest to the store since video cameras will record you and criminals know this. There is a lot of foot traffic with others around as well. In a parking garage, park as close to the elevators as you can.
- Always keep your doors locked when driving and when you are parked until you are ready to get out. Many later model vehicles have this as a programmable option.
- Assess your environment before you exit the car and remind yourself to have situational awareness on your mind. Have your purse or belongings in your hand with keys ready to lock the door. Don’t be fumbling around in your car looking for things.
- Lock your door immediately after exiting your car and have your head up, scanning your environment. Question everything with “does that look normal?” Don’t walk to close to parked cars because this is a perfect spot for a predator to hide – distance is your friend.
- When walking back to your car look ahead and make sure no one is just hanging out by your car. If there is someone, go back into the store and get an escort to walk you to your car. Remember, when there is two or more people you are less of a target.
- Don’t be an easy target for a predator. The following examples are what predators look for:
- Someone looking friendly, timid, lost, absent-minded, distracted or intoxicated – thus more easily manipulated
- Someone wearing earphones or distracted with a phone – unaware of surroundings.
- Someone unaware he or she is being followed until he or she is isolated and face-to-face.
- Someone parking close to trucks or vans that prevent witnesses from seeing you – predators seek that kind of cover.
- Someone “handcuffed” by having both arms loaded with packages or a child
- Also, beware of Good Samaritans. Let’s be real here. No one has the time to hang out and just help people in parking lots
- ALWAYS keep scanning 360 degrees around you when loading your groceries or children in the car
- If a stranger is coming at you and at a distance where you feel threatened, put both hands out in front of you because it’s the universal sign for STOP and there’s no translation necessary. An appropriate response if they question you would be “I’m sorry sir, I can’t help you!”, even before they finish their question. It’s polite, strong, and responds to about every question they could ask you. Give your “command response” while creating distance from this person (remember, distance and time are your friends). Your response and body language to move signals that you are aware and you are a fighter. Remember, predators want a weak and easy target. Lastly, do not worry about offending the feelings of a stranger. After all, you were polite and closed the conversation at the same time
- Have your self defense “tools” ready and not at the bottom of your purse or pocket. Remember to practice with whatever “tool” you have and “own it”.
These are just a few tips that you can start using today. As the research shows and our feedback from all over the world is confirming, even if you survive a violent encounter, there are significant emotional scars that remain.
“Twenty-five years ago I was walking to my car in an underground parking garage when a man grabbed me from behind and put an ice pick to my throat. I was raped in the car, but I managed to escape afterwards. Thank you for making and sharing this video because you are teaching others basic safety skills so they don’t have to go through what I did. I was twenty-five years old, married and the mother of a two year old when this happened to me.”
It’s better to have the skills and not need them
than need the skills and not have them!
Consider your habits and actions. How do you respond to strangers? Are you too trusting or can you unleash your inner BADASS without fear of offending someone because your life depends on how you respond?
We would love to hear your thoughts, comments and suggestions using the comments section below. If you have ideas for other videos that you would like to see in any of our series, please let us know! You can also email comments and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beth is the founder of Pretty Loaded. On a mission to install strength, awareness, and confidence, Beth began her journey as an educator and National speaker after a close encounter with a would-be predator. She has trained thousands of people in person, and through her online training around the world. Her safety videos reach millions globally! Beth is an NRA Pistol Instructor and an NRA Personal Protection in the Home Instructor. She is responsible for starting National Situational Awareness Day and this was approved by the registrar of the National Day Calendar. Beth has been featured on Consumer Reports, Elite Readers, BuzzFeed, ViralNova, and many more networks. Beth loves spending her time reading, running, cooking, and painting. She is married and has four wonderful young girls, organic chickens, and lives on an organic produce farm and vineyard.