The ABCDEF Checklist for Personal Safety

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A few people have asked for some general advice about keeping safe in unsafe, uncertain times and places. The ABCDEF basics apply to everyone, are easy to remember, and easy to teach others. Please feel free to share this with others if you think it would be helpful to them.

The Checklist

  • Avoid being alone.
  • Be ready.
  • Check in frequently.
  • Don’t distract yourself.
  • Expect trouble.
  • Fight if you can’t flee.


Avoid being alone. Travel in packs because criminals are predators and opportunists, and a pack is harder to deal with than someone alone. This is especially true if you’re in an unfamiliar location.

Be ready:

  • When you leave work, home, or wherever you are, is your phone charged?
  • Do you have your keys in an easily accessible place, and have you practiced unlocking car, office, and house doors with one hand?
  • Have you practiced using the emergency call feature on your phone?
  • Are you wearing shoes and clothing that permit you to run at full speed if you need to?

Check in frequently. Do your friends or loved ones know where you are? Consider posting a little more frequently to the social network of your choice. Check in a little more often (especially when traveling!), just to let others know about you – and have your friends let you know about them. If someone goes quiet who normally isn’t, check in on them.

Don’t distract yourself. The person who has their face buried in their phone, earbuds in, or is obviously not paying the slightest bit of attention to the world around them is the easiest target. It seems like a common sense tip, but then, people have died recently walking off cliffs while playing Pokemon Go. Avoid distraction – be present!

Expect trouble. Paradoxically, this is the best way NOT to be paranoid:

  • When you walk somewhere, look for the places which would be a good place to hide, like stairwells or behind blind corners.
  • If you own, are licensed in, and have trained in the use of pepper spray or other defensive tools, practice walking and moving through life with them so that you’re accustomed to drawing and readying them quickly.
  • When you walk into a new place, immediately locate the exits.
  • In a restaurant? Know where the kitchen is – there’s always a door out through the kitchen.

Fight if you can’t flee. Your safest bet is generally to flee, to escape danger if you can. However, if you cannot, be prepared to protect yourself. Police response times nation-wide have increased, and in about a third of violent crimes and 3/4 of property crimes, police take anywhere from 11 minutes up to an hour to respond:


Source: US Bureau of Justice Statistics

These response times mean you can’t count on someone to save you. You are responsible for your own safety first. Commit to fighting your way out of any situation you can’t immediately escape – and escaping as soon as you can.

These are just a few basic things to keep in mind; If you’re concerned for your personal safety, take a self-protection class from a qualified instructor on an ongoing basis.

I strongly recommend my instructor, Mark Davis at the Boston Martial Arts Center, if you’re in or near the metro Boston area.

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