Updated: May 1, 2019

We tend to forget about our surroundings when we are in familiar places like work, so here are some helpful tips to remind you how to stay aware and safe.

When you are looking down at your phone, your attention is divided.

When distractions occur, your personal safety can be at risk. Think about how many times you have looked at your cell phone – either texting, checking social media, or even looking up directions as you were walking to your destination.

You may not be aware of a person following you, the curb you are about to trip over, or someone riding a bike whom is also distracted and headed right toward you. If you think this is an over exaggeration, check out this clip of people getting into accidents that could have been avoided simply by paying attention to their surroundings:

By putting your cell phone away while walking you will be able to devote all of your attention to your surroundings and be more aware of what is happening around you so you can be prepared to defend yourself or avoid injury.

Not only do you need your eyes to be aware of your surroundings, your sense of hearing also plays an important role.

Using headphones can also be a common cause of distraction. It seems everywhere you look people have headphones in, listening to music, podcasts or having a phone conversation. While putting away your headphones entirely is the best way to ensure your hearing is 100% uncompromised, I know it can be too much to ask for a lot of people (myself included! – I can't imagine running without listening to my music).

So what should you do?

Turning down the volume so you can still hear what is going on around you is a good first step. Also, having just one earbud in will also increase your ability to hear what is going on in the world around you. In those situations where you are in an isolated, unknown area at night, it is probably best to do without the earbuds and pay full attention to your surroundings.

Stay aware at night.

At night, park in well-lit areas and walk with a buddy to your car. Walk confidently and without distractions (no cell phone use, don't look in a bag for keys). Be observant of your surroundings. Be aware of strangers sitting in parked cars or blocking your path. Listen to your sixth sense; if something doesn't feel right, walk the other way and find help. Look in the backseat of your car before getting in. Once inside, immediately lock the car door and don't dawdle once inside.

What should you do if you are being followed?

If you are being followed while driving, do not go home. Drive to the closest police station. If you think you are being followed while walking, cross to the other side of the street and head for a populated location. If the attacker approaches, yell, "Stop! Don't come any closer!" If the assailant doesn't listed and starts to attack you, make a scene. Yelling something like, "Fire!" might bring you more help than just yelling, "Help!"

If you are being attacked, there is no such thing as fighting dirty.

Aim for sensitive areas such as the eyes, ears, nose and groin. If you can use your keys, bag or anything else you can find as a makeshift weapon. Do everything you can to avoid being taken to a second location. Once you are able to break free, run away, find help and call the police.

© 2020 Berry Center, Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District