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How to create an actionable safety plan for 2014

I've been in the safety/security business since 1995.I teach safety/security classes,educate about products,am a regular TV contributor.I write for a 1 million member trade group.

January is National Personal Self-Defense Awareness Month, so take control of your own safety with a safety plan.

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Create and maintain an emergency contact list

This is your emergency contact list. If something were to happen to you, this list contains the key people who should be notified. It should be kept where it can be found, such as in your wallet and/or in a visible place in your home. Having a close friend or neighbor informed of its location is ideal.

You should also employ the electronic version: the ICE (In Case of Emergency) cellphone safety contact plan. Go to your cellphone's "Contact" list and add up to three key people to be notified in an emergency situation or if you are incapacitated. Make sure that the acronym ICE precedes each contact's name, and make sure to include both a name and a title for each contact (for example, "ICE, Ola, Mother"). First responders are trained to grab your phone and access the Contact page. Remember to inform your ICE contacts that you listed them.

Someone needs to know where you are at all times

As Big Brother-ish as it sounds, there should never be a time when you are wandering free and no one has a clue where you are and when you are expected back. As an example for those who don't see the need to check in regularly, imagine that your car goes off the side of the road, you are unable to get out and you cannot get cellphone reception. Will anyone miss you and come looking for you? Nope. They have no idea where you are and when you are expected. How simple would it be to send a text to a friend or family member alerting them of your plans and ETA? That way, if no one hears from you for a while, they can establish a timeline and retrace your route. Time is of the essence in emergencies. By the way, for us forgetful tech lovers, there are a slew of technological devices that perform the check-in and location notification automatically.

Play the "What if?" game

Not only do I recommend playing this safety game with your kids, but it should be on your list of to-do safety practices, as well. It is hard to think clearly when you are in a dangerous situation, so instead of waiting for something to happen and then trying to decide what to do, prepare for potentially dangerous situations in advance.

My goal as a safety educator is not to scare you or cause you to live in fear but to make sure you are prepared. Always think about what you would do in any given situation if it got dangerous. For example, when leaving the grocery store, ask yourself, "What if someone follows me to the car? What would I do?" When pulling into your garage, ask yourself, "What if someone ran into my garage before I got it closed? What would I do?" The point of the "game" is to be prepared for any given dangerous situation. Always having a backup plan gives you the power to trust that you can handle any situation and not be caught off guard and helpless. After a while, it becomes a habit that you are mentally prepared for whatever could go wrong.

Properly arm and educate yourself

I open every single safety speech with the fact that our bodies are our greatest weapons. Our gut instincts, intuition, sixth sense or whatever you choose to call it is designed to alert us to dangers we don't even know exist. If we utilize this weapon, we can avoid being victimized. However, many still want the extra security of an actual weapon as a backup plan. I focus on nonlethal choices.

If you choose to use a self-defense spray, know what to look for. Know the difference between Mace, pepper spray and tear gas. Mace is a brand name, and Mace Security International is the company that originated the self-defense spray industry. That explains why its name is used interchangeably with self-defense sprays. Tear gas is a pain inducer and not very effective on those under the influence. Pepper spray is a natural product and is used by law-enforcement officials. Pepper spray is oleoresin capsicum, referred to as OC. It is a natural product made from cayenne pepper, which most of us have in our kitchens! Nothing is 100 percent effective, but pepper spray is what law-enforcement officials trust their lives to.

Even though pepper spray is a natural product, you must check the laws regarding carrying and using it. A call to your local police department's crime-prevention office will do the trick. Then you must know when to use it, how to use it and what it will do once sprayed. Bottom line: Aim the spray at the face and head area of the would-be perpetrator. The spray will cause the eyes to burn, water and slam shut. It swells the mucous membranes, causing coughing. The effects last 30-40 minutes, so you'll have time to get away!

The key to the usefulness any weapon is accessibility — you need to have it handy and ready to use. You must be alert so that it cannot be taken from you before you can use it, and you must practice using it.

Personal alarms are great for kids, preteens and those who are not comfortable with pepper spray. They make a lot of noise and get attention. Criminals are cowards and do not want attention.

Realize that you can protect yourself by following simple steps and paying attention to your surroundings. Feel free to share your favorite safety tip.

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