Saturday, January 7, 2012

On Family Operational Security

Papers with itinerary can easily be placed on a mud room extra refrigerator, or at any location your family prefers.

If you have a smaller family than mine, you could also use a white board.  Family members could make quick notations.

 DEBBIE, School 9-3, band practice, 3-4, home by 5.    KENT,  School 8-2, Interview at SBS at 3. Wal-Mart at 4, Home by 6. Party at 7 at 2362, Old Bur Oak Lane. Home by 10.

From the time our kids were small our family always had certain rules aimed at enhancing their safety. The first one was our use of a code word. If our large family was ever at a gathering, and any one of us witnessed something which we believed was unsafe or would become dangerous, they were to recite that word quietly to each family member. The innocuous code word was our code for returning to the car and leaving the area at once. Anyone, adult or child, could use this word, and then once we had left the area and were safe, the person who had "called the code word" would explain what they had seen, and the decision would be made as to whether we needed to call police. Interestingly, this was never abused, and has been used in our family three times. Once, one of our children saw a man at a gathering with a hidden gun, and he seemed like a scary guy, and so we retreated, until after police came. (He had intent to rob people at the gathering). A second time, I called one, when I noticed at a large urban gathering, a large number of plainclothes police there, which made me believe something was up there. A third time, I was visiting my kids at their university in Richmond, and my eldest son saw someone with a knife and suspected an impending robbery. His use of the code word caused everyone to scatter (including his friends whom he had taught the word to at the beginning of the semester), leaving the robber with the knife completely confounded. Your word should be an easily remembered one, but a fairly uncommon one so that your intent to family members or close friends is clear. It should not be a word which frightens other people who hear it. The intent is to safely extract your own family without panicking people or wasting valuable evacuation time trying to explain, and then evaluate whether a call needs to be made to police.
We also would never have sent anyone to pick up our children anywhere without a different code word. Our children were instructed never to go anywhere with anyone without that word.  No matter where you are, the world can be a dangerous place. Rather than teaching our children to be terrified of all of it, we need to start when they are young to incorporate some family operational security rules. This way, safety is a part of living, and not an encumbrance. First of all, you must explain to your children that safety has nothing to do with your trust for them. I trust all of my children completely, but I may not trust the rest of the world, and I may not always completely trust their friends or their friend's parents and I certainly didn't trust all of their teachers. We therefore have certain procedures aimed at enhancing safety.
First, no one, including the adults in our home, go anywhere without a "flight plan". This is a quickly scrawled note as to where you will be and when. We place ours on our tall freezer with a magnet. Those who have not completed university, also file their college schedule with me each semester, in the event that an emergency triggered our needing to reach them or pick them up. With many people in a family, it's easy to forget who said what, on a given morning, or to confuse a day in which they will be late for some reason. If the "flight plan" changes for some reason, or they are delayed, they must text or call to let someone at the house know. I follow the same rules in this regard as our kids, because I am likely in as much danger in the world, as they are. Additionally, your children will follow notification rules, if you do. If we are away overnight, we have a protocol whereby we test at agreed upon intervals. This way, if something is wrong somewhere, we know pretty quickly, and we know exactly where they were last. This level of communication is essential if you and your family needed to evacuate an area in an emergency. My mother would have considered this to be "running your family a lot like a spy network" but it isn't. It's a logical adaptation to a busy and dangerous world.
While my kids were at university, one female student was murdered by someone she met there.The student's name was Taylor Biel. A friend of my son's, another sculpture student, was robbed and murdered. His name was Tyler Binstead.    Before two of our kids graduated, a foreign exchange student named Jonny Dorey went missing. He has never been located.   Lauren Spierer from another university remains missing. Now, a student named Ian Burnet has disappeared on a trip from VCU to New York City.  Many other disappearances of young adults and children have occurred at universities and other locations within the US. We need to formulate some rules in order to maximize safety.  First, most campuses do not allow students or even parents to carry weapons, even if we already hold concealed weapons permits, so this is often not an alternative. Secondly, realize that people who have had a few drinks are much more easily raped, robbed or abducted than those who have not. If you wish to drink, and you are of legal age, drink at home. Realize that everyone is not your friend. Date rape was a big issue even in my youth, and it may be a larger issue now. Date people you know something about, not just someone attractive you met while getting pizza. Be alert. Lives have been saved by waiters who saw a man put something in his date's drink. I remember one such case where the waiter called police. . Human trafficking is a real phenomenon. Be alert to the possibility when you notice that you are being watched, or someone seems to be following you. Let someone else explain to police why they were following you.
Lastly, FBI agents tell us that if someone tries to abduct you, you should fight with everything you have, then and there. Even if you are injured in your attempt to remain free, your abductor will think again, and he may run. Once you are abducted, the abductor controls the environment and you are unlikely to find an escape point later. This taste of the rules my family follows might be right for you, or you may need more check ins than I have described, or fewer of them. The fact is, that everyone, in the light of terrorism, child sex offenders, rapists, home invaders, drug users looking for quick cash, or human traffickers, need to have family operational security rules. Remember that there is no "safe neighborhood". Anything can happen anywhere and at anytime. Calmly prepare for this, and then you can meet the challenges of your life and actually enjoy your life with provisions for security for those you love and for yourself.

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