'Tis the Season to be... Alert

With the holidays upon us, there is no better time to start implementing these safety measures.

It's never possible to completely eliminate the risk of violence, but being aware of your surroundings and choosing to shop at malls or stores that take security seriously are two important things you can do to help protect yourself and your family against violence while shopping this season.

Park in a well-lit area as close to your destination as possible.

Parking lots and structures are typically the most dangerous places at the mall or stores.

Leave your engine running until you are ready to exit the vehicle.

Check surroundings to make sure they look safe before you get out.

Hide or remove your valuables from plain view before leaving your car.

If you are shopping alone and feel uncomfortable walking to your car, ask mall security officers for an escort.
Consider valet parking during the holiday season when many malls offer free or reduced price valet parking.

Look for security cameras and try to park near them. Also, opt for walkways leading to malls and parking lots that have security cameras installed.

Choose to do your holiday shopping at malls that take security seriously. Shopping destinations with regular mall security patrols and visible surveillance cameras provide an added layer of security and a deterrent to criminals.

Avoid using restrooms that are tucked away in a back area of a mall or department store.

If you can, find a restroom near the mall's food court or other well-trafficked area, and always accompany your child.

Don't overload yourself with packages. Thieves are always on the lookout for people who might be distracted.

Keep track of your packages and try to stay off your cell phone.

Hold your purse close to your body or use a front pocket if carrying a wallet.

Always know where the closest exits are located.

In case of a fire or other emergency, make sure you can find the nearest exit and remember to avoid using elevators in an emergency.

Take extra care when returning to your car.

If you notice anyone suspicious in the parking area, you can use your keys as a weapon.

If needed, you can also use your car's alarm system by pushing the panic button on your alarm remote control or car horn to draw attention.

Before getting inside, check the front and back seats to make sure no one is hiding.

Lock your doors once you get inside the car.

Being extra vigilant this holiday season will help keep you from becoming a crime victim.

Always trust your instincts and report any and all suspicious activity to shopping mall or store security or your local law enforcement.

Reporting suspicious activity today will help keep your malls and stores safer.

About the Author

Patrick V. Fiel Sr. is a nationally known security expert who has been interviewed and quoted by numerous news outlets, televisions, newspapers, and radio stations reaching millions of viewers on school campus related issues. Patrick has over 40 years of experience managing law enforcement and security organizations. Patrick is retired from the United States Army Military Police Corps. He has three overseas tours (Belgium, Germany and Korea). He was selected for specials assignments with the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon; Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in Belgium and the United States Military Academy (West Point). Patrick has served on three national task forces: The 9/11 Interagency Domestic Preparedness in Washington, D.C.; The Security Design and Renovation Guidelines for Healthcare; and the Electronic Security Guidelines for Schools. Patrick is the founder of PVF Security Consulting and travels presenting briefings and presentations on security trends, shootings, funding, risk assessments, emergency/crisis preparedness, gangs, workplace violence and current security technology solutions.

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