Make a conscious effort to get an accurate description of your attacker(s). Even the smallest details may give authorities a clue to finding the suspect. The authors of A Woman’s Guide to Personal Safety
say that you should tell authorities everything that occurred and what was said during the incident, including the things that may seem unimportant.2. Know Who Your Are Dealing With (download the poster)
When you have new clients
- Meet them in the office
- Verify his/her identity
- Get their car make and license number
- Photocopy their driver’s license
- Complete the Client I.D. FormAsk prospects to stop by your office
Don't show a property based on a phone call alone. Always require that the prospect first come to your office. Complete the personal identification form
before going to a property. This should be openly obtained, preferably in the presence of an associate.Verify their identity
This may entail calling references, his/her place of employment and verifying his/her current address. Information should be retained at your office; knowing that a name and address are known may discourage an assailant.Get their car make and license number
It’s easy to do, and it will assist police in catching a criminal or finding you if you are abducted. If the car is stolen, your prospect will be reluctant to give you a license number. Introduce the prospect to someone in your office
A would-be assailant does not like to be noticed or receive exposure knowing a person could pick him out of a police lineup.Photocopy or scan their driver's license
Legitimate clients do not mind you copying their driver’s license. We freely show our license to the clerk at the grocery store when we write a check and we show our i.d. to rent a movie. We can expect
identification from our client before we show a home worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The bottom-line -- don't be afraid of turning off a customer. If they are serious, they will respect your request.3. Tell Someone (download the poster)
- Who you are with
- Where you are going
- When you will be back
Make sure you tell someone at the office which properties you will be visiting (including, if possible, the order in which properties will be shown), who you are going with, and when you will be back. Whenever possible, make sure the client knows you have shared this information with someone. You are less likely to be attacked if the criminal knows you will be missed and he/she can be identified.
Using the office itinerary form
is a great way to communicate with the office staff. If your client is with you as you leave the office, make a show of sharing this information with someone.
If something does happen to you, the information found on your itinerary form will assist police in finding you. Victims of crimes can be missing for days before co-workers begin to worry, unless we tell them when to expect us back.
If you work alone, consider telling your “buddy”, a family member or your answering service when to expect you back. Even leaving behind a note on your desk could help the authorities find you in an emergency situation.4. Let Them Lead the Way (download the poster)
- Plan your escape routes in advance
- Leave doors open
- Avoid attics and basements
- Walk behind your clients
When you show a house by yourself, pay close attention to your instincts. Do not lead the way, instead stay between the prospective buyers and a door/exit. It is too easy to be cornered or trapped in a room, the basement, or attic. Allow your client to go ahead of you into each room, especially the basement and other more restricted areas of the home. You can comment on each room from the safety of the door, from where you can flee more easily if you get a bad feeling about the situation.
Before you show a house, be sure to identify exits and plan your escape routes in advance. Leave all doors open and know whether there is more than one way out of the basement.5. Car Safety (download the poster)
- Always have your keys with you
- Park in a well lit area
- Don’t get blocked in
- Beware of dead-end streets
- Keep your car in good running condition
- Consider using separate cars
You spend a lot of time in your car. This, in itself, exposes you to a greater likelihood of running out of gas, a mechanical failure or an accident. Make sure you have a fully-charged cell phone, tools, blankets, flares, first aid kit and warm clothes in the trunk of your car.
For driving safety, purchase a hands-free phone kit for your car.
Whenever possible, take separate cars. As you park your car, take in your surroundings and ask yourself: In an emergency, am I going to be able to run to my car and drive away? You won’t be able to if you are blocked in. Park on the street whenever possible. Consider a keyless entry system for your next car. Make sure all doors are locked when you are driving. Secure valuables out of sight.If you must take one car, YOU DRIVE!
6. Keep a Cell Phone (download the poster)
Program your emergency numbers into speed dial. These numbers should include 911, emergency road service, your office, your buddy and your family numbers.Keep your cell phone fully charged.
Carry your cell phone with you at all times, clip it on and make it part of your apparel. If you keep your cell phone in a purse or briefcase, it may not be available when you need it most.Try and call the office once an hour to let people know where you are.
Create and share a distress signal with people in the office. See section 10 for more information regarding distress signals.
If you have an emergency situation and call 911, stay on the line, do not hang up.
Visualize emergency situations. Rehearse in your own mind how you would react to a mugging or physical attack. Know when you will fight back, when you will run and when you will have an opportunity to call 911 for assistance.Your phone can be your best friend in a bad situation.
7. Open House Safety Tips (download the poster)
- Don’t advertise a listing as vacant
- Establish escape routes from each level of the house
- Call the office or a buddy hourly
- Keep your keys and cell phone with you
- Park where you can get out quickly
Make a conscious effort to have another associate from your office accompany you during an open house. If a colleague or personal assistant is not available, invite along a friend or family member. Arrive early and survey exits to establish escape routes from each level. Make sure all deadbolt locks are unlocked to facilitate a faster escape. Double check the backyard to make sure you can get past the fence if necessary. When leaving the property, secure the house and check all windows and doors.Avoid attics, basements and getting trapped in small rooms; let them lead the way into rooms.
Notify neighbors in advance or, if time permits, introduce yourself to the neighbors and let them know when you will be showing a house. They will be more alert to unusual sounds and you will have somewhere to run to if you need help.
Remind sellers to put valuables in a safe, secure place. Do not leave your briefcase, purse or laptop sitting on a counter.Be aware of suspicious behavior and your surroundings.
Place one of your business cards, with the date and time on the back, and place it in a kitchen cupboard. When prospects begin arriving at the open house, jot down their car description, license number and a physical description of each person. This will assist you in remembering names as well.8. Danger Is Not Always Easy To See (download the poster)
- Gut feelings
- Unexplained fear
- ApprehensionThese are signals that something isn’t right!
Real estate agent Joan Malone knows from first-hand experience that intuition can be a valuable tool for survival. She had told her husband that a particular customer had made her uncomfortable, but she agreed to show the man more homes despite gut feelings. Other indicators talked her out of listening to her unexplained fear - she had met with the well-dressed man twice before, the first time he told her he was an attorney who was dissolving a partnership and would have all-cash funds in a few days; once with his family members present.
On the day of the attack in March 1997, she showed the man 5 homes. Returning to a home they had previously viewed, he suddenly attacked her, stabbing her twice in the chest and once in the neck. He then left her for dead. Barely conscious, she managed to get to a phone and dial 911.
Although close to death a number of times because of serious injuries, Joan survived and now champions real estate safety. “The nature of our business puts us in a very vulnerable situation,” Malone told Blanche Evans in Realty Times
, “The one thing I could say to people is if you have a bad feeling, don’t second guess what it’s telling you. Listen to your gut feeling and protect yourself.”
Safety experts agree that it is best to assume that your instincts are right and to take the necessary precautions. Do not be so anxious for a sale that you ignore your own intuition in the heat of the moment. Use these same instincts before you give out your phone number or address, and especially before getting
in the car with a new client.9. Dress For Safety (download the poster)
- Don’t wear expensive jewelry
- Always wear your cell phone
- Dress for the weather, and to run
- Only carry the cash or credit cards you need.
Your image is important, so dress professionally. However, dress for safety as well.
Expensive jewelry can make you a target. We recommend that you save the flashy jewelry for formal occasions. Criminals will scout real estate representatives and homes for jewelry and items that are easy to sell. Thieves often work in teams. So don’t flash the cash or wear diamonds when you are in the office or on the road.
Always wear your cell phone. Get a holster or keep it in your hand at all times. Your greatest source of help is your cell phone. If you keep your phone in your purse or briefcase – you could be separated from it when you need it the most. If you are in immediate danger, run for safety first and when you have the opportunity, call 911.
Dress for the weather. Your mom used to tell you this for good reason. If your car breaks down or you need to escape a dangerous situation on foot, you could find yourself exposed to the weather for an extended period of time. In the winter, bring a coat with you and keep a blanket in the trunk of your car.
Wear sensible shoes and attire which will allow you to run if you have to. It may sound funny, but one of the best defenses is to run when you are in trouble. Restrictive clothing and elegant footwear will hamper your effort.
10. Have a Distress Code (download the poster)
Have a prearranged distress signal: “I’m at the Jones house and I need the red file right away.”
You may be in a situation where you think you might need help; you can use the phone, but the person you are with can overhear the conversation and you do not want to alarm him/her. This is where a prearranged distress code can help.
For example, you are in your car with a client that is beginning to make you nervous - for one reason or another, you feel uneasy about the person. You do not want to be in an empty house with him/her. Call the office and tell someone where you are going and you can ask him/her to pull out the RED FILE. In this case, RED FILE is the prearranged distress code to have someone meet you at the site so you will not be alone. You can make up your own distress code, i.e. DOG FOOD (when you don’t have a dog) or I’m going to MAYDAY Lane (and there is no Mayday Lane).
The distress code should be used if you are uneasy, but do not feel you are in danger. If you are in immediate danger – stop the car and leave the area, or jump out of the car at the next stop. Do not hesitate to call 911.
Authorities agree that most rapists and thieves are looking for easy targets. Be assertive and leave a dangerous situation early, but have a distress code for times you feel uneasy.Share and practice your distress code with: Your Office - Colleagues - Family & Friends
11. Personal Marketing (download the poster)
- Your marketing materials should be polished and professional.
- Limit the amount of personal information you share.
- Use your cell number, not your home phone.
- Use your office address rather than your home address.
Giving out too much of the wrong information can make you a target. Concentrate on your professional proficiency rather than personal information in newspapers, resumes and business cards.
Be careful how much personal information you give verbally as well. “Getting to know your client” does not need to include personal information about your children, where you live and who you live with. Be guarded with your personal information.
Dress for safety. Look professional, but wear clothes that are comfortable and shoes you can run in.
Claudia Perry-Vance, a 23-year veteran in the business, was the best of buddies for a co-worker in Columbus, Ohio. Her buddy was a 26-year-old female agent who fell victim to a man who called himself Jack Martin and said he was a nuclear physicist from Tennessee. He was, in fact, Thomas H. Chappell, a local commercial cleaning service operator and a convicted rapist.
The salesperson met with Chappell several times at her office but didn’t ask for identification. He told her that he wanted a highend residential property and would pay cash for it. After developing
a casual rapport with the salesperson, Chappell called her to come take a look at a property.
Just before she left her office, she asked her buddy, Claudia, to come along. “The only reason I went with her was that she felt a little nervous” Perry-Vance was quoted in a
Chappell met both women at the house. During the tour, Chappell was able to separate them and attacked the younger with a stun gun. She didn’t lose consciousness and struggled with her attacker.
“She let out the most horrible scream I’ve ever heard, “says Perry-Vance, who was in another room when the attack occurred. The scream sent Chappell running to his van, but the agents got his license number and called police.
When he was caught, police found an MLS book in the van with the young salesperson’s photo circled in ink.