The Safety Minute: 5 Safety Tips

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey


In the face of an attack, 60 percent of victims will become paralyzed with fear, about 20 percent will fight back unsuccessfully, and slightly more than 10 percent will use self-defense moves to get away. “What would you do?” author Robert Siciliano asks in his second edition of The Safety Minute: 01 (Safety Zone Press, 2003). With NAR’s Safety Week under way, Sept. 9-15, Siciliano’s book provides a good refresher on ways you can stay safe on the job, full of safety tip lists and diagrams of self defense moves. If you do find yourself in a dangerous situation, you’ll know how to get out of it.


Pleading and crying have been shown to be ineffective defense strategies against an attacker. Instead, Siciliano suggests the following:

1. Embrace your fear. If you get a feeling that something isn’t right about a situation, trust your gut. Fear can be good for averting danger and it brings an adrenaline rush, providing you with an extra boost of strength. Fear also can sharpen your senses, allowing you to be more aware of your surroundings and acute to anything that seems out of place. Anticipate an assault so you’ll be ready to avoid or counter it. But don’t carry your fear on your sleeve — attackers look for vulnerability. Project confidence and strength. Be aware, alert, and ready.

2. Arm yourself with safety products. Whistles, personal alarms, self-defense sprays, and portable property alarms can offer you some defense. For example, personal property alarms are small and can be attached to a purse strap or belt. If you’re in trouble, you can use the device to emit noises as loud as 110 to 130 decibels, much louder than a whistle. Pepper spray is a more forceful deterrent, since the chemical when sprayed into an attacker’s eyes can temporarily debilitate him and give you a chance to get away.

3. Appear as if you’ve been defeated. If you are being overpowered by an attacker, suddenly stop struggling. This is the reversal technique. As you fall prey, observe every detail of your environment, scanning for escape routes, weapons, and strike zones. Weigh your options for your next move. Once you have a plan, go from zero to 100 percent resistance with your body and voice, which will throw your attacker off guard.

4. Fight back. Your brain is your best self-defense, Siciliano writes. Strategize and visualize how you will defeat your attacker. But sometimes your brain may be telling you: Fight back! Use self-defense moves, such as gouging the eyes of your attacker to temporarily blind him or stomping down hard with your heel on top of his foot. Out of 26 bones in the foot, you’re bound to break at least one.

5. Survive. That’s your chief goal, after all. But how do you know if your survival rests on fighting back or playing victim? Experts in the past recommended not fighting an assailant, believing you’d be more likely to become injured. That perspective has slightly changed, depending on the circumstance. If an assailant wants your watch, money, or purse, hand it over and don’t risk getting killed or hurt over material possessions, Siciliano says. But if they want to relocate you or you feel the situation has become more of a threat to your safety, then fighting back may save your life.


“At no point does anyone sit us down and say, ‘Somebody, some day, might try to cause you a great deal of harm. Here is everything you need to know to prevent it.’ As a result, we are unprepared to confront violence. … Most of us when confronted in an attack situation freeze up and become overwhelmed with fear and panic. … All is not lost. With a little reprogramming we can get you into a frame of mind for avoiding dangerous situations and removing yourself from them.”


Robert Siciliano is a speaker, trainer, and consultant on personal safety. He’s also a frequent speaker to real estate practitioners on staying safe while on the job. Siciliano is the president of the Safety Minute Seminars Co.

Melissa Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine, writing about home & design trends, technology, and sales and marketing. She manages the magazine's award-winning Styled, Staged & Sold blog.

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