When working with diverse clients, behavior can be unpredictable. It is important for everyone to be continually in tune with their surroundings and aware of their own safety.
Techniques for minimizing risk:
Ask your agency about safety/emergency procedures and training. Become familiar with written policy and incident reporting.
Never take risks with a client who becomes threatening. Leave the room and seek assistance.
Eliminate objects in your office or meeting space that can be thrown or used as weapons. Check the physical layout of the office, so you have easy access to the door.
Inform your supervisor of all home visits and scheduled activities – time of departure, time of return, etc.
Keeping appointments in your Outlook calendar with addresses can assist with determining location.
Before entering a home, listen outside the door for any disturbances, such as screaming or fighting. When knocking on the door, stand to the side, not in front of it.
Identify potential safety risks while in the home. Remain alert and observant. Position yourself close to an exit with your back to a wall in case you need to get out quickly.
After hours, be aware of the location or neighborhood: note streetlights, open spaces, shrubs and other growth that might impair your vision.
When going to a car after dark, request to be accompanied by a supervisor or someone else. If you know you will be working late at the office, move your vehicle closer to the building before it gets dark.
Use “street smarts”. Plan home visits for daytime hours when possible. Lock car doors, travel without a purse or briefcase, and take on an assertive “I know where I’m going” demeanor. Carry a charged cell phone on you at all times.
Never give a client your personal phone number or your home address. Consider having your phone number unlisted or unpublished.
Learn the indicators of violence. Never put yourself knowingly in a risky situation. Understand the dynamics of addictions, mental illness, and other issues associated with acting-out behaviors as well as how to recognize signs of agitation. Follow your gut and assess your safety at all times. Learn non-violent self-defense, physical evasion, force deflection, and disengagement skills.
Everyone who is not an SCC staff member should enter through the front lobby.
Do not prop open, locked doors which lead into the office area.
If you see someone in the building you do not recognize, it is okay to ask if you can help them. That will help you determine if they are here for a legitimate reason.
Contact the police for an escort if needed. Your supervisor can assist you in determining if this is necessary.
Appear calm, centered, and self-assured even if you don’t feel it. Use a modulated, low, monotonous tone of voice.
Don’t take things personally. Even if the comments or insults are directed at you, they aren’t about you.
Be respectful, even when setting limits firmly or calling for help.
Never turn your back for any reason on an aggressive individual.
Always be at the same eye level, but do not maintain constant eye contact. Allow extra physical space between you and clients. Keep your hands out of your pockets.
Do not get loud or try to yell over a screaming person. Wait until he or she takes a breath; then talk.
Empathize with feelings, but not with the behavior. Do not argue or try to convince.
Trust your instincts, if you feel the de-escalation isn’t working STOP! Tell the person to leave, call for help, or leave your self.