Listening to your gut may help you avoid danger

By: Don Chaddock Telegraph Editor
-A +A
For Hector Alvarez, self-protection is a mission, not just a job. The former head of security for California-ISO (Independent System Operator), as well as a reserve police officer for the Folsom Police Department, Alvarez heads Alvarez Associates, a consulting business focusing on preventing violence in the workplace. Alvarez said he works closely with the human resources departments of companies large and small, promoting safety. He likened self-protection to driving in a car and seeing someone about to run a red light. In self-protection mode, rather than putting himself in danger, the driver with the green light stops and allows the red-light runner to blow through the intersection. In self-defense, the act (such as the crash) has already happened or is imminent. While speaking to the Rotary Club of Historic Folsom during a recent breakfast meeting, Alvarez alluded to incidents of workplace violence such as the shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. He said there are some steps people can take to better protect themselves in such situations, and to prevent them from ever happening in the first place. “We’re talking about self-protection, not self-defense,” he said. “You hear the term ‘random act of violence.’ Violence is usually only random to us, not to the person who chose to commit the violence.” First, people need to have a certain mindset. “We have to decide to survive,” he said. “Emotional (survival), as in someone whose home is robbed and they have to deal with their space being invaded and explaining to their kids that everything will be OK. Also, survival as in someone with a gun pointed in the face. You have to have the right mindset.” The second thing people should do? Have a plan. “Preparation, we need a plan,” he said. “The phrase ‘stranger danger’ is doing kids a real disservice. Stop it. … It’s more likely a friend or family member will harm (kids) rather than a stranger.” He said when a child gets lost and all they’ve been taught is “stranger danger,” suddenly everyone is a stranger. “The kids back against the wall and start to cry, which is like blood in the water to a predator,” Alvarez said. “Instead, teach your children to find a mom with kids. She is a person who is far more likely to help.” He said you should be aware of your surroundings and those in the surroundings. “Have a code word set up with your kids so if something looks suspicious, you can use the word and they will know to be alert,” Alvarez said. “Also, know more than one way to get out of a building.” Lastly, he said people should trust their instincts. “Trust the pre-incident indicators, such as the booming voice in the back of your mind, the hair standing up on the back of your neck or the feeling in the pit of your stomach that we talk ourselves out of,” Alvarez said. “The guy who robbed Wells Fargo (in Folsom) had a plan. (The bad guys) have already faced all their fears and then they run into us on our way back from the grocery store. … Not trusting your intuition is like waking up at home, smelling smoke, and going back to sleep.” As he put it, “listen to that signal. Your intuition is never wrong.” What’s his recommendation? If you are alone in a parking lot at night, don’t engage with anyone and don’t offer any information if they approach you to talk. “The bad guy will interview us,” he said. “Sometimes it starts with the word ‘no.’ … If they don’t respect ‘no,’ you have to ask yourself why. They will also offer a story with a lot of details you didn’t ask for to try to get us to give information. They will also try to force help on us, like loading our groceries.” He said those are all indicators someone is trying to scam a victim or get them in a position to do physical harm. He recommended calling the police if you feel something is suspicious in your neighborhood or you see someone acting strange in a parking lot. “The most frustrating thing I do is talk to someone after the incident and they say, ‘Oh yeah, I knew something was going to happen.’ … If you see something, tell someone, like a neighbor or police officer. Listen to that (internal warning) signal.” To learn more about Alvarez and his company, visit Follow Don Chaddock on Twitter @anewsguy or e-mail him at