Contributed by: Vanessa Richardson

This month completes a two-part blog that explores measures parents can take with their children and continues with measures parents can take on their own.

As I began last month, having children prompted me to adapt security lessons I learned in the military to everyday living. This month’s blog builds on limiting social media content, being “rude” to strangers, limiting where you put your child’s name, and using passwords with your child.

  • Vary routines and timing. One of the basic forms of military operational security is to make it difficult for bad guys to predict where you are going and when you’ll be there. Vary your routine. Visit different parks at different times. When that’s not possible – like when we are going to school – be vigilant. In the military we say, “Stay Alert. Stay Alive.”
  • Always keep your mobile phone with you and charged. Remember, 911 typically prefers you call from landlines, but mobile phones are still good alternatives to nothing – or to downed phone lines. Have them close and charged for when you need them.
  • Shred your mail. While I was deployed to Iraq my soldiers laughed when I shredded the return address labels from my mail… until we recovered a bag full of U.S. addresses at the home of a Person of Interest. Garbage on the curb is often legally considered available to anyone. It takes a moment to shred mail.
  • Walk outside the wire. When preparing military defenses, we walk beyond our perimeter, turn around, and consider how we would attack ourselves. Consider your home, online presence, and family routine as a “bad guy” might. What do security systems or baby cameras reveal? Can you determine which room your baby sleeps in? Focus cameras to what you need to see and no more. Where are the weaknesses? When is your house empty? A NYC cop once told me the best deterrent from routine home invasion is a dog – and they are adorable! I mean, they teach kids responsibility.
  • Perfect practice makes perfect performance. Without practice all the best laid plans won’t help you. Every athlete, actor, and public speaker knows your performance will live up to your practice. So practice realistically and practice with gusto.

Family safety is important to everyone. It may seem abhorrent to discuss scary situations with our children – or with ourselves. Keep conversations honest and age appropriate, just like fire drills. Knowing what action to take empowers us all to be strong, more secure, and less afraid.

Ms. Richardson is a former military officer and owns Cygnal Consulting, LLC, a consulting firm focused on providing clients with processes, tools, and leadership for Project, Enterprise, and Emergency Risk Management. She is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY. The statements here do not represent advice or risk assessment.