Be a Humanitarian: How to create a safety plan

A safety plan is something that is written or thought of ahead of time to help you remember how to respond to certain stressful scenarios. Performing fire drills at your workplace or school is an example of a safety plan. You practice leaving your belongings behind, exit the building calmly and quietly, and convene at a location at a safe distance from whatever danger you’re leaving behind. Anyone can and should create a safety plan to ensure that everyone can leave whatever dangerous situation presents itself as quickly and safely as possible. You can tailor your safety plan to your specific needs and to whatever scenario you might encounter. Creating a safety plan and practicing can also greatly reduce the amount of time spent on getting to safety. Your safety plan should include these essential points:

Have a go bag prepared

Go bags aren’t just for James Bond and international spies for when they need to leave the country in a hurry! They also don’t need to be filled with bundles of cash, forged passports, and a weapon. Your go bag should be packed with what you deem to be absolute essentials just in case you need to leave your home immediately. Here’s what’s in my go bag:

  1. 1 set of undergarments 
  2. Travel documents
  3. Cash (stash away an amount that you’re comfortable with)
  4. A small first aid kit i.e. bandaids, painkillers, your chosen method of menstruation management
  5. Travel toiletries
  6. Spare charger for electronics

I also try to leave my wallet, keys, and shoes in consistent and easy to reach places at home. I keep my go bag next to my bed so no matter what I can leave in a hurry. Once you’ve put your bag together, practice leaving. It might feel silly, but having done it once or twice will increase your confidence in your plan. You might also only realize changes need to be made after practicing. For example, your escape during the summer won’t require a winter coat, but if it’s cold out, the way you dress before you go will certainly change and may delay your escape. 

  1. Escape route & know your exits

This is always a good idea, especially when you’re going to a new place. Whether if it’s to a friend’s home, to a protest or rally, or an event space, always look for your closest, available, and safest exit. Take note of potential obstacles that may impede your exit whether they be physical i.e. people, chairs, tables or non-physical i.e. loud noises. 

Contacts of trusted friends, family, and organizations

Take stock of people you can rely on in a crisis situation. Memorise their numbers if you can or write them down in the event you’ve lost your phone. Familiarize yourself with where the closest hospital, shelter, or charity is that might be able to provide you with aid and support in a time of crisis. If you’re going to be out late at night, going somewhere new, or meeting up with someone that is a potential threat, let someone know ahead of time. I do this all of the time with my husband when I’m out on home visits as a social worker. A simple text such as, “Hi, I’m going to 221b Baker Street at 3:00pm. If you haven’t heard from me by 5:00pm, can you give me a call?” or “I’m on my way home from Baker Street on the Bakerloo Line. I should be home in 30 minutes.” If the trusted person hasn’t heard from you, they can check in or easily inform the police what your last known whereabouts.

Safe rendezvous point

This really is turning into an action thriller! Let’s say you’re going to a protest with some friends. Before arriving, agree to an easily accessible meeting point in case if you get separated and have an agreed upon time. Choose a location that’s far away from the protest to make it easier to find one another. For example, “In case if we get separated, go to the Red Lion Pub. Let’s all meet there at 2:00pm”. Setting a meeting point ahead of time is a great way to practice self-care as well. In case if the protest is overwhelming, tell your buddy you’ll meet them at the meeting point.

For more information about creating safety plans, consider these resources:

Women’s Aid is a charity that works with survivors of domestic violence.

Leicestershire and Rutland Safety Board’s thorough handbook on safety planning.

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