Mental Models for Response in Lone Worker Personal Safety

Zeb Glover and Ger O’Dea in Conversation  – Dynamis Training.

When teaching people to work alone in safety, we talk of files and folders – if in our brains, in our head-computers, if we don’t have the correct files and folders, i.e the indicators of what threats look like, it’s going to slow us down.

When we work alone we are going to hesitate, we are going to be confused, we’re going to have huge denial hitting us and it’s going to be a difficult challenge getting through denial, and therefore quickly getting into action.

And that’s the good news –  if you could fill these files and folders, with useful, quick to learn  information. Once you’ve got that information in your file and folders, then when your computer does that hard drive search, the search is going to find cues and indicators and now it’s just an emotion which you have. Am I going to get to action? What am I going to choose to do now?

But here’s the other side of this story.

On that beach that day there was a UK student of geology. So she knew all about earthquakes, she’s got the files and folders in her head. She knows what the indicators of a tsunami are. And she knew when she was on that beach, when she saw all those fish and that the tide had gone right out… she knew that a tsunami was coming, even though she couldn’t see it.

And the amazing thing is, she went and saved lots of lives. She grabbed as many people off that beach as she could.

And that’s the difference just quite simply – having that information.  It is really quick and easy to learn, just put it in your files and folders for working alone in safety. However, with human behavior, sometimes the files and folders we already have might be corrupted.

Though again we might expect a psychopath or some  predator to look a certain way, or be a certain age or race or gender. And I’d call that, a corrupted file.

I share the Earthquake./Tsunami story with the group just to demonstrate the power of establishing a baseline, and what a baseline is in any given context – and then you can start being aware of the anomalies.

Learning to Spot Indicators

There are general and specific indicators that you can share, that are, I would call, real threat indicators. Regardless of the context, we do a lot of video analysis of real situations. We get people to establish what the baseline is, and then just narrate and consciously spot the anomalies. And we can play those videos again and again, and just help people become more aware of what those anomalies are.

Our learners on courses focussed on how we work alone in safety, they don’t even have to stand up to do that! 

As much as we love the physical side of training, this is quite quick and easy to learn, I have to say.

For me, the connection between your subconscious brain and your conscious brain is really important pathway to safety. Intuition is trying to do that for you. It’s trying to make that connection. It’s giving you that feeling or that persistent thought or whatever in the way it communicates.

Our brain is amazing. It is taking in so many pieces of information every second. It can’t possibly share all of that information with you consciously, every single second. Otherwise, you’d be a mess. You just couldn’t process it. But when there is a significant threat, there will definitely be a powerful intuition signal sent.

But I think then you consciously need to ask, well is this a threat? And that’s another important point.

When you can become conscious of those threats, that’s what really combats denial.

It’s similar to when I was doing my advanced driving during part of my bodyguard, close protection training. 

When you’re doing advanced driving you narrate all the hazards.  that process of narration brings a subconscious observation. Because when you’re driving you are normally, hopefully, aware of those hazards but you aren’t conscious, necessarily – not when you drive and you think, “I can’t remember that journey for the last five minutes. I was an autopilot”.

That’s fine. But if you are in a situation where you work alone, where, you’re going to try and combat denial, you might need to outwardly narrate what you’re experiencing and have that open questioning, for example – what am I observing here? Why am I feeling this way?

And then if you’ve got those files and folders in your head, they will very quickly pop up in your search. Especially when you know those cues – hopefully they never occur. But if the people we train do have one of those really unlucky moments, they are rare. But again, that’s the other issue to this isn’t it? It doesn’t happen every day.  The social worker, or parking enforcement officer or community nurse’s alertness might drop and they get a bit complacent when they work alone.

The Naive Debutante and the Complacent Veteran

Sometimes, we have to realise that human beings love learning the hard way.

And that’s why we have the whole health and safety executive nowadays!  Many bad things happen and they may have been foreseeable, and so we are making this whole process more conscious now through regulation, enforcement action and the courts.

I use the seatbelt analogy sometimes. How many years did we drive cars before it became law that we had to wear a seatbelt?  How many deaths did it take for us to realize that seatbelts saves lives?

These realisations come in hindsight, so for example with a new social worker – their hindsight is not good. They need foresight.

So that all ties in with the value, I think of threat detection training amongst the other topics that we cover on our lone working training course, which is giving people the ability to have the foresight rather than hindsight.

Because, sometimes hindsight when we work alone is too late.

This conversation between Ger O’Dea and Zeb Glover at Dynamis happened on 19 February 2019, right after Zeb got back from a very successful training engagement with a large Local Authority in England, teaching a mix of Social Workers, Enforcement Officers and Community Workers who carry out Lone Working.


Part 1 of this conversation can be read at: https://www.dynamis.training/personal-safety-threat-detection/

More information about our training courses for lone workers can be found at:  https://www.dynamis.training/lone-worker-training-course/

We highly recommend:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lone-Working-Personal-Safety-Guidebook-ebook/dp/B00IHEM73E

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