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Community-Based Staff Safety

Community-Based Staff Safety

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Community-Based Staff Safety

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  1. Community-Based Staff Safety

  2. Agenda • Introductions • Setting the Stage • Fear • Creating a ‘Safety-Zone’ • Before You Go • Getting There • Being There • Getting Out • Afterwards

  3. Group Exercise • What was your worst work-related safety experience? • What could you have done differently? What did you learn? • Share with your group • Report Out

  4. Horse Sense • Definition: • Common sense • sound practical judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge, training, or the like; normal native intelligence

  5. Fear • Definition • a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.

  6. Group Discussion • What makes you afraid? • Why? • How does it make you feel?


  8. Safety Zone Definition • A short term ‘agreement’ among persons in a concrete locale about the right of the persons to be present

  9. Building a ‘Safety Zone’ • Style and Demeanor • Don’t be perceived as a ‘victim’ • Having purpose and gaining access • Radar

  10. Before You Go Exercise • Hill Street Blues story • In pairs, create a list of what you should be thinking about “before you go” • Report out

  11. Before You Go • Appropriate attire – look like you belong • Identification – helps you look like you ‘belong’ (like, e.g., an employee from the power company wearing their badge); may come in handy to prove your right to be with the youth if her/his behavior becomes troublesome in public • ‘Mapping’ – how far do you have to walk; parked cars; dumpsters; homes in disrepair; wooded areas; carry a city/county map

  12. Before You Go • Know where to find the local: • Police station; fire station; hospital; convenient store • Sign-outs • Call-ins • Cell phone – be aware of ‘dead spots,’ e.g., basements; keep battery charged; ‘be aware’ of your surroundings while talking; call on your way re: who is there; have 9-1-1 programmed-in

  13. Before You Go • Make sure your car is in good working order • If you are using an agency car, check out the various functions • Pace yourself • Notify your supervisor or co-worker where you are going, how long you will be there, and when you will return • Check out neighborhood before parking and getting out;

  14. Before You Go • Park in an area close to the residence where you cannot be blocked in; • Anticipate the unexpected may happen and formulate a tentative plan of action ahead of time; • Be exceptionally alert when the clients are unknown to you, or if the area has a high crime rate or is isolated, or when there are indicators of domestic violence; • Review your experience with similar types of client visits;

  15. Safety Begins With You When in doubt, contact your supervisor immediately whether you are a new or veteran community-based worker

  16. Getting There • In pairs, create a list of what you should be thinking about “when you get there” • Report out

  17. Getting There • Vehicle • check gasoline level; use seat belts & car seats; clear expectations with kids; stopping when necessary; take main roads; keys in hand when going to car; lock your car as soon as you get in • Parking • front streets – not alleyways; not in driveway where you might get blocked in; ground floor of high-rise lots; have attendants walk you to car

  18. Getting There • Valuables - valuables in trunk before leaving home or office • Light and Darkness – park near street lights • Family Support – walk you to & from car • Elevators – open ceiling panel? operable call box? • Housing personnel – get to know them • High activity – safer • Scoping it out • Slow down

  19. Safety Begins With You When in doubt, contact your supervisor immediately whether you are a new or veteran community-based worker

  20. Being There • In pairs, create a list of what you should be thinking about “while you’re there” • Report out

  21. Being There • Remember that whereas the social worker may view the home visit as an explicit demonstration of a desire to help, the client may perceive it as threatening. • Make note of all exits in the home, stay near the outside door, and keep your car keys where they are immediately available; • When there is a concern about violence or you do not know the client well, never conduct an interview in the kitchen; • State clearly who you are, and why you are there; • Stay alert – things can change quickly

  22. Being There • Setting standards – e.g., if someone is inebriated upon arrival • Quick assessment – e.g., weapons in home; aggressive animals; angry clients • Knowing your clients • Stay in common areas (e.g., kitchen, living room, dining room) • Knowing your way out • Knowing your limits • Not being a cop

  23. Being There • THINK! • Pay attention to neighbors/ property in the area • Pepper Spray – practice before using it for real • Narcotics – marijuana smell or ashes in ashtray? small ‘rocks’ that look like candy? evidence of steel wool, car antenna, rat poison (all used for ‘crack’)

  24. Being There • Attend to “hygiene-safety issues • Bugs and roaches – don’t take your briefcase or purse inside; sit on hard furniture; don’t step on roach to avoid eggs on shoe soles; un-cuff your jeans • Don’t eat or drink at the home unless you feel comfortable doing so • Used needles • Lice • Broken glass • Uncovered outlets around small children

  25. Being There • Take a collaborative approach; • Allow people to blow off steam but don’t allow emotion to escalate; • Using a verbal ploy, such as asking for a glass of water, can interrupt an escalation and allow things to cool off; • If situation begins to escalate and there are signs of imminent violence – LEAVE; • Do not allow the desire to help override prudent caution.

  26. Being There – Consider This.. • Most dangerous interpersonal situations are the result of tensions that have grown and intensified over time. • It is vital to understand the phases of escalation, the person’s needs and feelings during each phase, and what actions or interventions by the social worker might reduce the tension and level of risk.

  27. Being There – Consider This.. • It is preferable to intervene as early as possible in order to prevent escalation and eventual loss of control by the angry person. • Four stages of crisis management: • Initial tension and frustration • Verbal attack • Loss of control • Recovery after outburst.

  28. Crisis Management • Stage 1: Initial Tension and Frustration • The individual is anxious and experiencing high levels of emotions but are still rational and in control of their behavior. • They will respond best to an approach that helps them vent emotions, reflect on the situation, and devise a solution on their own. • The use of active listening will help these individuals express and examine their own feelings and to reduce the level of tension.

  29. Crisis Management • Stage 2: Verbal Attack • The individuals are feeling threatened and vulnerable. They become defensive and go on the offensive with verbal attacks. • Irrational thoughts and strong feelings begin to override their self-control. • Effective displays of calm body language, using a non-threatening tone of voice, reflecting client’s feelings and behaviors are useful approaches. • Set limits on what behavior is allowable.

  30. Crisis Management • Stage 3: Loss of Control • Workers need to immediately assess the level of danger and their ability to provide control; they should be preparing to escape, if necessary. • Workers are more likely to gain control of the situation if they can empathize with the client’s fear about doing something they will later regret. • Workers must remain calm and continue to build rapport, while shifting focus to the threatening behavior. The out of control person must be controlled, either by the worker or police.

  31. Crisis Management • Stage 4: Recovery after the Outburst • Individuals struggle to regain their composure and, having fallen apart, need help in putting themselves back together. • Workers should allow them to further vent their anger, explain their feelings, and come to some closure regarding the incident. • Allowing people to stabilize themselves decreases the risk of re-escalation. • People may gain insight, allow mutual problem solving with the worker and prevention of future outburst.

  32. Remember… • Worker attitudes play a role in either controlling or provoking threatening behavior. Maintain a positive, non-judgmental attitude toward clients. • Recognize that both increased structure and decreased stimuli may help clients to remain calm and gain self control. • Utilize skills that facilitate communication and help clients to express themselves in words.

  33. Being There – Additional Tips • Do not argue with or criticize an angry person. • Trust your instincts. If you feel afraid, assume that you are in danger. • Remember that an attack by a client is almost always the reaction of someone who is afraid and feeling threatened. Speak and act in ways that lessen the client’s need to be afraid of you.

  34. Being There – Additional Tips • Avoid standing above others. Standing is more authoritarian and threatening than sitting. • Attacks by clients are most likely when they feel trapped or controlled, either psychologically or physically. Give clients options or choices. • Be alert to signs of an imminent attack such as rapid breathing, teeth grinding, dilated pupils, flaring nostrils, choppy speech, clenched fists, and bobbing and dipping movements of the body.

  35. Being There – Additional Tips • Allow angry persons to vent their feelings. Most people will begin to calm down after two or three minutes of venting or name calling. • Do not touch an angry person, especially if they may be under the influence of a drug. • An angry or dangerous person is more likely to attack someone who appears weak, insecure, and unsure. Present yourself as calm, composed and self-confident.

  36. Safety Begins With You When in doubt, contact your supervisor immediately whether you are a new or veteran community-based worker

  37. Getting Out • In pairs, create a list of what you should be thinking about “when you’re leaving” • Report out

  38. Getting Out • Escort • Keys – in hand on way to car • Crowds – don’t ignore, but don’t ‘join’ • Your car – glance inside before entering

  39. Getting Out • Routing – have a ‘backup’ plan; if lost, stop at a pizza shop for directions! • “Fire” – best way to get attention and help • Reverse direction – if being followed • Valuables – don’t wear/show them

  40. Working in rural areas • Dirt roads (is your car ready? Battery charged? jumper cables?) • Guns • Dogs • Snow (are your tires ready? newspaper to use for traction/ bag of rock salt? Sufficient clothing while you wait for a tow truck?)

  41. Working in rural areas • Hunting season • Don’t wear sandals – often lots of ‘stuff’ lying around outdoors • Go with a ‘buddy’ the first time if possible

  42. Safety Begins With You When in doubt, contact your supervisor immediately whether you are a new or veteran community-based worker

  43. Afterwards • Winding down • Debriefing

  44. Worth Reiterating! • Do not enter a situation that could be dangerous without first consulting with others and formulating a plan to reduce risk. • Keep your agency informed of your plans and itinerary and check in by phone on a pre-arranged schedule. • Assign two staff members for potentially dangerous home visits.

  45. Worth Reiterating! • Do not enter a home or apartment building until you have taken a few minutes to determine its level of danger. • Be aware that guns are most often kept in the bedroom and that a kitchen contains knives and other potential weapons. • Do not sit in an overstuffed chair or couch from which you cannot quickly get to your feet.

  46. Worth Reiterating! • Keep your vehicle in good running order and full of gasoline so that you will not find yourself stranded in a dangerous or isolated area. • If you are being followed, go immediately to a police or fire station or to a public place. • Wear shoes and clothing that permit running.

  47. Questions and Answers