First let us start out with a definition of “street smart”. The Urban Dictionary describes street smart as the prevailing trait of “someone who is intelligent, has good common sense, knows how to handle bad situations, and has the skills necessary to function where they live”. To me, “Street Smart” is the ability to recognize what is going on in the world and the place that you live in. That plus having the physical and mental tools to adapt and survive within that world and that place. That is my definition and I like it.
So imagine this:
There is chaos around you (due to a natural disaster, civil unrest, massive unemployment, whatever) and even though you stay close to home, you must venture out to go to your job, take your kids to school, and to periodically make a trip to the grocery store. And yet the moment you step outside you can feel the tension.
What do you do?
Urban Survival Skills for the Street Savvy
1. Trust you instincts and stay alert: You know those gut feelings of yours? Now is the time to pay attention. If something around you seems “off”, walk away and retreat to safety. Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed to admit that you are frightened even if you feel foolish after the fact. Bad vibes are bad vibes so trust yourself and you will be fine.
2. Evaluate the risks: Headed to unfamiliar area? Evaluate the risks so that you are prepared. Dress to blend in, don’t carry a lot of obviously expensive electronics, and don’t call excessive attention to yourself. If the area in under siege, evaluate your need to even go there. Is it worth the risk?
3. Evaluate your home security and create a safe zone: Make sure the outdoor area of your home is well lit and that the foliage and shrubbery is trimmed around the perimeter of your home site. The last thing you want is a convenient hiding place for the bad guys right there on your property.
4. Situational awareness: Teach yourself to actively look for signs of threats and dangers. Crime can be anywhere but tends to be more prevalent in dark, quiet areas such as parking garages, alleys, stairs, and lonely roadways. As you enter these areas, look around for things that don’t seem quite right. Trust your gut!
5. Know your neighborhood: Reach out and get to know your neighbors and members of your community. I have said this before and will say it again: talk among yourselves and come up with a plan to work together and to look after each other during a crisis or disaster.
6. Every day carry items: Increase your ability to defend yourself and get attention. This can be as simple as carrying a whistle, some pepper spray and a small flashlight. Or, depending on your situation, this could include a knife or firearm.
What To Do If You Feel Threatened
Attitude is everything and can make a huge difference. Do not give off signals that you feel vulnerable and threatened. Nope – don’t do that. On the other hand, do not purposely walk in to a dangerous situation. Instead, withdraw as quietly and unobtrusively as you can and retreat to an area where there are more people around.
Worse case, run away while making a loud noise (remember that whistle?)
The Final Word
Having street smarts takes common sense and the ability to deal with all kinds of people in a myriad of contentious situations. While having well honed street smarts is essential for urban dwellers, street smarts are also an important skill for those in a rural community or remote area.
There is no better time than now to practice a street smart and street savvy attitude. Above all, be safe.