Monday, March 14, 2016

Gas Station Security: Don't Be Vulnerable

One of the most vulnerable times that we have to attack is getting in or out of our vehicle. This is something many people just do without thought or vigilance. Add to that already risky time a specific task, like pumping gas, and it can turn into a disaster.
The problem is, you’re not distracted with your phone, but with getting the fuel for your vehicle, something we all do, and will do again.
One thing I want to point out first has nothing to do with a carjacker or an attacker. It has to do with safety more than security.
I’ve worked around active military flightlines my entire life. When it comes to refueling a plane I know that steps are taken to avoid static electricity or spills. At a gas station you should not use hand held electronic devices. Not only is there a risk of explosion, the device takes your attention away from what you are doing, and your security. Make sure the nozzle is in contact with the metal filler tube of your vehicle. This will ground the nozzle with the vehicle. Also, modern stations have an emergency switch somewhere. It will be a red box or button and should be clearly marked. If you can’t find it ask the attendant. Know where this is. It will stop the flow of fuel for the entire station. And of course lastly, don’t smoke while refueling.
Now on to security tips.
Before you exit the vehicle take your keys with you. Also, make sure your doors are locked except the driver’s door. I’ve done it before and caught myself leaving the keys in the vehicle. I’m standing right there, but all it takes is someone to jump in the vehicle and lock the doors. They can drive off whenever they choose and leave you with a nozzle in your hand. Locking the doors stops a thief from getting in the passenger door and grabbing a purse or anything else that is in your vehicle. If you must go into the store or to a kiosk to pay for your gas, lock your car completely. Remember to roll up windows too. By the same token, don’t leave things visible that will be tempting to steal such as laptops iPods, a purse, etc.
Choose a safe station. If you are familiar with the area make sure you get your gas in a safe neighborhood. I know, any neighborhood can have crime, but the wrong side of town can sometimes have more risk. If you are traveling and don’t know the area, look around. Are there boarded up buildings and lots of graffiti around? Maybe a different location would be better. If you stop at a restaurant ask about what area is safe and which is not so much. Keep your tank at a half or more and make more trips to the gas station rather than be on empty and “have” to get gas now regardless of location.
It’s not always possible, like location, but choose daylight hours to gas up. A busy time where there are lots of people are best.
Keeping your head up and not so intent of fueling is also important. Most criminals are not interested in someone who is aware and watching them even before they get close. They would rather catch someone on their phone or more interested in gassing up than what is going on around them.
I’ve been surprised before and I don’t want it to happen again. It was someone selling bread for charity luckily but my hand went to my weapon before I realized there was no threat. I vowed that would never happen again. Not only should you pay attention to someone coming into your area, but another car getting gas on the other side of your pump should be observed and assessed. You’re usually in a small area between your car and the pumps so you’re kind of isolated. If the nozzle is pumping automatically, step out of the zone to give yourself room to see and maneuver. You should be within a few steps of your nozzle in case of a problem with your fill, but you can step back slightly. If you’re not sure about the area you are in and there is someone with you, you both should be out with someone on “over-watch” watching what is going on around you while the other concentrates on the refueling task. My wife and I do this on trips where we’re not sure of the area.
Most of what we’ve talked about here is not convenient. Security and safety rarely are convenient. To be a hard target takes effort and some planning. That should not be unusual to you if you have a security mindset. If you want to be random in your operations and secure in your communications convenience is probably not at the top of your list.
Keep your head on a swivel and make secure choices and you will find safety and security in your life.
Semper Paratus
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