Keep yourself safe

By Greg Grisolano, associate editor

When it comes to personal security, what options do drivers have to protect themselves? Law enforcement veteran and OOIDA Security Operations Director Doug Morris says there are several precautions drivers can take when out on the road, at a loading dock, or trying to find a safe place to park.

There were more than 145,000 reported instances of crimes against persons on highways, roads and city streets in 2014, according to the FBI's National Incident-Based Reporting System.

Of the more than 1.2 million instances of violent crimes committed in 2014, the FBI data shows that 47,877 incidents occurred in parking lots or garages, 6,094 incidents were at a gas or service station, and 161 incidents happened at freight depots or intermodal facilities. The FBI data defines violent crimes as assault, homicide, human trafficking, kidnapping, and forcible and non-forcible sex offenses.

While many truckers may have concealed-carry weapon permits that are valid in their home states, Morris said drivers need to be cognizant of where those permits are legal. Many states, including California, do not reciprocate at all when it comes to honoring CCW permits, and even states like Texas do not honor permits from all states.

Morris said if you find yourself in a situation like a mass shooting, a riot, or some kind of act of terrorism, the best thing you could do is evacuate.

"Leave the area as quick as possible, leave your belongings," he said. "Help others escape if possible. If you know the direction of the terrorist or active shooter, try to prevent individuals from heading in that direction."

If evacuation is not possible, Morris said finding a safe place to hide behind a large, sturdy object or a door that locks is the next best alternative.

"Call 911, if possible, to alert police to the active shooter's location," he said. "If you cannot speak, leave the line open and allow the dispatcher to listen."

As a last resort, and only when your life is in imminent danger, attempt to disrupt and or incapacitate the active shooter.

When it comes to avoiding a more common type of violent crime such as an assault or a mugging situation, the best defense is to always be alert to your surroundings and the people around you.

"Always try to park in a well-lit parking spot," he said. "Don't open your door to converse with any suspicious subject, and always lock your doors."

If you do end up being the victim of an assault or mugging, "always try to be the best witness possible."

"Remember as much about the suspect as possible to include any vehicle descriptions and direction of travel," he said. "Never escalate the situation by arguing with the suspect. The ultimate goal is to get out of the situation unharmed."

Besides physical safety hazards, working in or traveling through an area under a state of emergency declaration could have serious financial consequences for drivers, as many insurance policies carry exemptions for operating the vehicle in such conditions.

Deborah Winkler, OOIDA Truck Insurance Department manager, says that while individual policies may vary, most insurance plans will have "some kind of exclusion for riots or civil unrest."

Those exclusions can be for loss or damage caused by strikers, locked-out workmen, persons taking part in labor disturbances, riots or civil commotions. Winkler said truckers are sometimes left with the difficult choice of doing a job that could put them in harm's way, or declining to take a job altogether. LL