Stepping into someone else’s property can be intimidating at times, especially if you are alone. Many lone working roles require staff to carry out home visits by themselves – for example community nurses, housing officers, carers, social workers and those doing repairs.
We have assembled some tips on how to make home visits safer for lone workers.
Be prepared. If you are going somewhere new, check out the location prior to your visit so that you are familiar with the area. This helps you get to safety quicker if need be. If possible, it’s also a good idea to find out more about the person you are visiting. Therefore, you’ll be more prepared and aware of potential issues before you arrive.
If travelling by car, park somewhere that enables you to make a fast exit. Choose a well-lit area, away from driveways or anywhere that you could be blocked in. Also, make sure you reverse in so it’s easier to maneuver out.
The whereabouts of employees on home visits should be accounted for at all times. This is so that someone is expecting them and will be aware if they fail to arrive back from an appointment on time.
Ideally staff contact details, such as their mobile phone number, car registration and an up-to-date photo should be held on a central system that is accessible to those responsible for employees.
Dress sensibly, wearing clothing that doesn’t hinder your ability to get away in a hurry. Avoid high-heel footwear and carrying large bags. Jewelry could attract unwanted attention so it’s best to keep this hidden, or better still avoid wearing it altogether.
Arrive early and observe your surroundings from the safety of your vehicle. Note the exits, observe who is present and look for any possible dangers, such as dogs. Assess how easily you’d be able to leave in an emergency.
When you arrive at someone’s home, have a brief conversation on the doorstep to gauge the mental state of the occupant before you enter. Remain on guard and listen for any signs of trouble. If you sense something is wrong and you feel your safety is compromised by entering the property, make an excuse and leave. As the saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Keep a clear path to the door so that you don’t allow yourself to become trapped in. Sit in a hard-backed chair if you can, as this makes it easier to get up quickly. Choose a safe place for the meeting. Kitchens typically have many items that can be used as weapons, such as utensils and knives so it may be safer to meet in a sitting room or another safe alternative.
Carrying a personal safety alarm such as Skyguard’s MySOS device or lone worker smartphone app allows you to press a button and get help subtly, without alerting the other party. When activated, trained Controllers can view your location; listen in, communicate with you and send for the Emergency services if they feel urgent assistance is required. Secret duress code words or phrases can be chosen beforehand to indicate a problem when overheard – for example ‘blue folder.’
Using Skyguard’s Voice Memo Timer on your mobile allows automatic alarms to be set using a timer. If an appointment overruns this will trigger an alert if not manually cancelled. You can record voice messages with exact details on your location down to the floor and flat number, which helps Police track you down faster.