Local self-protection expert offers advice to stay safe during routine activities

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Several recent shootings in the area over the last few days have sparked safety concerns. This includes the shooting death of a 65-year-old woman at a gas station in Virginia Beach, the fatal shooting of a teenager outside of a high school in Newport News and the shooting death of a 22-year-old man in Suffolk.

10 On Your Side does not know the exact circumstances that led up to these recent shootings, but experts say there are some steps you can take to protect yourself.

Getting gas, walking through a parking lot are all routine parts of our lives. However, local self-protection expert Hank Hayes says those are the moments things can go terribly wrong.

“When we go into that transition space, that’s where all these unknown elements can come into play really, really quickly,” said Hayes. “We don’t get to vote on them, we don’t get to vote on who pulls into this gas station, so we need to be switched on.”

Hayes says being situationally aware, eliminating distractions and preparing are critically important.

“As long as we keep our head on a swivel and being situationally aware, because trouble just doesn’t pop, it doesn’t, boom, it just doesn’t pop right into play, it comes from somewhere,” Hayes added. “Unfortunately, we know people are going to be distracted, they’re going to be not focused generally on their surroundings or situations, and this is a bad guy’s opportunity to do what we call an ambush-style attack.”

Hayes has trained military special forces and law enforcement for more than 20 years. He says preparation is key.

“Overall personal protection readiness, it’s like, it’s at an all-time low, when it should be at an all-time high,” Hayes said. “People don’t have training. It’s not going to happen and it’s a setup to our own massacre, it’s a setup to get killed.”

For the average person who doesn’t have any training, Hayes has some advice. First, don’t let your car’s gas tank get to the empty mark. That way, you can fill up somewhere safe on your terms.

“If we’ve let it go to ‘E,’ now it’s not on my terms anymore, it’s on, ‘let me get gas at the nearest station before I run out of gas.’ And when does that often happen? At the worst time possible,” said Hayes. “Ideally, do it in our favorite, well-lit gas station.”

He also says people should let the situation dictate how they respond.

“If I’m by myself, I can act in one way. If I’m with my wife and kids, now I have a completely different action set that I have to execute,” Hayes added.

Hayes also teaches people to define, distract, diffuse and deescalate, even if that means handing over their wallet.

“We all can use our voice and we can distract, deescalate, diffuse a situation, give the guy what he wants, that’s diffusing the situation,” Hayes said. “We may lose a couple hundred bucks, and have to go through getting our license and credit cards, but we’re still fine, our ego may be bruised but we’re still fine at the end of the day.”

At the pump, Hayes says to lock your belongings in your car and try to park near the exit.

He also said eliminating distractions and proper training can’t be overemphasized enough.

You can learn more about Hayes’ training by clicking here.

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