Tactical – of or pertaining to a maneuver or plan of action designed as an expedient toward gaining a desired end or temporary advantage; showing adroit planning; aiming at an end beyond the immediate action. From the Greek word taktikós.
How to safely deal with service providers in your home
by Dara Doak, OPD Assistant
So, it’s 105 degrees today, and the A/C has gone on the fritz. You have to call someone to fix it, FAST!
Or you have a plumbing disaster… or you are having carpet installed. Calling repair personnel, and allowing service providers and installers into our homes is part of home ownership.
So how do you do this safely?
I am by no means a security professional, but have developed some habits that have worked for me. Some of my precautions serve a double-purpose: to keep from getting ripped-off and to be safe while work is in progress. Here are a few precautions I follow:
Before anyone comes to my house, I do my homework before hiring them. The goal is to make sure they will do a good job and are reputable people who can safely be allowed into my home.
Try to identify basic service providers before emergencies occur. Talk to coworkers, friends and family members and get referrals. I have relationships with service providers, like the exterminator, that go back years. Then there are those who I don’t really know at all, like the garage door repairman that came this week. I try to use locally-owned businesses as much as possible. It supports my local community, most of the time the business-owner does the work, and most are hard-working, reliable, honest people.
Call the service provider and ask a few questions. You may have to do some research to find out what is required before you call, and adjust the questions you ask, depending on the business. Everyone gets the same questions, even referred service providers. (I once decided not to hire a service provider that a neighbor highly recommended because he was surly about answering my questions.)
How long have you been in business in this area?
Good answers – in business 20 years, or my father/mother started this business and I joined a couple of years ago after I finished college (or high school).
Bad answers – Anything vague, evasive or blatant answers like, “just came to OKC when I heard about the hail storm."
Does the business owner come to every service call? If not, then who will be in charge of my work order?
How long has your staff worked for you?
Some businesses are revolving doors, but you at least want team leaders with good track records.
Do you require background checks and drug tests on ALL of your employees?
Good answer is -- YES, especially if they will be coming inside your home.
Bad answer – Background checks don’t prove anything, and drug tests can be faked (Big red flag. What else are they going to try to convince me is unimportant?)
Is your business bonded, and are all of your employees bondable?
If not bondable, they may have employees that have felony convictions or have otherwise committed fraud. Make your own decisions about that.
Are you licensed and registered (if applicable)?
If licensing is required for the industry, then the only right answer is YES.
Is your liability and workers compensation insurance coverage current? Are you willing to send me a certificate of insurance on request?
If they give you any other answer than ‘YES’, they may not have current insurance. My choice is to move on to another provider. If they are not insured, I do not want them on my property.
These questions are designed to find out what type of people they hire and how their business is run. If they are evasive or try to convince you that registration, insurance, licensing or background checks aren’t necessary, insist upon speaking to your husband, or you just get a ‘not quite right’ feeling, then say ‘thank you very much,’ hang up and move on to the next one.
A note about ‘not quite right’: This is the feeling you get that something just doesn’t add up. You can’t really identify why, but you just feel in your gut that something is ‘not quite right’. Listen to this intuition and move on to the next business on your list. You may never know what bothered you, but trust yourself and act on it. It’s not worth the risk of being ripped off, robbed, assaulted or the insult of working with someone unpleasant then paying them for it.
Unmarried ladies: do not tell anyone you are not married. Married ladies: Do not tell them your husband is out of town or otherwise unavailable. It’s none of their business. You are placing this service call, and you will be making all decisions related to this job, including who gets hired. That’s all they need to know.
When you schedule a service call ask the dispatcher:
What is the name of the technician that is coming to my house? Get first and last names.
What does the vehicle look like? (“White panel van with ABC Heating and Air on the side.”)
How will your technicians be dressed? Do they carry an ID I can ask to see? If so, what does it look like?
Please have the technician call me when s/he is on the way to my house. (Most businesses are willing to do this.)
If you know when to expect the person, and what the vehicle looks like, then it’s less likely that some random person will come to the door and confuse you into believing they are the service person you called.
If children are normally home at the time the service call will occur, plan ahead for their safety and comfort. Some children can be counted upon to play quietly in a family room or their bedrooms. Others want to be in the middle of things, which will distract you from keeping an eye on the service providers. This is a highly personal decision, but here are a few suggestions:
Have the kids play in a predetermined area that you can easily monitor while also monitoring the activities of the service provider. Ask them not to leave that area while the stranger is in the house.
Ask another adult to come play with the children while you monitor the service provider.
Arrange for the children to be cared for by a friend or family member outside the home while the service provider is in the home.
Before the service provider arrives:
Establish a ‘safety-check person’. A safety-check person is a friend, family member, or a trusted coworker with whom you can be in contact when the service call occurs.
Close doors to all rooms in the house that they do not need to be in. Put bells or other noise-makers on the inside doorknob which will alert you if the door is opened.
Put any small valuables away out of sight. (Your purse, laptop computers, jewelry, keys, paperwork with personal information like that stack of bills that came in the mail yesterday, firearms, etc.)
If they are expecting to be paid when they finish the work, make sure you have your checkbook or credit card discretely within easy reach.
Give technician’s name and estimated time of arrival to your safety-check person. If working with a service company you have never done business with, ask your safety-check person to call you at a pre-arranged time.
Arm yourself – kubotan, firearm, pepper spray, cane, whatever you feel competent to use in self defense, if required. Whatever you choose, it needs to be carried on your person. You will not have time to retrieve your gun from your purse (which should be put away out of site by now) if you are attacked by someone in your home.
Watch for the arrival of the service provider through a window if possible.
When the service provider arrives:
Normally, we feel the safest in our own homes and go to our least-alert mode (white) while at home. When a service provider is in your home, consider yourself to be in a public place. Make a conscious shift to a more alert mode (yellow) when the service provider arrives, just like you do when you leave your home. Be aware of your surroundings, pay attention to everything happening around you, and be ready to shift to a higher mode (orange) if necessary.
When working with a new service provider, I call my safety-check person when I see the service provider pull-up and park in front of my house. As I answer the door, I say to the person on the phone, ‘hang on, ABC Heating and Air is here’, and keep them on the line while introducing myself to the provider and verifying their name(s). Then I say to the person on the phone, ‘John Smith is here to fix my A/C. I’ll call you back in a few minutes,” and make sure the service provider hears me say it.
If the work is outside, there is no reason to let them into your house. When you see them pull up, pick up your keys and cell phone, and meet them outside on the driveway. Hold all of your discussions in the front yard. While work is in progress, most will not ask to use your bathroom. If they do, just tell them that the toilet is broken and you expect the plumber a little later… unless, of course he IS the plumber and the toilet IS broken.
While service providers are in your home:
Leave the front door open and try to keep yourself between it and the service staff. If someone does try to attack you, one option is to run out the door.
Keep an eye on them. No need to hover, but do not allow them to roam unescorted around the property.
Don’t offer to help them do their work.
Avoid giving them information about who lives at your house. Easier said than done if the toilet in the master bathroom is broken, but do your best. They do not need to know what you or your husband does for a living, or the names and ages of your children.
If the service call takes a long time, touch-base periodically with your safety-check person.
At the end of the service call, quickly retrieve your checkbook, or credit card and be ready to pay the service provider when they present the bill. They usually go to their vehicle to write the bill up. This is when I grab my checkbook and pen, then go outside and write the check there or keep them standing in the entry hall while I write the check.
After the service call.
Make sure all of your normal security measures are in place. All doors are relocked, etc.
Call your safety-check person and let them know that the service provider has left the premises.
Be your normally vigilant self and pay attention to people and vehicles which do not belong in the area.
Most service providers called to your home are honest, hard-working people who are earning a living and are not a threat. Treat them well, and they will do a good job and be willing to come back the next time you need them. Stay confident and vigilant, and take a few precautions in advance, and you will stay safe AND get your A/C fixed!
Contact me if there's a specific topic you'd like to see addressed in this section.
Q: Hi Tammy,
I am finally getting around to applying for my license. I went through your class with a semi auto and on the application it asks what types of guns, can I check all three types or do I need to take classes for each? Thanks, Barbara
A: Hi Barbara,
Yes, check all three. Since you took your SDA class with a semi-auto you qualify to carry a revolver, semi-auto, and derringer. If you had taken your class with a revolver, you would only be qualified to carry a revolver, and this is why I recommend women take the class with a semi-auto even if they don't currently have one because you may wish to carry one in the future.
A word about derringers
I specifically tell students in SDA and Girls Day Out that derringers are, "dangerous and stupid." There is typically no guard around the trigger, they are nearly always single action only (requires pulling the hammer back with each shot), their typical caliber is very insufficient for stopping power and when they are in a higher caliber you're trying to hold on to something that's 5 inches or less and fits in the palm of your hand with the recoil of a higher caliber. Derringers are often promoted to women, and it's a stereotype that infuriates me quite frankly. I have heard people say a well placed shot with a derringer will kill somebody. Sure it will, but let me ask you this...
| Typical .22 derringer
In an emergency when your attacker has you in a bear hug – because this is a close proximity weapon, meaning you've got to be right on top of the person for this kind of weapon to do you any good, and this is the position your attacker will have you in – can you safely draw a tiny gun with no trigger guard, pull the hammer back, fire it once and then pull the hammer back and fire your 2nd bullet (because they typically only hold 2) and know beyond a reasonable doubt that this will be enough?
Let me make the answer to the above very simple....
NO, NO, NO!!!! No, you won't be able to do any of those things in an emergency, if you manage to get your hand in wherever the tiny little gun is stored and pull the hammer back you'll probably set the thing off before you get it in the "well placed shot" position because there's no trigger guard, there's no index (register) position because the barrel is so tiny, there's absolutely no way to be safe with one of these things. As I will be teaching in And Everything Else, there are many other options for close proximity weapons to get you out of the death grip so you can get to your gun, which needs to be stopping power caliber.
Yes, you can kill somebody with a .22. Assassins and snipers do it (I am neither) and so do people who say "the gun went off" and they have no idea how that happened (FINGER ON THE TRIGGER is how it happens every single time!). But if the time comes when some 6'3" guy attacks me in a parking lot, or tries to carjack me, or kicks down my door (well, in that case the 12 gauge will be my preference), I want to have actual stopping power, and I want something I can operate proficiently and instantly. This means 9mm or above. This means I am not looking for external levers, or having to pull a hammer back, or having to rack a slide. I teach about these things, and the reasoning behind all of it, in Girls Day Out so I highly recommend if you've not taken that class you consider doing so. Likewise if you've taken GDO and you're not so comfortable with safe handling, grip, stance, how to handle your gun that it comes quite naturally (can you pick up your gun quickly in a safe grip or do you have to fiddle with it to figure out how to hold it properly?) then take a refresher. Ladies, we cannot afford to be stupid in today's times, and we cannot ignorantly sit by while others perpetuate useless and dangerous stereotypes on us. My daily carry is a full size M&P either in 9mm or .40, my backup gun is a .38 snubby revolver. I also carry a 4" assisted opener folder knife, kubotan, and tactical flashlight – I can use any one of these in a close combat situation to get someone off me long enough so that I can get to one of my guns. A derringer is a very inefficient close contact weapon, and I would never even consider owning one since I already own several close contact weapons far superior to a derringer.
I remember when I first met a student in her 70s who has arthritis and she had gone to Academy and they stereotyped her and sold her a .22 derringer. She came to me for a private lesson, showed me the little gun, and I immediately found out she could not operate any of the functions. She could not pull the hammer back. She could not pull out the cylinder to load it. Furthermore, her concern was someone kicking in her front door and I told her this 4-shot .22 was no match for someone who chose to carry out a home invasion. She felt she could only handle a revolver (because that's what she'd been told), so I got a revolver for her to try, but with her arthritis she could not pull the 12 lb double action trigger. So on a full size M&P 9mm I showed her my "hold push" method for racking the slide, and showed her how she could lock the slide open with an empty magazine (I teach this is GDO), and she was able to operate all the functions on the M&P, including pulling the 6.5 lb trigger, and this is the gun she took her SDA class with. Her daily carry is an M&P compact 9mm. She is now equipped to actually deal with a threat!
Yes, stereotypes infuriate me, and that's why I teach you in Girls Day Out how to make an intelligent decision for your own self what gun and caliber is best for you. But what really infuriates me is that women everywhere are being duped with a false sense of security through such dangerous and useless tools as derringers.
Still, mark that box on your conceal carry application just because you can!!
Send me your questions.
Time to stop believing hype, gimmicks and political correctness...
Recently I found a notice taped to my front door…when I read the first two sentences, I thought it was perhaps an invitation to a new neighborhood watch forming…
|“Our streets are dark and inviting to burglars and other criminal elements. Six out of every ten burglars escape their victim’s home before police can arrive on the scene.”
But I was quite surprised as I read on to realize that it was a curb painting service advertising that they’d paint home addresses in highly visible paint for a nominal fee. Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad service, and in fact last year I opted to have this done because it had been a few years and the numbers on my driveway had faded. So I’m not dissing the service, and while I can appreciate their creative marketing, I have a problem with anything that would serve to placate the public about safety. The notice goes on to say...
|“Without a series of addresses located in a standard place, police and emergency vehicles must drive slowly to locate your home. Stopping to use their spotlight and checking addresses along the way wastes valuable time. In order to provide prompt rescue response in life threatening situations, your home must be clearly marked.”
Finally bringing it home it states,
|“These addresses will give emergency vehicles (fire/police/ambulance) needed numbers to follow to your home in case of emergency day or night. While this is not a mandatory project, please keep in mind the address on your home, no matter how large, is not visible until emergency vehicles have reached your front door.”
This suggests to the unsuspecting, uneducated public that having numbers painted on your driveway somehow makes you safer.
Please understand, when I say “uneducated” I’m not talking about a college degree, I’m talking about being educated about your own personal defense. That kind of education is available to anyone who wants it here in central Oklahoma. It’s what I’m all about with Oklahoma Personal Defense, teaching average women the whole picture of personal defense, including skills that can be done by anyone. I take classes and train my own self so that I can both improve my own personal defense abilities and to find out how workable techniques are. Most of the time I find the techniques being taught not doable by everyone. So I have worked through ways to modify, without infringing upon the integrity of good technique or safety, so that all can carry out their own personal defense. This is what I teach to average women like all of you.
Those of you who have taken more than one of my classes may have noticed a pattern of repetition. This is by design. Through the classes I build layer upon layer that which will give you a whole picture of personal defense. This is why it’s very helpful to take the classes in order (Girls Day Out, SDA, Between the Threat and the Bang) because I build layer upon layer through these classes, repeating and reinforcing skills you learn along the way. Once I find a place to teach live fire, my live fire classes are designed to take students into deeper levels of self-defense giving you real life practice – not for ultra tactical situations because most of us average women will never face such a thing, but for whatever threat you might face in your daily life in the mall parking lot, at the grocery store, in your car at an intersection...
The foundation of everything in personal defense is mindset, and when I read the notice taped to my door I thought to myself, “You know what, it’s time somebody stands up and starts speaking the truth, loud and clear.”
So here it is…
Alarm systems, lighting, locks are deterrents, they are not safety devices…they do not keep you safe, they give you a warning, and time to take steps to defend yourself.
Law enforcement at best can arrive after the fact, if they’re really lucky they might arrive while a crime is being committed, but it takes mere seconds for someone to brutalize and murder another human being, so law enforcement needs to be seen it context. Their job is to enforce the law, but they are not bodyguards and cannot be with you at all times and therefore you cannot count on them to protect you.
This is why you need to be prepared to protect yourself in proper perspective. We do not ENGAGE. Our best option is to avoid danger through situational awareness, when we can’t avoid retreat if at all possible, and only when there is no other option use deadly force (I teach extensively on this in SDA).
Law enforcement engages, we do not go after bad guys, or clear our houses, or chase down a robber…this is the role of law enforcement and they do not need our help. They are trained differently than we are, and we are very blessed in central Oklahoma to have some of the best trained law enforcement (who are way underpaid for what they do). So if you come home to see your front door kicked in, call 911 and wait for law enforcement to arrive. But if you are inside your house and someone kicks in your door, you will likewise want to call law enforcement but steps 1 (barricade yourself in a safe room) and 2 (arm yourself) should occur before you dial 911. I teach about this in greater detail in SDA.
Yes, having your address clearly visible makes it easier for emergency personnel to find your house, but unless they develop the ability to beam into your home, it’s still going to take time to drive to your location (it takes seconds to kill someone).
If there’s a reason you cannot carry a gun, then absolutely learn other methods to defend yourself, but I’m just going to tell you that a gun is your best defensive weapon in protecting yourself. A man with fists, a baseball bat, a knife does not trump a well trained woman with a gun.
The bottom line is, I cannot tell you what’s best for you when it comes to personal defense, but I can tell you that as long as we the public believe or give credence to hype, gimmicks and political correctness, we are allowing ourselves to be lulled to sleep while very real threats go on around us…and we are grossly unprepared to deal with those threats when they come upon us suddenly, as surely they will.
My invitation, join me in standing up for and speaking the truth…start with yourself, stop allowing yourself to be fooled by these dumb concepts of false security. Consider everything in context of what it actually is.
And then get the training you need to be able to proficiently carry out your own personal protection!