FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - “You don’t completely trust the person right in front of you. And you just don’t know what could happen,” says Erin Soderstrom, a realtor with Berkshire Hathaway. “Being a female, I’m not of huge stature, so I know if I got into a sticky situation, there’s not a lot I could do to get out of it.”
Soderstrom says personal safety concerns are an issue in the real estate industry because agents meet new people every day, often after-hours, and sometimes in remote locations.
“20 miles out of town, not a lot of neighbors – it can be put in a risky situation,” Soderstrom says. “I was thinking if this happens poorly, I don’t exactly know what I’m going to do in this scenario.”
Her employer hopes to change that. Berkshire Hathaway hosted a safety seminar so agents could make safety plans and learn self-defense tactics.
“We talk about levels of awareness and being alert to your surroundings and such – it doesn’t make us more paranoid, it makes us more aware,” says Laura Ramirez, the owner and instructor of Permit To Carry Training. “We’ve always told our students if you avoid the conflict, you avoid the consequence.”
While these students are realtors, they aren’t the only professionals looking for more personal safety tips while on the job. Ramirez says she’s taught thousands of students who work in a variety of fields - from public institutions to private companies. But a major part of all of her presentations involve concealed carry permits.
“I’ve always believed that an armed society is a polite society,” Ramirez says. “I still feel that if a person is going to have the responsibility of life and death in their hands, they should know the laws. They should train with the gun. And they should know the consequences.”
And the consequences of carrying a weapon are both legal and personal.
“If you have to use that handgun, you could be charged with first degree murder, second degree murder, negligent homicide or other lesser offenses if you did not follow the laws in accordance with the state you’re in,” says Ramirez. “It’s not just criminal consequences, you’ve got civil consequences.”
“And then you have to live with the decision that you made,” she adds. “Even though he was a bad guy, in a bad place, doing a bad thing – you still have to realize that that was someone’s son, someone’s nephew, someone’s father. Even though they make poor choices.”
But Soderstrom says she’d rather face the consequences of gun ownership than the consequences of being caught unprepared.
“To keep yourself safe, especially being a female, sometimes that means carrying a bigger weapon than the opponent,” Soderstrom says. “The goal is to get a small weapon like Laura that I can carry easily so I feel comfortable and I don’t get into a situation where I don’t know what to do or don’t know how to handle my firearm.”
* Safety experts say it's best to assume your instincts are right and to take the necessary precautions.
* Always have your car keys with you.
* Don't allow yourself to get blocked in a driveway; if necessary park on the road.
* Park in a well-lit area.
* Ask yourself, in an emergency am I going to be able to run to my car and drive away?
*Beware of dead end streets.
* Never allow the client to drive you to the location.