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           Safety Alert
Robert Siciliano  Realty Security

Safety Alert and Teleclass Notes
Safety as a Recruiting and Retention Issue


Dear Members,
I received an email from Robert Siciliano today.  He wanted you to know that some serious attacks on Realtors have taken place recently.
"In the past few weeks 2 agents in Florida were attacked. One agent suffered a broken arm, the other a hammer to the back of her head. 

One of the suspects was caught the other is still out there. One agent met the prospect at the office, the other at the property. There isn't any information available as to whether or not they ever asked for ID. Many agents are operating in a virtual environment.

I urge you to have safety procedures as part of your policy and procedures.  Hold regular training on this issue, use the buddy system, get id into the office before you set up an appointment. Take camera phone photos of the person if you are meeting a stranger.  Email it to the office. Check out the new  GPD cell phones, they may work for Realtor safety.  Talk about safety at all office meetings and training sessions.

Keep Safe and Keep in Touch!
Carol

Carol Johnson
Robert Siciliano

The following Teleclass Notes are filled with safety tips, read on! Make safety a priority!
Carol Johnson

September is National Safety month for the National Association of Realtors.  Sadly, it was made even more meaningful after two high profile murders in our industry in the last few weeks.  The safety of agents is critical to the growth of our industry.  Today, I�m pleased to present Robert Siciliano, a nationally known personal protection security expert and speaker on personal security training and safety awareness.

Robert, tell us about your background and your work within our industry.

Robert Siciliano

To give you a bit of background, I have been presenting this program for a number of years.  Fifteen years ago, I had delivered my first agent safety program as a result of working with an agent who had often been in situations where her safety was an issue.  I bought my first piece of property when I was younger and the area in which I could afford to purchase was in a high-crime, low income area, and I ended up seeing first hand what she had faced.

Shortly after this, I put together this program for her and for her agents. 

I have spoken to 20 state associations, boards of Realtors, most of the major franchises (Realty Executives, Coldwell Banker, ERA, Century 21, GMAC, etc).  I have put together a program that focuses solely on the agents and what they need to do to keep themselves and their clients safe.  Real Estate agents are in a profession where they are can be isolated and vulnerable.  Experts all agree that real estate is a high risk profession.  Just like cab drivers and late night store clerks.  Annually there are a number of Realtors who are robbed, or raped and in 2002 there were six agents that were murdered.  About one month ago there  was an agent in New Mexico who was murdered.  He was contacted by a man who wanted to see a million dollar property and he ended up getting shot.

Carol Johnson For those of you who don�t know the case, the man in New Mexico was in his 70�s and had been in business for many years � he was a seasoned veteran.
Robert Siciliano This man had led a very successful life.  He was the owner of his company, President of the New Mexico Bankers Association, Deacon of his church, etc.  The biggest problem we all face is that we are all too nice, we are too trusting, and we don�t think these kinds of things will happen to us.  Brokers need to educate their agents on the fundamentals of agent safety.
Carol Johnson What are some of these fundamentals?
Robert Siciliano I have a ten point program.  You can find a handout to use in your training programs at www.realtysecurity.com.  I talk about being guarded but not paranoid.  Just in the past year a thief would visit open houses with his wife and kids with him.  He would meet the agent, get their business card and gain the trust of the agent.  Later, he would meet with the agent at a property, alone, and the agent ended up bound and gagged, robbed and in a closet.  This happened a half dozen times over the course of six months.  They only caught the guy after a friend of this predator came forward.  Agents need to be trained and systems put in place for their protection when showing property and holding open houses.
Carol Johnson The Georgia Association of Realtors has a fantastic site at www.garealtor.com.  They tell all these stories on their web sites and constantly put alarms out to warn their agents.  Agents can easily get fooled into thinking that people who look nice, have kids and drive nice cars, can be trusted. 
Robert Siciliano That�s true. The 74 year old agent in New Mexico was murdered by a 27 year old, clean cut, well dressed young man who said he was an attorney.
Carol Johnson If you were a broker and you were interviewing a potential recruit, what safety issues should potential agents know about before they come into this business?
Robert Siciliano

It really starts with the broker and the systems the broker puts into place to train their agents.  I am finding there are very few brokers that have some sort of safety training.  Even at orientation they are not spending the necessary time to show agents the fundamentals.

  The basic fundamentals are:  1. Be suspect of everyone.  2. Know that some potential clients may have other intentions than to purchase or sell a piece of property.  3. Look for red flags. 4. Pay attention to behavior.  5. Be guarded all the time.  6. Put office safety systems in place. The office must have a system were the agent brings the clients to the office ahead of time and identify who they are doing business with.  If they meet the client at the office before visiting a property they can introduce others to the client, take information and confirm identification.  At least greet them at the office, photo copy their drivers license, see if they have any pre-qualification paperwork, etc.

I always think it is a good idea if the agents drive their own vehicle when showing properties.  I know that it is a good time to get to know your clients while driving in a car.  I don�t think it outweighs the vulnerability of being alone with them.  No one picks up hitchhikers anymore, yet agents drive alone in cars with strangers.

Sometimes the things I suggest are difficult to implement, but security is about adding layers of security.  The more layers you have the safer you are.

Carol Johnson Can an agent get away with telling clients that the office requires a photo I.D. for all clients.  Have their phone camera ready, and be ready to take that photo and email back to the office?
Robert Siciliano Absolutely.  Utilize all modern technology to put the safety layers into place.  To be able to say that it is our office policy that we properly identify who we are doing business with.  This entails you the client coming into the office or when I meet you to a location I need to photograph you and your driver�s license for protection of me and you.  If a person has bad intentions, more than likely they will not show up when you get there.  Anyone who has issue with this policy should immediately raise a red flag.
Carol Johnson I think it would be a good idea for all brokers to put an identity policy disclaimer in their display ads, �For the protection of our homeowners and agents, all visitors to open houses grant permission to be photographed on entry� or �Cameras are present at all of our open houses and photo I.D.'s are required�.  If it deters someone from coming, too bad.
Robert Siciliano It is putting into place safety layers that make attacking a real estate agent less attractive.  At banks you have guards, bulletproof glass, security cameras, panic buttons, dye packs that explode, etc.  All these things make it more difficult to rob a bank; 50 years ago it was much easier to rob a bank when all that was standing between you was a counter.
Carol Johnson Technology has helped agents with their safety issues.  OnStar, PDA�s and cell phones allows agents to push a button and ask for help. Photo phones allows agents to take a picture of the client and their license number and email the photos to their office.
Robert Siciliano

GM vehicles have the ability for their clients to press a panic button located in the vehicle.  It costs approximately $200/year.  It also has global positioning built in, so in the event that there is an issue, if the car goes off the road, or any other emergency, they can press a button and it will alert a call center where the vehicle is.  I have OnStar in my vehicle. 

Cell phones are another layer of security.  Agents should always have their phone programmed to call 911 in the event of an emergency.  Some phones have GPS built into them.

Carol Johnson

I believe that safety technology and systems could be a sales and recruiting tool.  It is a benefit when brokers do everything possible to look out for the safety of their agents, and to let the public know that they put security first.
 
Agents must realize that to a stalker their photo on a sign or in a print ad is a personal ad.  That person might determine that they have a �look� that they are seeking.  I suggest that agents keep their photos professional not glamour shots.  There is a portion of our population that are predatory by nature.  I want to teach agents how to avoid these types of individuals.  Glamour type shots can be seen as an open invitation to a stalker.

Appropriate dress is also a safety issue when agents are with clients.  They must dress professionally and avoid flashy jewelry and clothing.  While I agree that it is not right for the client to act inappropriately toward any agent, the agent is in the best position to prevent it from happening.  That is the reality.

What advice do you give about agent information and photos on the Internet and how do you suggest brokers handle the subject of safety at office meetings?

Robert Siciliano

There are two ways to approach this.  1. You bring me in to do the safety session, or 2. You bring in the National Association of Realtors �Realtor Safety Kit� into play.  The last couple of years, NAR has promoted Realtor Safety Week in September.  It is full week dedicated to agent safety.  It was designed by me and a dozen or so executives to shine a light on agent safety.  NAR put together an entire kit that allows a broker to put together an orientation program for new agents.  You can get the kit either through your local board or the state association.

I believe that portions of the kit are available for reprint and portions are available for purchase. 

Carol Johnson On the Georgia Realtor Association site they have a lot of material you can download.  They have a form that contains a place for your staff to fill out their emergency contact information, physician�s number, etc.  This is critical in case an agent gets into an auto accident, has a heart attack or doesn�t return from an appointment in a timely manner.
Robert Siciliano No one learns anything by fear.  You must teach safety issues in the manner that they are accustomed to learning.  I will always educate in a light-hearted manner.  I make it fun.  Even in a 30 minute program, it should be done in a non-threatening manner.  You don�t want to scare them out of the business.
Carol Johnson What about self-defense training?
Robert Siciliano

I think every man, woman, and child, should understand how to defend themselves.  Agents should know the risks that they are getting into, they should know about the stories from other parts of the country, that even though it hasn�t happened in your market, doesn�t mean it won�t. No area is 100% safe, it�s just a matter of time.

We need to be in a pro-active mode.  Being pro-active means knowing what your options are and avoiding and removing yourself from a dangerous situation before it happens.  See the red flags.  When the hair on the back of your neck stands up, and your intuition knows something is wrong, you must pay attention.  If something seems wrong � it IS wrong.

Agents should be reminded of safety every single meeting.

Carol Johnson Do you think agents should keep their purses in their car when showing properties?
Robert Siciliano

Purses, jewelry and cars are targets. The bigger the diamond ring, the more signs of wealth displayed can increase the chances of being a victim of an attack.  You may not want to take your rings off, or put your purse in the trunk, but know that displaying them may be putting yourself in a more perilous situation.

I always recommend that you carry a heavy duty ball point pen in your hand.  You can use it to jab someone with it; their eyes, throat, face, chest, or neck.  And/or if an agent wants to carry pepper spray, have it in a jacket pocket with their hands on it.  Your cell phone and keys should be in the other pocket. 

Another point you may make when training someone about personal safety is the fact that although someone may try and take control of you, that doesn�t mean you should give them control.  The potential victim actually has the most control over any attack situation during the first minute. 

For example, if someone approaches me, and they attack me, as the victim I actually have more control over that situation because my reaction to the attacker can very well determine the outcome.  If my response is loud and aggressive, now the attacker may be concerned for their own personal security.  As the victim, the more resistance you offer, the better off you are.  You think about a little, cute kitty cat that doesn�t want to be picked up.  That cat that doesn�t want to be picked up eventually gets away.  They keep up the struggle until eventually they are put down.

Continue to put up resistance; you will be in a much better position to get out of that situation.  80% of woman that fight an attacker end of getting away.

Carol Johnson They always tell you to never allow yourself to be taken to another location.
Robert Siciliano

Never allow yourself to be taken to the secondary crime scene.  NEVER!  You are giving them control over your life if you go to a secondary location.  That becomes the crime scene � that�s where the really bad stuff happens. 

My philosophy is all about avoiding trouble by removing yourself from a dangerous situation.  If a situation arises where a gun or knife is involved, you run.  If somebody pulls out a gun, you run.  If someone threatens you with a knife, you run.  If they grab for you or your valuables, you run.

Don�t stick around to see what happens when you give them control over your life � run!  You reduce the chance of being shot at by 60% by running. Even if you are hit with the bullet, you have a 50/50 chance you are going to be hit in a �kill zone� (the upper torso).  You keep reducing your chances of being killed by making the decision to run.  The actual statistic of someone being killed, in this type of situation, is about 4%.  So you have a 96% chance of getting away with your life if you make the decision to run.

Carol Johnson What do you recommend as far as safety in the office?  Leaving the office, the lighting in the parking lot, the number of exits, etc.
Robert Siciliano

I always stress safety in numbers.  When people leave the office late at night they should go with somebody else.  If they are by themselves, they should be on the phone in contact with someone.  Make it obvious they are speaking with someone.  That person on the other line knows exactly where you are at in case they would need to send help. 

As you are walking through the parking lot, and if there is someone paying unwanted attention to you, look right back at them � stare at them.  Show them that if they choose to try and attack you, you would put up a resistance.

If someone does approach, offer resistance.  Verbally, screaming �NO�, screaming profanities, using strong body language, and showing anger can be enough to send someone off.

Carol Johnson If you could give our members one piece of advice on Recruiting Retention or Agent Productivity, what would it be?
Robert Siciliano

Questions & Answers

Question

During an Open House how would you ask potential clients for their identification and what if they would use fake I.D.'s?
Robert Siciliano Have signs outside posted, stating that for safety reasons identification will be needed. In terms of fake I.D.'s , I don't think potential predators are going to think that far in advance in giving you a fake I.D. Potential predators are not going to enter an Open House that requires identification because that makes them vulnerable.

Having signs posted for identification and asking people to show their I.D.'s should be standard protocol. It should not be seen as evasive or a sign of mistrust. Most people would not be put off by this.
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Carol Johnson is President of The Recruiting Network and Publisher of The Recruiting Pipeline web site, the real estate industry's leading source for strategic recruiting resources. She is the author of The Recruiting Revolution in Real Estate and a leading authority on recruiting systems, products and services.  Her monthly Teleclasses attract some of the most influential brokers and recruiters in the industry. Her coaching has increased individual manager�s recruited volume with astounding results.  For information on Carol Johnson's coaching and consulting programs call: 847-524-8487.PD