Staying safe while traveling, Part 5: some more tools to help you stay safe on the road!

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Even away from your gun you’re never really unarmed. There are tools you can carry which can help you stay safer, as long as you understand their uses and limitations.

In Part 1 of this series I talked about the building blocks of personal safety: Detection, Avoidance, De-escalation, Deterrence, and Response — and how a weapon was most effective (in fact often only effective) in the final phase: the Response. Everything leading up to the Response is still self defense, though we might not realize it!

In the last installment I talked about the flashlight, which is unique in that it can be used in multiple roles: as a Response tool (as an impact weapon); a deterrence tool (when the beam is used as a distraction); and as a Detection and Avoidance tool (to illuminate potential threats and threat areas.) It’s useful while you’re in transit, in your room, and roaming about your destination. Its versatility makes it a “must have”!

What else can you carry with you, that’s small and light, will pass through TSA checkpoints, and serves as a means to keep you safer? One of my favorites is the humble doorstop!

Hotel room doors are notoriously porous, in that their locks (and often even their deadbolts) are easily bypassed. Most of the rooms I’ve been in also have those safety hooks that allow the door to open a certain amount before stopping, but those are easily defeated by even a moderately strong individual.

I’d prefer something that isn’t dependent on the lock mechanism or the strength of the door’s frame, ideally something that wouldn’t let the door open at all. One such thing is the rubber doorstop.

Wedged firmly under the door as far away from the hinges as possible, the doorstop will make it much harder to force the door open. While it’s not a complete solution (I hope you understand that nothing — especially your firearm — isn’t), it does add a certain amount of Deterrence capability while not burdening your luggage all that much. Be aware that some floors just won’t allow the stop to grab sufficiently to significantly slow an intruder, and you need to be careful how and when you use it. I test mine by opening the door slightly, wedging the stop underneath, and then trying to pull the door open. I’m looking to see if the stop grabs and prevents the door from opening.

I carry two: a soft rubber one and a somewhat harder plastic model. The rubber will grip better on a hard surface like linoleum, while the plastic one (which has more pronounced “teeth” on the bottom) tends to work better on carpet.

It’s important to have two because you’ll occasionally run into a door with a significant gap between it and the threshold. While you can usually shove the stop under far enough to catch, it leaves the wedge visible (and exposed) on the outside — easy enough for a savvy intruder to kick back into the room and defeat. By using two you can stack both to make a thicker wedge which won’t protrude to the other side. Even if the gap is of a normal size, using a second stop to wedge the first stop can dramatically increase the amount of force needed to defeat the stop, especially on marginal floor surfaces.

(Another reason to have two: if you somehow get stuck with a room that has a connecting door, and the door opens inward, you can wedge it shut too.)

Some people recommend carrying a small, vibration-activated intrusion alarm to attach to the door. I’ve not found those terrible useful, as a drunk coming in at O’-dark-thirty and slamming the door on the adjoining room is often enough to set them off! (I had this happen once a few years ago, and stopped using the alarm for that reason.) I haven’t yet found an alarm that is well made, works on all (or at least most) doors, and is resistant to unintentional activation. Instead, I’ve chosen to focus on Deterrence: keeping people out!

How about knives, pepper sprays, and Tasers? In most areas where guns are prohibited, so too are many other self defense tools such as these. Even if they’re allowed where you’re going, you can’t carry them on an airplane; you either have to put them in checked luggage (in which case you can’t use them before, during, or just after your flight) or buy them on location.

If you choose one of these options, make sure you have the training and practice to use them properly, and that you can legally carry it on your person. Simply having one in your bag makes you no safer if a) you can’t ge to it quickly and b) you don’t know how to use it!

You’ll notice that I’m not recommending carrying a huge cache of tools, but a few small, light, well-chosen ones carefully considered for their application in the various phases I mentioned. There is a defensive value in traveling light, which I’ll talk about next time.

-=[ Grant ]=-

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About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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