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Keep safe online and in reality by being mindful

October 13, 2018

It’s important to be a thinker — whether you’re online or out in public.

That was the takeaway message Thursday from Trooper Scott Rutten of the Nebraska State Patrol, who was the speaker at the monthly Unlimited Potential luncheon at the Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce.

Rutten said that in terms of internet safety, it’s important for people on social media to keep in mind the inherent risk of over-sharing.

Another Facebook privacy breach just this week has highlighted just how vulnerable users are who share their phone numbers and home addresses on social media, he said.

People should also keep in mind that sharing information on when they’re on vacation or out of town can be an open invitation to criminals.

Password safety is reliant on using unique passwords and changing them regularly, Rutten said. While it is convenient to use the same passwords across all platforms, it’s not safe.

Rutten also offered advice on how to keep safe in the physical world.

“As sad as it is to think this way, in this day and age we are susceptible to violence. You have to change your way of thinking and be aware of what you’d do” in an active shooter situation, Rutten said.

Law enforcement officers are trained to be aware of what’s going on around them, to watch doors and to know where the exits are. It’s time for the general public to start taking the same precautions, he said.

At work, there is a fine line of knowing about the personal lives of employees and co-workers, but people need to watch out for red flags. If an employee or co-worker is having relationship issues with a significant other or anyone in their life, this information should not be ignored, Rutten said.

“A lot of times, having an active shooter in the workplace doesn’t come as a surprise. If you have suspicions about someone, you need to tell somebody. It’s not always easy to do, but you owe it to society as a whole,” Rutten said.

And sometimes, just having the police ask a potentially dangerous person about what’s going on is enough to de-escalate the situation.

“Some of these people are upset about what’s going on around them, and they become isolated from their friends and family. They have no one to talk to, and they may take that last resort of lashing out,” Rutten said.

But sometimes just talking to someone makes all of the difference, and law enforcement can direct troubled people toward services that may be able to help.

Being mindful of potentially dangerous situations and addressing them — whether it be reporting someone who is loitering outside a business or being aware of a gut feeling that someone is “off” and taking precautions — is an important first step in keeping oneself safe.

“Run through your mind every once in a while if something happened today, what am I going to do? ... It’s scary anymore. You have to get it into your mind that (violence) can happen anywhere. Unfortunately, it’s only a matter of time before it happens closer to home,” Rutten said.

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Want to learn more?

The Nebraska State Patrol offers free training on how to prepare for and react in an active shooter situation. The phone number for Troop B in Norfolk is 402-370-3456.

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