Wednesday, 27 April 2016

What to Do If You’re Concerned for a Stranger’s Safety



This weekend I went to a wedding in the midlands (Maid of Honour swag, yo) which meant three hours on public transport. I’ve been taking long train journeys on my own for around a decade now, so I’m pretty confident travelling alone. However, this journey was a little different.

On the first leg of my trip, I squeezed myself into the last available seat in the carriage, which happened to be at a table, with three strangers. On my left was a roughly 25-year-old woman with headphones in, and opposite me was an elderly gentleman and a middle-aged Asian lady. The train had barely started moving when the elderly man started singing and talking to himself. This was sort of annoying but bearable, and I initially just passed it off as an eccentricity. Then he started howling like a wolf.

The English are known for their stoic, stiff-upper-lip approach so I probably shouldn’t be surprised that nobody did or said anything. The issue was that I became increasingly concerned for this stranger’s welfare. He appeared to be alone and “out of it”. Did he have dementia? Did he know where he was and where he was going? How would I feel if my grandfather was alone on a train, singing and chatting to himself? I realised that I really didn’t know what to do in this situation. So, I’ve done a bit of research, and here is what you can/should do if you are concerned for a stranger’s safety.

On Public Transport

One of my best friends works for London Underground, so I asked him what I should do if I’m worried about someone’s behaviour on a train. He said,

“You can anonymously text the BTP [British Transport Police on 61016] or tweet the train company. Or just be straight and ask if [he/she] is ok.”

I know that not everyone had the confidence to just talk to a stranger, particularly one who is acting strangely and if you are travelling alone, so the first two options might be the most practical if anxiety/nerves/fear prevent you from directly interacting with the person in question. Try and stay within eye/earshot of the person you’re worried about so you can keep the authorities informed should the situation deteriorate and get more urgent.

This advice doesn’t just apply to elderly or other vulnerable people; if someone on a train is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or is making you feel uncomfortable, you can use these options to alert the proper authorities. The only difference being that, if someone is behaving dangerously or in a way that makes you uncomfortable, you should attempt to remove yourself from the vicinity if it is safe for you to do so.

You can, of course, ask a train guard or ticket inspector for assistance if you’re able to leave the carriage and find one.

If you’re on a bus, try and discreetly speak to the driver when the bus next makes a stop; generally bus companies ask that you don’t distract the driver when the bus is in motion. You can also call/tweet the individual bus company for guidance.

In Shopping Centres/Public Buildings

If you see an elderly/vulnerable person in public who seems confused, distressed or disorientated then you can approach them and ask them if they are ok, if you feel safe to do so. If you’re not comfortable doing this then there are a few things you can do, depending on where you are.

If you’re in a shop, shopping centre or other sort of public facility like a library or leisure centre, engage the assistance of the people working there. Shopping centres generally have security teams; if you don’t know how to contact them directly speak to an assistant in any of the shops, as they will have a contact number.

On the Street

If you’re on the street then the time of day might change how comfortable you are when it comes to approaching a stranger, especially if they are behaving out of sorts. If this is the case, use the maps app on your phone to get an accurate location and call the police. The individual situation will determine whether you should contact the emergency services (by calling 999 from your mobile or a payphone) or the non-emergency police number (101). Use your judgement here. Again, if you feel safe to do so, try and keep an eye on the person so you can give the best guidance to the emergency services.

If the person appears to be homeless then beware of outdated advice. There is a post making the rounds on social media advising the public to email St Mungos if you see someone sleeping rough; this is no longer what you should do. If you see someone sleeping rough, get the most accurate reading of your location you can (try using the GPS on your smartphone and taking a screenshot) and either call StreetLink on 03005 000914, download their StreetLink app on your smartphone or use their online form.


It’s always important to keep yourself safe, especially if you are alone, in a secluded place and/or in the dark. If you’re concerned about your own wellbeing then call 101 for police advice!
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5 comments

  1. This is incredibly important and I too have felt like I couldn't approach the person, despite them looking like they might need help.

    Thanks for sharing such needed info and looking into this stuff. I'm gonna signal boost the hell out of it.

    Jenna
    xxx
    | princessparasox.wordpress.com | bloglovin' |

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    1. Thank you Jenna! I was frantically googling what to do at the time, and I couldn't find anything helpful. Hopefully now this guide will pop up if anyone needs it!

      x

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  2. Elena, excellent post. Can't say I've read anything similar before but it's something that should definitely get talked about a lot more - there's a lot of very vulnerable people out there unfortunately :(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My blog is such a mishmash - you could just kind of categorise it as "Things Elena had feelings about"... It's one of those posts you hope nobody will never need to use, but if they DO need it at least it's here!

      x

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  3. An amazing post!! It's such a difficult position to be in when you see someone struggling and you don't know what to do these are so helpful.

    ReplyDelete

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