Editor's note: This story was originally published in November of 2018.
UNIVERSITY CITY, Mo. – Five to seven seconds.
It’s not a lot of time, but experts say that’s all the time bad guys need to decide if you are going to be their next victim.
“Yes, it can really happen that fast. They size you up,” said Andre Edison.
Edison is a St. Louis-based security professional with nearly 30 years of police and military experience.
In the wake of recent mass shootings and other violent incidents, 5 On Your Side turned to Edison for potentially life-saving information.
We wanted him to demonstrate how to become a hard target. Generally speaking, that’s a person or a place that’s taken some sort of extra precautions to minimize their risk in case of an emergency.
It’s also something Edison said he and other law enforcement practice even when they’re not on duty, no matter where they go.
So we started at a popular restaurant in the area that’s often crowded. Immediately, Edison said the exit door and sign got his attention.
“If you needed to leave the building, you know where to go. That’s why this is significant. Always look for the exits. When you go to a restaurant, you’re looking for options,” he explained.
Even where you sit is something to consider, in his opinion.
“I look for a seat that gives me a view of everything in front of me," he said. "You don’t want to be in a position where things can occur behind you and you can’t determine what’s going on. If you can see it in front of you, you can see it and make a decision that needs to be made.”
He added that next time you’re out to eat, you might want to avoid requesting a booth.
“I think sitting in a chair is going to give you a lot more flexibility to move if you have to move in an emergency,” Edison explained.
But what about other popular places for the public that have also been the site of horrific shootings, like movie theaters and places of worship.
Experts recommend in a theater, sitting in seats that are closest to the exits instead of the middle of a row. And the same goes for church. They recommend sitting near the aisle so you can get out faster, if needed.
But back out on the street with Edison, he warned against walking while being distracted by your phone.
“What that says is you’re not paying attention,” he said. “Walk with your head up, confident and undistracted. It shows potential criminals that you’re aware of your surroundings. You’re looking left, right and you know what’s going on.”
And when it comes to parking your car, Edison prefers to back in whenever he goes somewhere.
“When you leave, if you have to leave in an emergency, you’re able to leave much quicker,” he said.
Another place where we’re particularly vulnerable, especially at night, is the ATM. Experts suggest circling around once to make sure no one suspicious is lurking around the property.