CHAMPAIGN — Attackers best not mess with Joe Rosner, a triple black belt with a slew of defensive tricks.
Rosner, author of "The Real Estate Safety Book," shared some of his tips Thursday with about 70 members of the Champaign County Association of Realtors.
Real estate agents can be vulnerable to assailants when showing a home or hosting an open house. But at an association meeting at Parkland College, Rosner said agents can avoid becoming victims by taking simple precautions, among them:
— Don't go to open houses alone. Take a co-worker, spouse or better yet a loan officer, who most likely will be happy to be invited.
— Take a quick look around before entering. If someone is watching, beware — particularly if it's a man. "Ninety-nine percent of all violent predators are male," Rosner said.
— Keep your eye on the person, and come up with a plan before approaching the house.
— Once inside, find all exits. Identify any spaces where you could be cornered or trapped. Don't go in the basement, though it's fine for a prospective buyer to go there.
— Use sign-in sheets or their electronic equivalent at an open house. That may discourage someone with bad intentions, but be aware the person may give a false name.
— Post a small sign asking for photo IDs. You don't have to ask each person for identification. But if someone comes in reeking of alcohol, acting weird or asking inappropriate questions, point to the sign and tell them it's company policy. If the person leaves and doesn't return, "I can promise you, you did not lose a sale," Rosner said.
— If you feel threatened, run away. If that's not an option, call 911 and make a short, factual statement — that an assault is in progress at the specific street address.
— If the situation occurs in an elevator, press lots of buttons. That way, you'll stop on several floors, giving the person little time to attack. That's better than pushing the alarm button, which may simply ring a bell in an office that's not staffed.
— Yell "help." That's preferable to carrying a personal panic alarm or carrying a whistle, Rosner said. Someone hearing a whistle may think it signals something innocuous, like "out of the pool" or "recess is over." The best response, he said, is "Help! I'm being attacked! Call 911!"
— Talk your way out of the situation. Hold up your cellphone, and tell the assailant a button will send their photo to 911. Point to a nearby building or utility pole and tell them a police surveillance camera is there. If a truck is approaching, tell the attacker, "There's my husband now."
— Put barriers between yourself and the attacker. A locked door is ideal, as is getting in a car and locking the door. You can also crawl underneath a car, making it difficult for the assailant to get to you.
— If the person comes toward you, turn sideways. Put your strongest side toward the person. Put your hands out with palms facing the person, and give orders to "back off!"
— If the person still moves closer, kick the assailant in the knee, shin — or best of all — atop the foot. Rosner said all those places are more effective than a kick to the groin. Then, run to a safe place and call 911.
— Use pressure points as a defense. Rosner recommends using three extended fingers to push back and down on the person's jugular notch.
— Pepper spray is the best self-defense tool. Rosner said it's superior to stun guns, blunt and sharp instruments, keys and wasp spray. Another effective weapon: granular substances, such as sand, salt and sugar, that can be flung in the face and can bother the eyes, even if the person wears glasses.
Rosner is director of Hebron-based Best Defense of Illinois and author of the book "Street Smarts & Self-Defense for Children."