Learning how to stay safe

NEW CUMBERLAND – Tammy West, a Hancock County resident, wants to help people learn how to stay safe.

And that’s why the “Refuse to be a Victim” instructor is part of a free class of the same name available to interested women, men and children.

It will be held at 6 p.m. on April 15 and 16 at the John D. Rockefeller IV Career Center in New Cumberland. The class usually lasts for three hours and is offered to the public for a $5 charge just to cover the cost of materials.

Class size is limited, and the deadline to register is Saturday by calling (304) 218-9534 or (304) 670-0815 or by e-mailing tammysuewest1980@yahoo.com or dezsopolgar@yahoo.com.

“The purpose of the class is to provide the public with much needed information on how to stay safe,” said West, noting the course provides “an invaluable community service. People leave this course feeling empowered and confident because they learn how to develop a personal safety strategy. They learn that taking responsibility for your own safety and well being is the key needed to minimize the risk of victimization.”

West, a case manager for the juvenile mediation program in the upper northern counties for the past 15 years, received her “Refuse to be a Victim” instructor training from Pennsylvania and is assisting Sgt. Michael Hayes from the North Fayette Police Department with evening classes at Pittsburgh Technical Institute.

The training requires a 12-hour class led by a National Rifle Association certified instructor, according to West, who said Patty Martin and Dezso Polgar, also from New Cumberland, received their instructor certification in October 2013. The trio will be kicking off the first NRA “Women on Target Instructional Shooting Clinic” in September in Hancock County.

“We have held one (“Refuse to be a Victim”) class at the vo-tech center this past fall, and it was very successful,” said West, who first became interested in the class in 2008 when a family member was victimized.

“In order for me to move on, I started looking for a program that could help the community. With me being an active NRA member, I researched their programs and came upon ‘Refuse to be a Victim,'” West said.

“Statistics show that a crime happens every 19 seconds. My passion is to help teach the community to be more aware of their surroundings, to trust their instincts and in return lessen their chance of becoming a victim,” West said, emphasizing that the seminar is not about firearms or hands-on self-defense tactics.

“It is based on how people can minimize their risk of becoming a victim by increasing their awareness and learning many personal safety options,” she said.

The class is for women, men and children age 10 and older. “Refuse to be a Victim” was developed in 1993 strictly for women but over the years, men exhibited interest in the program. By a vote of the board of directors, it became a co-ed program in 1997.

West said there are separate modules of “Refuse to be a Victim,” including parents and children from preschool through high school; college students staying safe on campus; and senior citizens and people with physical disabilities.

Topics to be discussed will include mental preparedness, mental conditioning, home security, physical security, automobile security, phone security and personal protection devices.

“The main point I try to get across to participants is to always be aware of your surroundings,” she said. “You can control your own environment. Mentally prepare yourself on what you would do if a criminal would approach you. Would you flee, fight or freeze?” she said.

(Kiaski can be contacted at jkiaski@heraldstaronline.com)