I’m sure I speak for most young women when I say that walking through a parking building always puts me on edge. I have seen too many movies and heard too many stories about girls who have been assaulted, heckled, or taken in parking buildings to ever feel safe walking alone in one. For the most part, I avoid parking in them when alone, but sometimes it is inevitable. In those cases, I make sure that I am doing all I can to keep myself safe from any harm. Here are my ten tips to stay alert and safe when walking through a parking building alone.

1) Do not text

As a strong, empowered, and busy young woman, I’m sure you try to make the most of your time and rely on the value of multitasking to get everything done. Despite the desire to multitask, walking from a parking building to your destination is not the time to be engulfed in another task. When you have your head down and attention focused in a conversation on your screen, it is likely you aren’t paying attention to your surroundings. Besides the obvious danger of being hit by a car, this lack of attention means you’re more vulnerable to other threats.

2) Don’t talk on the phone

I have seen several people suggest talking on the phone with someone you trust while walking through a dangerous area. That can be just as dangerous as texting. While it might ease your mind when walking alone, it still leaves you vulnerable and distracted. When you are on your phone, it leaves you with only one free hand. This means you might have to stand there and scramble for your keys, or fuss with something that requires both hands. This lack of attention lowers your guard and makes you an easy target.

RELATED: 5 Steps All Women Can Take To Protect Themselves

3) Utilize your phone apps

Texting and talking on the phone can be dangerous, but there is actually a way to use your phone to your advantage. There are multiple apps out there that revolve around personal safety, created especially for situations like walking alone.

The one I have on my phone is called SafeTrek. It’s extremely simple to use, and requires no voice activation. If you are feeling threatened, all you have to do is open the app. Press down on the large shield button in the middle of the screen until you feel safe. When you have arrived at your destination you can release the button and type in your 4 digit pin. This cancels the alarm. If you are in danger, simply release the button and do not type in your pin. Within ten seconds your information and location will be shared with the closest police station. This is a safe and reliable way to use your phone as a way to keep you safe as it operates 24 hours every day.

4) Be organized before you get out of the car

Get organized before you get out of the car, or right before you leave a building to go back to your car. Make sure you can pull out your keys, phone, wallet, or whatever else you may need at a moment’s notice.

5) Know your city’s parking buildings

If you have to park in a parking garage, it’s always best to know which ones are safest and which ones to avoid. Use common sense and choose a building that’s not too far out of the way and seems brightly lit and frequented often.

6) Take the path of least resistance

Ensure you are confident in each exit’s location. Plan a path to walk straight from your car to the nearest exit. While this might not always be possible, simply make sure you are taking the most efficient route in and out of the parking building. This will help to avoid disorientation that could cause you to be distracted.

7) Choose a spot close to the entrance

Parking buildings can be packed, but try to get a spot as close as possible to the first floor. This will eliminate having to walk further, or have to take a sketchy stairway or elevator. If you have to park at the very top or far away from the entrance, try to at least get a spot with other cars around it.

8) Find someone to walk back with you

If you’re walking back from your office, see if one of your coworkers or anyone else parked near you will walk back with you. My rule of thumb for nighttime is to always use the buddy system. Never think that asking is an imposition, safety always comes first. However, if you are not in a situation where this is possible, the next best thing would be to use an app like SafeTrek.

9) Lock your car as soon as you are inside

Locking yourself in should come before anything else. This offers a first line of defense. It gives you an opportunity to get settled. You can sort through your bags, fiddle with the radio, check your messages without the extra danger of someone sneaking up on you. Some cars automatically lock, but even then, I would just double check before turning to do something else.  

10) Carry protection

My last piece of advice is the most important advice. I strongly believe that each and every woman should carry at least one form of protection at all times. Whether it’s pepper spray, a taser, a mace gun, or a firearm, you need to choose one weapon and you need to make sure you know exactly how to use it.

When my dad first bought me a mace gun, he also bought two practice ones that shot paint. He took me out to the woods where I practiced on a tree. I was so confident that I’d know how to use it, but let’s just say I was grateful to have that first practice.

You can also create weapons out of items in your purse. Take your keys and put them in between your fingers while making a fist. You can also grab your phone and jab it as hard as you can into someone’s throat. Having these weapons in no way encourages conflict, nor does it make you a danger to those around you. Never be afraid to carry something that could save your life. Let this not only protect you but empower you.

While these may seem like simple steps, they will help ensure your safety. Some, you might not have even thought of doing or maybe you do all of these things and more. Essentially, the key to staying safe is staying alert and using your common sense. Walking in parking buildings is typically a mundane task, but that doesn’t mean you should let your guard down.

Hannah N