As parents, we operate on two levels. Most of the time, we’re consumed with the issues that confront us on a daily basis — paying the bills, managing the household.

But when a crisis happens and our child is confronted physically or mentally, we drop everything and snap into action. So I ask the question: Do you – right now — have what it takes to keep your family safe in an emergency?

Probably not.

Prepare for the worst
Fortunately, the concept is simple: Whether you’re deterring bullies or getting out of dangerous situations, you need to have a plan.
Police officers, for example, are trained to respond to split-second, life-threatening situations. They learn to:

1. Remain alert
2. Act decisively
3. Have a pre-planned, practiced response in mind.

Now if you’re like most people, you’re so preoccupied with your day-to-day life that you don’t think about the bad things lurking around the corners. Or, worse yet, you’re in a state of denial based on a false belief that the world is and always will be safe.

But troubles – in the form of bullies, belittling teachers and people who cause real harm — do indeed exist. And protecting your family isn’t about becoming hyper-vigilant, it’s about this.

Building an awareness of the consequences that can happen. Police trainer Bob Lindsey of Jefferson Parish, LA, calls this “When/Then Thinking.”

Here’s how to frame these types of situations: “When something bad happens (notice the word, “WHEN,” not “IF”) then I will do X, Y and Z.” This way, you’re responding — not reacting to — an unfolding situation.

Keep your eyes open
It’s been said that the great equalizer in life is a baseball bat swung from the blind side of someone not paying attention.
If you’re not watching for the threat, how can you defend your family?

Good drivers, for example, are always on the watch for signs of trouble up ahead. If they see flashing lights or traffic slowing down, they know to pick a different route home.

Be watchful of the signs – a child beginning to have trouble at school, a neighbor acting strangely, a suspicious person following you down the street – and recognize that a possible threat is developing.

This is often less painful and much, much safer than wondering what happened once you’ve been hit by a baseball bat that you should have seen coming.

Make it happen
Just seeing some hazard down the road isn’t enough to keep you and your family safe. You’ve got to steer clear of the trouble you see.

This is harder than it seems. It involves trusting yourself to make the right, oftentimes difficult decision to take matters into your own hands, and not let others control you and your family. This can be as simple as speaking up at your child’s school conference if the teacher talks about your child in a negative manner.

Don’t just accept it, don’t let it pass. Act quickly, or suffer the consequences.

Here’s another example: Let’s say you’re at a concert and you notice the crowd around you is getting increasingly rowdy and out of control. You need to get out early.

To ignore bad behavior is to condone bad behavior. To ignore possible danger is to allow bad things to happen to you and your family.

Practice your plan… now!
You’re going to be most effective if you can preplan and practice your response to the situations you are likely to face:

• Verbal interactions with teachers and service providers
• Responding to someone bullying you or your child
• Emergencies, such as a house fire or home invasion
• Dealing with physical assault

This has to be practiced, not merely discussed. This is especially helpful if you anticipate a stressful encounter with someone you know, a child’s teacher, for example, said Marty Drapkin, a law enforcement training coordinator from Wisconsin.

You want a realistic response to a real threat, not a fantasy plan with little chance of success.

Be insured against danger
Think of this type of preparation as an insurance policy: Although a high-deductible insurance policy is cheaper, it provides little real coverage WHEN bad things happen.

The same is true of how you prepare to keep your family safe. If it doesn’t cost much, it probably won’t do much for you when you need it.

I call this type of preparation, “Quality of Life Insurance:” Always remain alert, be decisive and have a preplanned, practiced response in mind. Your response will be ready when you need it.