Wendy Cole is the former managing editor of REALTOR® Magazine.
Safety: Your Personal Escort
NAR has developed a series of helpful tools aimed at boosting your safety on the job and on the road.
September 1, 2008
A decade ago, much of a salesperson’s new business came from previous clients, friends, or friends of friends.
That interconnectedness provided a measure of security that is elusive in today’s digital world.
Nowadays, you may be working with people whose first point of contact with you might be an e-mail or text message. You do it all the time, but at what risk?
About one in four real estate practitioners say they’ve been involved in unsafe “incidents or harassing situations” while on the job, according to NAR’s latest safety survey.
To address the safety of their salespeople, some brokerages have devised secret phrases that associates in the field can use to signal over the phone when they’re in trouble. Others have installed panic buttons in their offices.
A more proactive solution is Virtual Guardian Escort, a phone-based system designed specifically for the real estate industry by Atlanta-based Risk Mitigation Systems. It lets users leave a recorded message with the service detailing their current location and intended destination.
Users set intervals (such as once an hour) for the system to call back. If no one answers, an automatic call goes to the salesperson’s office, a family member, the police, or even all three. The notification feature remains active until the user turns it off.
“It’s more reliable than phone trees,” says Brian Oravetz, vice president of business development at Risk Mitigation Systems. Conventional check-in methods would be of little use in an abduction or debilitating attack, in which a victim was unable to call for help, he adds.
In a pilot program over the summer, salespeople at Atlanta’s ERA Buckhead Realty gave the Escort a thumbs-up. “It’s great for younger salespeople who may not be as conscious of the risks we all take and older ones who’ve grown complacent,” said ERA Buckhead salesperson Jan Reid, a 14-year real estate veteran.
Reid has been thinking more about her vulnerability on the job since an irate homeowner threatened her last year while she sat alone in a model home.
“We are in a dangerous job. And that incident made me much more aware of that,” she says.
The Escort phones Reid’s three grown children in case she fails to respond to the check-in calls. Even in nonemergencies, she’s found the system helpful when she wants to be interrupted: “The calls help me end a conversation I’d rather not be in,” she says.
With a 300-person sales force that’s roughly 75 percent female, ERA Buckhead believes that the Escort is a wise investment, says President Will Colley. “But I’m happy to say no actual distress calls have been made so far.”
Price: $9.95 to $19.95 a month per person depending on the number of users (www.riskmitigationsystems.com)
Sept. 14–20 marks the sixth annual REALTORS® Safety Week. This year NAR has developed a series of helpful tools aimed at boosting your safety on the job and on the road. The updated video “Safety Strategies for You and Your Clients” now includes an interactive quiz and other bonus features. Copies of the DVD are available at the REALTORS.org Store for $12. REALTORS® can also take a three-hour online $49 safety course through REALTORS® University. NAR is seeking continuing education approval for the course in a number of states. More information about staying safe is available at www.REALTOR.org/safety.