Personal safety classes and training aren’t new at REALTOR® associations, but now they’re adding a focus on keeping safety awareness front and center continuously, not occasionally.
Typically, REALTORS®’ focus on safety lasts 30 to 90 days [after an incident], said Birmingham, Ala., broker David Lucas at his association’s Agent Safety Town Hall Meeting in October. “Lots of guns, apps, and alarm jewelry will be bought. Then, time will pass and the memory will fade. The jewelry will not match the outfit and won’t be worn, the app will be buried next to the January weight loss app, and the pepper spray will find its way to the bottom of the purse.”
Lucas, a former police officer and tactical squad member, says real estate agent safety is an attitude. “This attitude is only obtained through proper and continuous training. Agents should be getting an opportunity to have safety training quarterly at a minimum,” he recommends.
In light of the recent REALTOR® attacks, such as the September kidnapping and slaying of Arkansas REALTOR® Beverly Carter, the Coastal Carolinas Association of REALTORS® in Myrtle Beach—like many others across the country—offered a heightened menu of safety programs.
“We offered a hands-on self-defense seminar by a karate sensei, a safety presentation by a local police officer, and a demonstration of safety products by a representative from Damsel in Defense,” says Angela Fabbri, the association’s director of marketing and communications.
“When safety is not top of mind, or you’re not hearing about situations like Beverly Carter’s, it’s easy to get lax,” says Laura Crowther, Coastal Carolinas CEO. Crowther vows to keep safety a prominent focus year-round.
Offering a greater variety of safety classes is a priority for REALTOR® associations and a member demand, AEs say. Members usually prefer to take classes sponsored, or at least vetted, by their association because the needs of real estate agents are unique. Safety classes specific to REALTORS® are getting more popular, although they still can be hard to find.
If your association is considering starting or beefing up a safety training program, here are tips from associations that have offered successful programs, as well as some resources from NAR.
Where do I find the right instructors?
Even a small association should be able to find local experts in law enforcement who can share their knowledge and provide hands-on training. Because law enforcement personnel usually do not charge for their time, they are a natural first choice. Ask law enforcement agencies for referrals and recommendations. Vet instructors and make sure they have professional liability insurance. Make sure the instructor understands the types of situations your members are likely to encounter and is willing to customize classes for REALTORS®.
What type of safety class should I offer?
There’s no single format or curriculum for safety training. In fact, by offering classes on hands-on self-defense, handgun safety, nonlethal weapons, danger avoidance, and technology tools, you can expose members to a range of techniques and information so they can choose what works best for them. Not everyone wants to carry a gun, for example. Poll members to gauge their interest in specific types of training.
Where should I offer training?
For hands-on training, choose an appropriate facility. “Do your due diligence to make sure it’s a safe teaching environment,” advises Mike Ostermiller, CEO of the Northern Wasatch Association of REALTORS® in Ogden, Utah. NWAOR is fortunate to have access to the Swanson Tactical Training Center, a state-of-the-art training facility for law enforcement and military personnel, where it has held several classes. But even if you can’t find anything comparable to Swanson, make sure the teaching facility is safe and accessible to members with disabilities. Ensure that your association’s insurance policy covers any accidents that may happen during hands-on training at your association office.
Which members are likely to attend?
Most association executives report that the majority of attendees for safety classes are women, yet both men and women are interested in safety classes. For hands-on training, consider offering some gender-specific classes since different self-defense techniques may be appropriate for men and women. If you offer a women’s class, be sure to offer a men’s class, as well. “Men don’t feel as comfortable [participating in the classes], but everyone can benefit from them,” says Mark Epstein, CEO of Citrus Valley Association of REALTORS®, Calif. Gender-specific training may encourage more men to take part, he says. Also, expect a large turnout, AEs say. And expect demand for multiple classes. Ostermiller offers as many as five or six classes each year.
What’s the best way to attract members?
Consider offering training that leads to certification for concealed-weapon permits, which are now legal in all 50 states. Relaxed requirements for these permits, along with increased perception of risk, have boosted the demand for certification. Amanda Woods, association executive of the Northwest Mississippi Association of REALTORS®, notes that her association’s class led to an estimated 25 to 30 members becoming certified to carry weapons. And once members begin carrying weapons, they often recognize the need for further, regular training in handling those weapons—so expect to add classes on that subject.
Should I charge for classes or offer them for free?
Members always appreciate a free class but if your association can’t afford a trainer, seek a sponsor or a trainer willing to present in exchange for advertising or another perk. Associations report that owners of karate schools, gun ranges, and even private security firms often offer free presentations to attract new clients.
How do I keep the focus on safety year-round?
Schedule a variety of classes throughout the year and include safety instruction in new-member orientation. Schedule safety presentations at brokerage sales meetings or provide the materials (available at nar.realtor/safety) to your brokerages. Seek approval for continuing education for safety classes and include safety segments in other courses, such as your Graduate REALTOR® Institute. Encourage members to join safety discussions on social media by posting frequent safety tips, articles, interactive quizzes, and polls.
To help keep your safety focus sharp, NAR will include regular updates in the INS e-newsletter directing you online for new materials and ideas. There are 12 safety articles online now that you can customize and schedule to send out to members every month by e-mail or print, or post them on your website.
Share weekly safety tips with members using the 52 tips at realtors.org/safety and customize REALTOR® Safety Initiative artwork and use it for your publications, mailings, meeting materials, and website—and even on T-shirts.
Association executives report that members who take part in safety training feel safer as a result. And even if the class just serves as a reminder of what members already know, that’s all for the good. As Woods says, “There are always some basic things we all know, but we forget over time.”