By Maggie Lee

Sandy Springs Officer Bryan Morgan leads a class in self-defense. “Everything we teach you … is to buy you time to get you out of a situation.”

“How many of you jog or walk at night without a flashlight?” Officer Bryan Morgan asked a group of 10 women.

Five or six sheepishly raised their hands. They knew they ought to be more careful.

But lessons like that are why they joined a personal safety and awareness class for women, which was recently offered by the Sandy Springs Police Department. Other departments offer similar courses. Dunwoody Police, for instance, is offering a course in “situational awareness” this month.

The women gathered for an introduction to staying safe. Morgan’s presentation on safety dealt with prevention and planning for the unexpected.

“You need to plan what you would do,” he said.

He compared it to walking through the steps of a fire drill. First, he advised, stay aware. When walking or running in public, don’t put headphones in both ears. Carry a flashlight, Morgan said.

Morgan showed off nifty personal flashlights with extra-bright beams and serrated edges that can be used to jab a would-be assailant. They cost as little as $10. Morgan said he always carries one. So does his wife.

Police advice on safety has changed in the last several years. Police used to advise complying with an attacker, Morgan said. But that mode of thinking is now outdated and dangerous, he said.

“Everything we teach you tonight is to buy you time to get you out of a situation.”

“You can tell the attacker you’re pregnant, that you have an STD, that you’re ill … You can pretend to faint, cry or act insane.” Try to stay away from isolated places. Screaming will help. And, he advised, keep walking.

Then there’s the issue of fighting back during an attack. “Once you’ve decided to fight,” he said, “fight like the third monkey on the ramp to Noah’s Ark,” he said.

Morgan emphasized that the decision to carry a self-defense tool — anything from a flashlight to a gun — is strictly personal. But what’s important is to learn and to be ready to use them.

If people carry firearms but are untrained, they’re not ready when the moment comes to use them, Morgan said — and that can be a dangerous situation.

After Morgan’s presentation, there was only a little time for physical practice. Morgan and his colleagues taught the women practical techniques of self-defense. They were taught to flinch, which is a good defensive position from which to deliver a few quick palms and elbows to the face. Then the instructors pulled out some thick mats, held them up like shields and showed the women how to use their knees to deliver some below-the-belt blows.

Instructor Michael Raskin called out commands: “Flinch! One! Two!” as the women delivered mock jabs to the face.

“Comb your hair!” indicated a movement that delivers an elbow to a tall attacker’s chin. “Dracula!” was the signal for women to draw an imaginary cape across their faces like a vampire and strike the attacker’s cheek with an elbow.

“The moves are simple,” said Elaine Paradise, and the commands are easy to remember.

And when a blow landed just right, it made a satisfying thump and was a confindence-builder, so that members of the class could walk out knowing they would be able to use their newly acquired skills.

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Self-defense for women

Sandy Springs police offer a women’s self-defense class for residents about once a month. For information about the next class, contact Sandy Springs Police Officer Larry Jacobs at larry.jacobs@sandyspringsga.org.

Dunwoody police have scheduled a free “situational awareness” course 6:30-8:30 p.m. Feb. 17 at Dunwoody City Hall, 41 Perimeter Center East, Suite 103. Lt. Oliver Fladrich is the instructor. Visit “situational awareness” at www.dunwoodyga.gov/departments/Dunwoody-Police-Department.aspx for more information on the class.