An open house may not seem like a danger zone, but it is one of many situations that could make a Realtor a sitting duck for a violent attack.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that since 2004 an average of 25 real estate agents have died on the job, many from attacks while showing homes for sale.
That's why the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors on Friday hosted the latest class in a series of self-defense workshops specifically tailored to the needs of real estate agents.
"For real estate agents, on-the-job, everyday scenarios can easily escalate into something much more dangerous," said Nathan Walldorf, president of the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors. "When you're showing an empty home to virtual strangers — sometimes miles away from the nearest neighbor — and marketing yourself so openly in the public eye, having an escape plan and knowledge of how to defend yourself may very well be what saves your life. At the end of the day, you just never know exactly who you're opening the door to."
Forty percent of all Realtors surveyed in the National Association of Realtors' 2015 Member Safety Report indicated they had at one point felt threatened on the job— a fear that the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors sought to address head-on with its self-defense classes.
Each four-hour course is led by safety experts Jim Hogwood and Jon Fish from the National Self-Defense Agency, and participants learn to spot key warning signs while employing practical safety tips and self-defense techniques.
"As a Realtor in the area for more than a decade, I've seen the landscape change — and it's not as safe as it once was," said Carolyn Limerick, a Realtor with Keller-Williams Realty in Hixson. "But after learning numerous self-defense techniques, I feel confident and in control of my own safety which wasn't the case before today."
For added safety, Realtors also have been encouraged to turn to technology with personal security apps like Guard Llama or StreetSafe, which can communicate an agent's location and personal information with the swipe of a finger or push of a button.
But when a 911 response is not quick enough, class instructors stressed there is no greater resource than a ready mind and trained body.
"The goal of this training is to ensure Realtors leave feeling confident that they can protect themselves during an attack no matter the setting or their aggressor's stature," said Jon Fish, an instructor with the National Self-Defense Agency. "Attackers typically don't take action if they expect to be defeated, that's why a target that fights back immediately has an advantage."