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#SpyHACK: Park to Exit

Greetings Everyday Spy,

Welcome to your first #SpyHACK!

SpyHACKs are specific actions you can use immediately to take control in everyday life. These are the tools real-world operatives use every day to keep themselves safe, sharp, and strong.

The most important element to surviving any situation is having a planned exit.

Today’s hack teaches you how to prepare to escape quickly and securely from any parking area in the world.

There is no way to forget the sound of a car running over a human body.

I’ve had the misfortune of hearing the sound twice in life. Both times happened in Vietnam; once in downtown Hanoi, the second on the outskirts of the same city.

Vietnamese roads are packed with drivers in all types of vehicles. The roads have traffic lights and signs, but the rules of the road are not dictated by symbols and lights. The only laws that matter are the laws of survival.

And the most dangerous place to be in modern day Vietnam is a parking lot.

Parking lots are inherently dangerous areas, accounting for 60,000 injuries, 50,000 crashes and nearly 500 deaths per year in the US alone.

It can seem hard to believe that so much damage can happen in a place where cars move at such slow speeds, but the numbers are clear:

  • 22% of all American children killed by vehicles die in parking lots.
  • 50% of all vehicle-related deaths happen when a car is backing out of a parking space. 
  • 13% of parking lot fatalities are passengers, not drivers. 

Accidents happen because distracted drivers are operating heavy machinery in small spaces with limited visibility. 

You may wonder what people are doing in a parking lot that distracts them from driving…

  • 64% of people admit to programming their GPS while driving in parking lots
  • 50% of people admit to checking email while driving in parking lots
  • 52% of people admit to updating social media while driving in parking lots
  • 49% of people admit to taking photos or watching videos while driving in parking lots
  • 43% of people admit to surfing the internet while driving in parking lots
  • 42% of people admit to engaging in video chat while driving in parking lots

Spies are trained to approach parking lots with caution and careful preparation.

In addition to the risks associated with inattentive drivers, parking lots also pose unique security concerns that field operatives are trained to observe: 

  1. They offer cover and darkness to criminals and other human-threats (80% of all criminal acts recorded at shopping malls and commercial buildings happen in the parking lot)
  2. They are natural bottlenecks for traffic, making it difficult to exit the area under duress or in an emergency. 
  3. They are designed for efficient use of space instead of logical traffic flow, making it difficult to predict the movements of other drivers.

When spies park a vehicle in a parking lot, we always ‘Park to Exit.’

‘Parking to Exit’ means our first priority anywhere we park is having multiple effective exit routes.

Untrained people park for comfort; park for convenience. They park for easy access to get in, not get out. Planning an exit rarely crosses the untrained mind. 

Untrained drivers simply hope to find a way out of the parking lot when it comes time to leave. But you and I know that hope is not control.

An effective exit route gives you the ability to escape the parking lot quickly and avoid other vehicles.

While paved routes are ideal, keep in mind that your vehicle can drive on all types of terrain. You can escape over grass, sand, rocks, and even shallow water if you need to bug out from a threat.

You want a route that has few or no turns to exit. Look for exits that take you to smaller residential roads rather than heavily trafficked areas. The best exit routes give you multiple options – both paved and unpaved – to get out of harm’s way when needed.

Here is how I would ‘Park to Exit’ in a typical commercial parking lot:

Park to exit spy

ORANGE BAR: This entire area is a no-go area for me. In the event of an emergency, my vehicle would be trapped between trees/heavy brush to the right and a wall of other vehicles to the left. Even if I escaped the immediate area, I would run into major traffic routes filled with other fleeing drivers. 

RED CIRCLE: This is what I call the ‘dead zone.’ The area closest to the entrance always has the highest density of vehicles per square foot. This is the place where distracted drivers cause the most damage and where panicked drivers run people over. In the event of an emergency, this area would quickly fill with scared pedestrians that block vehicle movement in all directions.

GREEN STAR: This side lot is where I would park my car. The white/green arrow shows a paved exit route with no turns. If the paved route is blocked, I can still escape over the grass and low curbs to the north and the west and around the few trees to multiple residential roads. As an added bonus, the distance of this lot from the front entrance almost guarantees I can pick my ideal parking spot while untrained drivers fight over parking spots in the ‘dead zone.’

Where you park is the most important element when you ‘Park to Exit.’ But there are other actions you can take to ensure easy escape if needed:

  • Back into your spot to give yourself maximum visibility and control when you need it.
  • Park next to green spaces (curb, grass, bushes, etc.) whenever possible to give yourself extra room to maneuver quickly.
  • A bit of Google Map research in advance offers huge advantages for exit planning
  • Park on the same exit route every time you visit your favorite venues to make it habit

I hope you never need to use this #SpyHACK in an emergency. 

But if you do, I know you will get yourself and your family to safety. 

My kids complain all the time about the extra distance I make them walk when we park. And that’s okay with me. Because my kids are safe and my exit secure no matter what might come our way… even in Vietnam.

Godspeed, #EverydaySpy

Author: Andrew Bustamante, Founder of www.EverydaySpy.com. Andrew is a former covert CIA Intelligence officer, decorated US Air Force Combat Veteran, and respected Fortune 500 senior advisor. Learn more from Andrew on his Podcast (The Everyday Espionage Podcast) and by following @EverydaySpy on your favorite social media platform.