TODAY   |  March 04, 2014

Ex-Secret Service agent’s advice: Trust your gut

Former Secret Service agent Evy Poumpouras joins TODAY to give tips on how to trust your gut and be safe in isolated areas like parking garages, and what to do if you sense someone is following you.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> you ever walked home from work or walked through an empty parking lot and had that gut feeling something wasn't right?

>> if you want to protect your personal safety , trust your instincts. here to help us do that, is the security expert, former secret service agent and our good friend. good to see you.

>> good morning.

>> i kind of like it when we do the segment where we're like wrestling each other. or getting out of submission holds.

>> i've taken will l willie down.

>> she has. that's a story for another day. you say trust your gut. how do you do that in a crisis?

>> it's that feeling, that voice, something you cannot articulate it, no logic to it. but this just doesn't feel right. but we all have it but often don't listen to it. the point here is listen to that voice, it is going to keep you safe and sound.

>> but i have to be honest, i told this story. i was mugged, i won't say where, i was walking down the street, i saw a guy, and something in my mind said, this isn't right. i didn't know what to do, and the next thing i know, he was dragging me down the street by my handbag. but there was that moment where i thought, what do i do? what should someone do when you have that gut feeling ?

>> i just want to point out, what you said, that's exactly it. it's that voice, little something, and you ignored it and didn't listen to it. so what should you do in the situation like that when that happened to you? scream, yell, draw attention to yourself, give him the bag and go.

>> but you always feel maybe you're wrong. maybe, you know, you think --

>> like i shouldn't judge this person.

>> so in this situation where you have that voice and you're hearing it, don't worry about offending anybody and don't worry about being polite. what does it matter? so you walk out, see somebody lurking in the distance, someone staring at you, there's a group of people. it doesn't feel right. i'm going to walk the other way. and i think we need to put politeness aside and think of ourselves and our personal safety .

>> let's go through a couple of scenarios. a parking garage , one of those big, empty parking garages , you feel somebody's presence, what's the move?

>> this is perfect. because everyone has this situation. you're walking to your car, you know what, before you step out of the store, take your iphone, put that thing away. step out and just look around you and look in the direction of your car, who is around your car? assess your environment. if it looks clear and you don't see anything, walk to your car, have your keys in your hand and get in right away. lock the doors and go. if you see somebody in the distance, something doesn't feel right. go inside, get somebody some security or somebody that can escort you out. look for a police officer . wait the people out.

>> well, we both reported, willie and i, done the stories where someone's been carjacked, the kid is in the car. what do you do if something like that happens?

>> that's why it's important when you get to your car, get in, lock the doors and then get yourself situated. but if you're in a situation like that where your kid is in the car, tell the person, take the car, here's my purse, get them what they want, let me get my child and go.

>> i see so many parents juggling the stroller, doing other things, get in your car and get situated.

>> yes, people get in and no one's paying attention. i can't impress that enough. you should think i need to get from point "a" to point "b" quickly.

>> let's go inside the mall for something the herd mentality . you see everybody rushing in one direction, what do you do there?

>> okay. that's the herd mentality . people have this thing where they see a group of people going to one point and think that's where i need to go. no, because there can be an exit somewhere else around you or behind you and you're missing the picture. don't follow the herd. you know when you're on the airplane, what do they say? look behind you. there could be an exit behind you. you know why? because people typically go in and out of the same door. so when you enter a certain door, when there's an emergency, you're going to go out that same door.

>> and quickly here, the scenario, you're in the coffee line and someone keeps brushing up against you, do you feel it's odd? what do you do?

>> you have that one person that leans up against you and you're thinking, please, i need some room. step to the side. a lot of people feel uncomfortable. watch your 6:00, that's your back. take a step, get out of the line and just do it in a way where you can see that person. you don't have to be in that linear form . or give them the look like i need a little bit of space.

>> what do you suspect that person's after? trying to take your purse maybe?

>> no, it's true, they could be testing you, looking to take something from your wallet. maybe even trying to catch -- the point is, you're uncomfortable, don't sit there and take it.

>> she's tough. good advice, always good to see you.

>> thank you for having me.

>> coming up next. a great