I worked in a chemical plant for thirteen years, where all kinds of explosive and flammable materials swam through the pipes surrounding us. Propylene, hydrogen, syngas, and methanol, to name a few.
For the first decade it was a DuPont plant, where safety and proper procedures were taken very seriously and drilled into us daily. We still had a few explosions and fires, and unfortunately, two fatalities, although they weren't DuPont people and they didn't die in an explosion, but during a shutdown. They didn't follow the rules about using plant air for breathing air. (It's backed up by nitrogen.)
I quit that job on my first day back following the birth of my third baby. I had planned to wait a few more months, but I had a nagging fear about being killed in an explosion and leaving my children motherless.
An extreme thought, perhaps, but it wasn't that farfetched.
Fast forward twenty-three years...
I'm happy to report there haven't been any more fatalities at my old plant and I'm now a Realtor.
...and this past week a Realtor in Arkansas, Beverly Carter, disappeared while showing property to someone.
It hit me that my job as a real estate agent is quite possibly much more dangerous than my job as a chemical plant technician, despite the nicer clothes and smiles.
It just doesn't seem possible, does it? But think about it. All the hours I spend on the road probably put me in more danger than walking in that pipe alley years ago.
And then consider the open houses, where you're in a house with strangers milling about (if you survive putting up the signs on busy corners)... listing appointments with complete strangers you often meet for the first time in their homes... showing property to strangers, either meeting them at vacant homes or driving them around in your car.
Granted, Beverly was probably one of about a million agents around the world doing the exact same thing she was at that very moment, and most likely they finished up and joined their families for dinner.
From what I hear, she was an experienced agent and had taken some safety precautions before showing this home. Not enough, it seems, although I'm not blaming her at all.
There's been a lot of discussion and sharing of safety tips and ideas in Facebook real estate groups this past week. I already practiced quite a few of them, thanks to my Keller Williams Realty training, but I've gotten a lot of ideas.
One agent snaps photos of the ID's of every visitor to her open houses and texts them to her office. Another has video cameras placed throughout the open house.
When showing property, I already insisted on having a signed Buyer/Tenant Agreement. I figure if someone refuses to sign, they aren't serious about buying... and are thus a waste of my time.
Recently I also made it standard procedure to copy my client's driver's license and email my itinerary to Tom and the kids.
But through the discussion, I found many more tips, not the least of which involve basicly arming myself with different products and weapons.
It's not fun to think about, when your main objective is to help people, either to find a home or sell a home, so they can move on to the next adventure in their lives.
But no matter how much I enjoy meeting new people and helping them, I can't forget my first duty is to my family. I owe it to them to play it safe. As my cousin said, there are too many crazies out there.
I need to remember my DuPont days and be sure I follow the safety rules and procedures. I need to be aware of my surroundings at all times and never assume anything. Sometimes the greatest danger lies in complacency.
Please keep Beverly Carter in your prayers, that despite the odds, she is found safe and well, very soon.
And also, please don't give your agent a hard time if they ask you to sign a contract or send them a copy of your photo ID. Cut them some slack. It's not personal; they're just trying to be safe in a dangerous world. Thank you.
(I just heard on GMA that Beverly's body has been found. It's not the result that was hoped for, but I pray it brings some relief to her family.)