Social Worker Safety

Just had an interview on Social Worker Safety posted on the Social Work Career Development site:

Who’s On the Stairs?

If you are visiting a client in an apartment building, you should never, ever just walk up to the door and knock.  Always listen at the door first to see what it is that you are walking into.

Always check the hallway exits outside the client’s apartment. Make sure that those exit doors are not concealing an unwelcome surprise.  The last thing that you want to deal with if you have to leave in a hurry is hostile intoxicated people (who may be friends of the client) on the stairwell landings.  If you have to leave in a hurry, you certainly aren’t going to be waiting for an elevator:  You’re going to be heading for the stairs.  You want to make sure that exit door is unlocked in case you need to use it to escape quickly.

I remember a case that we dealt with where the police had made several visits to an apartment to investigate domestic disputes during the course of an afternoon. Twice an intoxicated male had fled from the building when police arrived. When we came on duty we were asked by the officers involved to check this apartment, where a known client with a child was residing. Everything seemed quiet when we arrived at the client’s door in the hallway. But out of habit we checked the exit door only six feet away to see that the exit stairs were clear before we knocked on the client’s door.

They weren’t. A snarling German Shepherd attacked me as I opened the door. The client’s intoxicated boy friend had positioned himself on the exit stairs with a case of beer and his dog with the intent of setting the dog on the client if she left her apartment. Fortunately this male had passed out, so he had not let the dog out when we first arrived at the client’s door. I was able to slam the door on the dog and request assistance to remove both the dog and the male.