The number of real estate agents attacked in empty homes over the past several years is cause for concern, and it doesn’t seem like the associations representing those agents are doing much about it.

While the National Association of Real Estate Brokers recently signed an agreement with Agent Alert, a company that provides an app that essentially turns smart phones into emergency alarms, it comes after dozens of publicized instances of agents being brutally attacked in empty homes.

It’s no exaggeration to say this is a dangerous time for real estate agents showing homes alone. The thousands of vacant homes on the market are prime targets for robbery, squatters and all sorts of criminal activity.

Stephanie Singer, the managing director of media communications at the National Association of Realtors, said NAR is concerned about the safety of its agents and offers a wide range of safety tools.

But those tools are webinars, videos, online forms and tips. They are educational — no substantive help — just proactive tips to avoid situations instead of how to deal with them when they happen.

According the the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nine real estate brokers or real estate agents died by assault in 2010. Two of those fatalities were from a string of crimes in Ohio, where one man targeted real estate agents in empty homes, strangling one and fatally shooting another before robbing someone else. 

The BLS had no data on nonfatal assaults in 2010, but news reports indicate that there were several. Such as this woman in San Antonio who was rescued by students after her client attacked her, this man in Seattle who was attacked while standing in front of a home he was showing, or this Columbus Ohio woman who was attacked while inspecting a foreclosed home. 

NAR offers tips on how to choose a self-defense course and links to other sites that offer self-defense information. But it could do so much more.

It could easily leverage its clout as one of the nation's largest trade groups (more than 1 million members strong) to get members discounts for self-defense courses around the nation or create videos with self-defense tips, for example. It could even offer a self-defense class in its continuing education selection.

And while NAREB has a good thing going with the Agent Alert app, help could hardly get there fast enough if an agent were to be quickly attacked like those in Ohio. It is imperative that agents learn how to protect themselves, and do so effectively.

More importantly, it’s time for associations to start giving real thought on how to best protect their real estate agent members in an increasingly turbulent time for the real estate industry. Whether its class discounts or YouTube videos, they need real knowledge on how to defend themselves in dangerous situations.