Situational Awareness – An Introduction

Situational Awareness – An Introduction

How aware are you about your surroundings?  I’ll bet that everyone that reads this will claim that they are very aware of what goes on around them.  Really?  By my very nature (Andrew’s Note:  check out Infidel’s biography) I put everyone on the defense.  Why?  Because I’m very good at getting inside your OODA Loop (observe, orient, decide, and act).  This keeps me on the offensive…keeps me a step ahead of the opposition.  Now… do I do this all the time?  No, because sometimes the body has to mentally relax to recharge the batteries.  You need to know when it’s time to relax and when to maintain heightened situational awareness.

The four levels of awareness that are taught by most personal defense instructors now are the famous ones that originated with LT COL Jeff Cooper, the originator of Gunsite Training Academy.  Cooper’s levels are White, Yellow, Orange and Red.  The goal is to pick the appropriate safety awareness level for your surroundings and situation.  This situational awareness continuum helps you to react accordingly to threats and potential threats to your safety.  A full discussion of this situational awareness model will be discussed at a later time but I mention it here as a brief introduction.

Now, back to our discussion of surroundings…how many of you have observed someone breaking into a car, shoplifting, or actually making a drug deal?


You likely have been exposed to each of these situations and never realized it.  Police Officers are trained to watch for these situations. Street thugs are even taught situational awareness by their ‘mentors’ or school of hard knocks.  Street thugs survive by watching the people around them.  They watch for threats, for victims, for police and for the aware citizen watching them back.  Combining the art of people watching with criminal activity is a life-long learning event for these wolves.  When I teach concealed carry weapons (CCW) licensing classes I challenge people to watch for the above listed non-violent crimes…but never to get involved other than to call 911.  Some former students have told me later that they could not believe what they noticed in their environments once they started practicing situational awareness.

ATM Security MirrorSo, consider where are you are most vulnerable in your daily travels?  Each person’s situation and threat assessment will be different but here are some potential considerations for the average U.S. citizen on a ‘normal’ day:

  • ATM’s:  Access ATM’s within the security perimeter of a bank when possible.  When it isn’t possible have a buddy watch your back or at least make sure to keep your ‘head on a swivel’ and eye on that little convex mirror that’s probably mounted on your ATM (to see behind you)
  • Traveling by Car:  Many of us travel by car and truck daily.  While you’re traveling at highway speeds your situational awareness should be focused almost exclusively on vehicular and road hazards.  Once you enter stop and go traffic or must make frequent stops for traffic signs then you must also maintain situational awareness those pedestrians near your vehicle.  Carjacking can happen even in the best of neighborhoods but some urban environments are particularly prone to this type of potentially violent crime.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a locked door is adequate protection either…a car’s window will shatter completely if just a little ceramic scrap (from a spark plug for instance) is tossed against it.    many ATM’s to let you see behind you) or is it coming and going from your home.
  • Coming and Going:  If you are concerned that you will be a target because of who you are, what you have or what you’ve done then you need to be especially careful when arriving or leaving your home, office or regular haunt.  If you feel someone is out to get you what better place to approach you than where/when they expect you to be.  Even if you’ve ‘hardened’ your home and workplace you must go back and forth.
  • Public Places:  Don’t let down your situational awareness just because you’re in a public place like a convenience store.  The growth in social network choreographed flash mobs is an emerging threat.
  • Semi-Private Places:  You are even more vulnerable when you are in a secluded or semi-private public place like a public restroom.  The street thug may expect that he’ll have you all to himself if he follows you into the latrine.

These are just five possible situations to consider when building your situational awareness skills.  Begin by playing the ‘what if’ game yourself in these and other daily situations.  Once you ask yourself ‘what if XXX happened’ then make a plan for how you will counter that threat to your safety and then ask yourself another ‘what if.’  Once you’ve incorporated the ‘what ifs’ into your routine then include your family members in your discussions of plans to counter those threats.  Next step is to begin actually practicing your plans as long as you can do so in a safe manner.

This was just an introduction to situational awareness to get you thinking about the subject.  If you start spending just a few minutes a day practicing this skill, you’ll will be surprised what you may see.

Final thought:  Your IPOD is the enemy of your situational awareness!


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