Situational Awareness is one the most important skills you can learn to master that will contribute significantly to reducing the likelihood you will be become a victim and give you the advantage when something bad happens. Situational Awareness is the process of making conscious observations of your surroundings and making tentative plans of action if something bad were to happen. Some might deem you paranoid, others may say you are overly concerned, however, if something bad should happen you will have a tremendous survival advantage over those that think that way.
By Dan C, a contributing author
Plan & Practice
Planning and practice are the two keys to survival. Each compliments the other. You can plan, but if you do not practice, you will not have the skills to meet your objective. On the other hand, if you practice, but do not plan, you will not have a coordinated smooth response. Thus each of the above mentioned, planning and practice must go hand in hand to properly implement situational awareness.
Let’s start by understanding situational awareness, how to implement it and use it to your advantage. In general, the first step in determining your future action plans is based on the immediate situation you are in. For example, are you solo or with a group of people? Being solo has lots of advantages and enable you to make decisions without having to consult or inform anyone else. So in this case, checking your surroundings and making tentative action plans are simple. However, on the other hand, if you are in a group this process can become far more complicated. One of the means to reduce the complication and confusion is to have a predetermined “code” that enables you to gain the attention of all members of your group. To best protect your family and ensure everyone is aware and ready to properly respond in the event of something bad happening, every family should have a “code word” that when announced every one directs their attention to the family leader. Once the attention of the group is acquired, the group team leader can give commands and instructions on how to proceed. This is imperative to group survival.
State of Mind
Situational awareness is a state of mind. Thus, it must be practiced constantly to become fluent in its use and implementation. I cannot emphasize how important it is to practice and use situational awareness all the time. It will most likely be that time when you have failed to use it that you become a victim or caught off guard. Jeff Cooper adapted a color-coded definition of the human awareness and response to critical situations. Understanding these states of mind and applying them to your everyday life, is vital to survival.
White: Completely unaware of your environment and surroundings. This is clearly the most dangerous condition to be in; you are the most vulnerable in this state. This condition can occur while you are driving, day dreaming, talking on your cell phone, texting, and managing your kids. Naturally, there are many more instances that could be mentioned, that reflect condition White. Again, this is the most dangerous condition to be in, the condition that bad guys like to find you in so they have the advantage. Bad guys in general know how to look for people in this state of mind. While you are distracted they are planning their attack strategy.
Yellow: Is relaxed but alert and in touch with your surroundings. You are looking around, noting where exits are, watching who is entering the door, determining the lay of the land and considering basic action plans. This can be conducted in a casual manner without anyone knowing what you are doing and not interfering with your current activity. This level of awareness will allow you to notice normal and aberrant events quickly. This is the phase when you will begin to see things you have never noticed before. This is a good thing.
Orange: Your alertness has increased significantly, something is not right, action maybe required, and more formal action planning is required. Examples include people arguing, someone acting inappropriately, someone moving into your personal space, or an actual bad event happening. This is an action level of awareness; you need to make decisions at this level. It could be leave the area and be non- confrontational. It could be gather your children or group. Seriously, consider your personal protection action. If you have practiced level Yellow well then this phase can be managed without considerable problem. However, if you have not implemented condition Yellow, you and everyone in your group will be caught off guard, confused and disoriented when an untoward event occurs. And you have significantly increased your likelihood of becoming a victim.
Red: Immediate Action is Required. This does not necessarily mean intervention is required. It could mean leaving the location, finding the fastest exit, seeking cover, activating your personal protection plan. It is also a time when, intervention may be needed such as, actively protecting yourself and family members, the use of some form of personal protection device. Delay in implementing your personal protection plan that involves protecting you, your family, or innocent individuals will result in bad outcome. This is the time when fear, reservation, confusion and lack of planning can place you in greater danger. It is imperative you be assertive at this level. If you have managed level Orange well, then this phase can be somewhat seamless. Since you know what you are going to do. I cannot state enough how practice, practice and practice will be your best friend if you should find yourself in this situation. As mentioned earlier in this paragraph, hesitation, reservation and confusion are not your friends when this type of action is required.
The final condition is controversial. It is Black. In this condition, you may be in a state of shock or confusion. What just happened? This is the level where you must regain your conscious state of mind, organize your thoughts and settle yourself down. Because you may be completely confused after an event occurs in which you had to intervene. It is important that you take the time to regain your thoughts and what happened. That is why you should not talk to the police after a major intervention event. Naturally, you should be polite and professional and understand that you are going to be detained and maybe even arrested. But you must clearly state that you wish to speak with your attorney before talking to the police. They will understand in most cases. You must have time to get your thoughts together and clearly regain a good picture of how the events transpired.
Professionals in the firearms, personal protection and safety business cannot stress enough about how important training is when it comes to operational success. Thus, to perfect your skills you must train constantly. That means practice making methodical decisions based on good information. Practice situational awareness all the time no matter what environment you are in. Finally, learn how to use your Every Day Carry (EDC) tools effectively and quickly. Practicing these skills are key to success and a positive outcome. It is vital you do this.
Here are some examples. Train yourself to not make any decision while you angry or emotional. Learn to slow yourself down look at the facts and then make a solid decision. Another practice scenario is more complex and engaging. When at an event observe what is going on around you and try to anticipate the actions of the people you are observing.
Next, learn to plan as you observe. As you enter the restaurant to take a minute and determine: Where are the exits…? Where can I sit so I can observe the door…..? Where is the least crowded area of the restaurant so I can have space…. can I see my car from the restaurant…. As you walk to your seat…. Observe the people eating and what they are wearing… Finally, make a quick plan…. If this happens I am going out this door… or if that should happen I am moving to that location…. Then enjoy yourself and keep a watchful eye on your surroundings.
The next step in this series is to learn how to use you tools very well. Make sure your phone has a quick button for calling 911. Practice opening a closing your knife, to the point you can do it in the dark safely. Finally, and most importantly, make sure you know how to use your personal protection tool very well. This tool may save your life, and thus you need to know how to use it and not have any reservations when the need arises for you to use it.
In summary, Situational Awareness is a mental state of alertness that enables you to be actively aware of your surroundings in the event an untoward incident should happen. In that case, the proper application of Situational Awareness will enable you to respond quickly and intelligently so you can properly address the aberrant event. Having the necessary EDC survival tools with you and the comfort and knowledge of their use will enable you to feel secure in your actions. The ability to respond quickly and affirmatively and the sense of security comes only from practice, practice and practice.