Situational Awareness: A Skill You Need

Situational Awareness is one the most important skills you can learn to master that will contribute significantly to reducing thesurvival shtf 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 of & Survival Cache

Plan & Practice

Planning and practice are the two keys to survival.  Each compliments the other.  You canHow to survive 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 How to survivecannot 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 How to survivehappened? 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 Top Survival Bloglook 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.

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24 comments… add one
  • Jamice September 1, 2015, 1:19 pm

    Awesome information. Everyone should practice this

  • Terry September 1, 2015, 3:11 pm

    This is what we were taught in conceal carry classes absolutely essential to be aware of your surroundings and either your means to get the hell out of there or act accordingly

  • TPSnodgrass September 1, 2015, 3:39 pm

    When I was in law enforcement, (past career), we used the term “HUA” to reflect something WORSE than “Condition White” or Condition Oblivious”.
    Dan’s article is spot on the money.

  • Pineslayer September 1, 2015, 9:52 pm

    Great advice, I took a couple of notes. Code word, never thought of it, but it will happen tonight.

    I always look for the exits and sit with my back to a wall so I can see the whole place if possible. An ounce of prevention…

  • Hunkerdown September 1, 2015, 10:30 pm

    You have a good article, that point is not debatable. However, I now always operate under condition Red. My forays from home are only as necessary with people I trust, as best trust is possible these days. My afternoons at the theater are a thing of the past, as are picnics, walks, and bike rides. There is an exception to my physical outdoors activities as I now do them only at night. And always have my night vision with me. Second, I carry a long gun with me everywhere, since that is perfectly legal in this state. If my 12ga. is not welcome, including in your home, then I am not welcome either. No exceptions. The other part of situational awareness that we don’t think about much, is how has the situation changed, if any, since leaving my base camp for the foray into the open? Will the base camp (home, boat, tent, cave, etc.) even be there when I return, or will it be badly damaged, violated, still habitable, etc. The car we left on the parking lot may not be there when we return; it’s ten miles home; what now? Will the people that went with me, but separated from me to do their shopping be there at the appointed time; No; what now? There is a center of the universe for all things. For situational awareness, always RED, that COTU is me. No self centeredness intended, that’s just the way it has to be. There is also a question that always must be asked. That question is as involuntary as breathing. It comes naturally in every situation, good, bad, or indifferent. That question in incorrect but effective English is: “What Now.” One incorrect response to “What Now’, and we go from Code RED to simply ‘coded’, which is a medical term for ‘died on the table.’ I hope this made sense. God bless and stay RED!

  • Codpiece September 1, 2015, 11:08 pm

    I roll condition white as much as possible and yellow only rarely.

    But then I choose where I live. Got some city friends that think orange and red are somehow OK. Not this guy. I love my peaceful condition white clueless prepping life.

    • Jon September 2, 2015, 2:36 pm

      Condition “white” only when I’m sleeping or dead!!!!!

  • lance September 2, 2015, 8:58 am

    Condition yellow, never anything lower!

  • Jon September 2, 2015, 2:34 pm

    Got to love the hold up picture where the guy is just walking by in background. One of those “Duh!!!” moments.

  • SLC September 2, 2015, 2:34 pm

    As an other-the road truck-driver, it was situational awareness and the grace of God that helped me to derail and survive intact over a dozen armed robbery attempts with multiple assailants through the 20+ years traveling the US. That doesn’t include many more assault scenarios with multiple attackers.
    In most of those attacks, I was armed but without the SA I never would have seen the attack coming in order to stop it. My wake-up call came when I went to pick-up a company truck in Atlanta after the former driver had been robbed and left for dead on the 285 loop. He didn’t even know he was robbed as when the cops found him and he regained consciousness he had amnesia. I had seen him a week prior and saw that he had over $3000 in his wallet. When I arrived at the affiliate moving company in Atlanta to pick up the truck, one of the local casual helpers walked with me to sound out the chances of getting some work.
    When I told him I was only there to pickup a truck, he asked if I was getting the truck that the driver who had been robbed of $3500 the week before. I stopped and looked him directly in the eyes and stated that it was quite telling that he knew that the driver had been robbed and the amount, since he was still in amnesia.
    That local company helper gulped hard, almost turned white and walked away without another word! Imagine that! The clincher was when I inventoried Danny’s belongings and realized that he had a sawed-off pistol grip shotgun (though disassembled) in the truck. So Danny had the means to protect himself from attackers, but was too situational unaware to realize that he needed his gun on his person even with co-workers who probably helped him unload his truck! Wake up folks, be aware and be prepared has been my motto ever since.
    My four sons and most of my grandchildren all learn and practice self-defense because grandpa thinks it’s a good idea in a world falling apart at the seams. Read my novel about where we may be headed, “America Is Fallen into Chaos.”

  • Steve September 2, 2015, 3:25 pm

    Whenever you see a group of blacks approaching you, you need to go to condition red. Blacks have been conditioned by the Judeo-Bolshevik ran media that they cannot be racist under any circumstances. So they will likely beat you to a pulp because of the color of your skin and they know the cops and media will sweep it under the rug and go out of their way to say race was NOT a factor. It’s our traitorous commie media and cowardly cops that are encouraging racially motivated hate crimes towards whites.

    • irishdutchuncle September 3, 2015, 4:47 pm

      yeh. and your point is?

      don’t expect too many of SHTFBlog readers to take the bait.
      I will say also, that any time someone goes looking for trouble, it will soon find him.

  • Beano September 2, 2015, 6:54 pm

    Good to elucidate on this once in awhile. That is to have situational awareness of situational awareness.

  • maureen September 3, 2015, 10:59 am

    Just finished reading “Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Nature and Survival for Children” (1989)
    The first section of the book had excellent information, as well as games and suggestions/exercises about HOW to improve awareness in children (as well as adults). It talked mostly about out in nature, but would work in any situation. Most people walk around oblivious. I have always been aware, but wasn’t sure how to teach this. This book was the first time I’ve ever seen the HOW to teach awareness addressed. I would definitely recommend it, to teach awareness to others as well as to increase our own.

    • JuliettFoxtrott December 7, 2015, 7:29 am

      Thanks Maureen for that book, although I´m from Germany. I will teach my little girl the right things in life from the beginning…. She is four now and I like the idea to build up the SA topic in her as early as I can.

  • thewatcher@8 September 3, 2015, 11:46 am

    NEVER relax when around BLAX .
    See the aftermath here :

    • irishdutchuncle September 3, 2015, 5:24 pm

      … and if we were a bunch of racists here, what would that prove?

      are you trying to discredit us? GUILT by association?
      there is someone watching you too, “the watcher”. when you meet him you can explain about which part of : “Thou Shalt Love Thy Neighbor as Thy Self”, that HE was wrong about.

      • Realist September 26, 2015, 7:25 pm

        I go with you. There are a lot of dirtbags in this world and they are of all colors. Then again there is far more good people of all colors too. The people who I trust are not judged by their color but by their performance.

        • irishdutchuncle September 27, 2015, 1:03 am

          thanks for the feedback, Realist.

          yeh, let’s take Dr King at his word, judging each on the content of his Character. it would be very easy to fall into the Racism Trap,
          it is vital to not go there. everyone needs to prepare, right NOW.
          the people that prefer Us unprepared, would gladly play the
          “Race Card” to discredit preparedness, and especially to discredit Us.

  • Flat Rascal September 3, 2015, 1:19 pm

    how did a situational awareness article turn in to a racist rant?

    If we are going to make it through the dark times, we better be able to look beyond color. And for the record, crime and atrocities are perpetrated by all races. We are just programed to notice differences between ourselves and others. There can be white crime all over the place, but a black on white crime stands out.

    Careful what you believe. It might lead you astray.

    Tom Brown’s books are great. A little dense, but those who read them really do have a leg up on their competition. I got a whole library of his work.

  • KEVIN September 4, 2015, 1:06 pm

    this is THE BEST thing to learn there is OUT THERE AVOIDING trouble is the best way there is to have

  • terdralyn September 5, 2015, 10:36 am

    I’ve been practicing situational awareness since I was a child, but I never thought about it as awareness of any kind (unaware of being aware). My children, grands and I even play “what-if” games about it (what would you do if such-and-such happened here), discuss our answers and sometimes even play out a scene. It’s all play to them. I always thought I was paranoid; nice to know I’m just being aware to prepare. Thank you.

  • BamaMan September 10, 2015, 3:11 pm

    good article,
    remember others are sizing you up as a part of their surroundings. you don’t want to be the “crazy war vet” in a sleeveless camo shirt, but it helps to be in good physical shape, well kept, and basically look like someone they would want to avoid. a lot of times this makes the bad guy (wolf) go after the weaker looking person (sheep).

  • Jay March 20, 2016, 1:17 am

    When our stress-hormones are elevated, especially adrenaline, it’s fight or flight and not the time to make critical planning decisions. If you’ve practiced your plan you can act on it, but it with elevated stress-hormones levels the ideal escape plan won’t instinctively surface in your mind with high stress hormone levels as it prevents us from thinking clearly, we are in pure survival mode.

    I saved my self from being sexually assaulted one early evening in a relatively safe area and with a few people somewhat nearby just because I was SA and remained calm when I sensed this guy (who seemingly came out of nowhere) was a rapist.

    There is power in stillness (as opposed to a lot of body movement) along with an unemotional expression, as those without conscience (psychopaths) feed off of our fear.

    The segment of psychopaths who are gang members, looters, street thugs, etc., (as opposed to the Corporate/Wall St psychopath, and others, etc) essentially the bad guys who see a major crisis or natural disaster as a perfect opportunity to take advantage of others, feed off of our fear and are the ones you want to watch for.

    Don’t make direct eye contact, but don’t appear fearful either, as that is who they are drawn to. To the psychopath, fearful vibes/fear in our eyes is like heroin to an addict.

    I am always amazed at young people who bop down the street with headphones on, and those carrying a lot of things with neither hand free, staring straight ahead… complete opposite of SA – the psychopathic street mob/thugs dream come true.


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