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What is Situational Awareness
By simply defining the two terms, we can pretty much assume that situational awareness is simply being aware of your current situation. That is a correct observation, but only scratches the surface of what being aware of our surroundings really is and why it is of the utmost importance for our safety and well being. As creatures, we have evolved into a race of smartphone focused zombies in many ways. We often see videos of people walking down the street, looking at their phones, that walk into traffic or telephone poles. I would be willing to wager that ninety-nine plus percent of us have texted while driving or been otherwise preoccupied with something besides what we are doing. Even gathering in a group where there is a main focus, such as a concert or rally of some sort; takes our awareness of things around us. The things we don’t see can sometimes be a big problem. How many people would knowingly walk into the scene of a mass shooting just before it happens? Would anyone willingly stroll down the street knowing that they will get mugged or assaulted? How about wondering into a large group of people that you know is about to become a violent riot? The use of situational awareness can and does prevent us from from potential harm on a daily basis even if we don’t realize when we use it.
Is Situational Awareness Being Paranoid?
To be aware enough of your situation to avoid harm might seem a bit paranoid. Constantly looking all over the place for the least sign of a problem. Trying to have eyes in the back of your head. It sounds like a huge burden on the outset. That is, however, not the case. Like any undertaking, we must first be consciously alert to the skills and habits we need to develop. We have to almost exaggerate them and be somewhat focused on the new habit, but soon it will become second nature. Situational awareness in no way makes us omnipotent or able to literally have 360 degree vision. It also doesn’t have to consume us. With a little bit of effort, it becomes almost a subconscious radar for bad situations then alerts our conscious attention to whatever the cue is.
Developing Situational Awareness
There is no shortage of techniques available to sharpen your situational awareness, but many simple “games” can help you out tremendously. Make it a habit to know before someone is within 5 feet of you. To do this you have to be somewhat alert, but not necessarily scanning in a circle. Knowing where the entrances and exits of a room are can give you a lot less area to have to focus on. Glancing at mirrored surfaces, such as windows, glass matted pictures, and polished objects that we find all around us, are ways to be aware if you are being approached. Choosing a seat that gives you a view of the paths of ingress and egress are key to reducing the odds of being caught off guard. While this is very basic overview, I hope it gets everyone thinking about how close someone can be to them before they realize it.
Now that we are looking around we need to know what to look for. People constantly give off cues within their body language, tone of voice, and general demeanor. If you look back at my post about the “Gray Man”, you will find that these cues are often the opposite of someone who blends in. You can read that post here: https://nickspreparedness.com/2020/07/26/how-do-i-blend-in-with-the-crowd/
Taking notice of someone who looks or acts out of place in a situation should be a normal task that our minds alert us to. This does not mean to make assumptions about the person or group of people, however you simply become aware of their presence and that something doesn’t fit. The vast majority of the time, there will be a perfectly good explanation for the cue we notice and nothing to worry about, however, if they begin to act in a concerning or threatening manner, we won’t be caught off guard or have let them into our personal space without noticing.
Sometimes awareness is simply making a habit of paying attention to a few things that we might normally overlook. Did we glance in the back seat of the car before getting in it after being in the store? Have we glanced in our mirrors regularly while driving to notice if we are being followed home? Are there groups of people where there normally aren’t many folks congregated? Do we notice a large police or military presence all of the sudden? Any of these checks or cues can alert us to raise our level of vigilance from normal to alert and, in many cases, help us steer clear of potential problems.
For a short, practical, and almost brutally straightforward explanation of awareness and personal defense in general, I cannot think of a better book to recommend to anyone than Col. Jeff Cooper’s “Principles of Personal Defense”. You can find it here:
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