Situational Awareness – Tips to Help Maximize Safety


Did you know that there is National Situational Awareness Day? I didn’t. It is observed annually on September 26th. It looks like we just missed it, but the discovery of this day got me thinking about how many people really have an issue with situational awareness and how many should give it a second look. 

With the threat of left-wing violence becoming a reality in many cities, potential targets must take additional steps to ensure their safety. That means you, by the way. Everyone should give this some thought, big or small, trained or not.

So what is it? Situational Awareness is step one when you step out. Situational Awareness is the ability to identify, process, and comprehend the critical elements of information about what is going on in your immediate area. More simply, it’s knowing what is going on around you.

Think about a good spy movie you’ve seen. The hero tends to have this crazy ability to see things coming a mile away. In response, he’s moving at the right time, ducking out when he needs to and attacking when it serves his purpose to do so. Furthermore, he can identify the smallest details and is an amazing student of body language. So what if I told you that it’s not some crazy ability and that you can have those same abilities with a little practice?

The biggest obstacle to achieving these abilities is the desire to do so. Of course, some of us will have to sacrifice getting off the phone or looking around once in a while. Also, understand that it takes practice and a certain level of paranoia to achieve it, but it can be done. You just have to get in touch with your primal self. It’s not something I get to use a lot, so let me dust off my security background and education to provide you with the following tips regarding situational awareness.

Remain Calm: Do your best to remain calm at all times. When in panic mode, you are not thinking clearly or rationally. Don’t scream; keep your breathing under control and just think.

Look Around: You will not notice anything if you are not looking. This doesn’t mean just looking up from your phone. You need to observe your environment and know where you are. This means looking around. See the door, a window, a bedsheet, a wire, a pen, a mirror, etc. Think about how to use these to your advantage. Notice the people standing by the fountain. What are they doing there? Notice the door that is slightly cracked open. Is someone peering out? How many people are standing in the ally? Is there anyone sitting behind you? Look in that tree to ensure someone isn’t camped out up there. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you need to thoroughly examine every single detail of everything in your immediate area. Instead, you are merely scanning for oddities and options.

Stay Alert & Avoid Distractions: If you haven’t picked up on the hint quite yet, don’t walk with your head in your phone. If you are with friends, don’t be so engaged that you can’t hear the scuffle of shoes on the pavement in the background. Pay attention to noises, yells, screams, breaks, etc. If you just walked past a group of young thugs, be aware that you are outnumbered and plan for the worst. Scan the area for people running and pay attention to whether they are running from something or playfully running to someone else. Look behind you from time to time if you’re walking in a park or down the road. Noticing something like this before others can put you in the best position to save your life.

Listen to your “Spidey Senses“: When you feel tension, there is probably tension. When something doesn’t feel right, slow down and find out why. If you feel as though someone is following you, there might be. Your senses are trying to tell you something; if you ignore them, you could be asking for trouble. Sure, sometimes your senses pick up on something that isn’t a threat, but sometimes your senses are spot on. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Read body language: If a guy is puffing up and bellowing out fight words, it’s a pretty good guess that he’s about to start swinging. But what if the cues are a little more subtle? If someone has an angry face and is holding something behind their back, you should know that something bad might happen. Watch for clinched jaws. Make eye contact. What is their face saying? What are they looking out for? Are they standing on one side further away from you? Are they distancing themselves from others in their immediate space to clear enough room to swing? Are they positioning themselves in such a way as to hide from authority? Do they look like they have their hand at the ready next to their belt line?

Predict the Future: This is not a joke. For those who have read my books or have followed my work closely, you’ve read about or heard me discuss my predictive model. Some of you have even begun to practice it yourselves. You can use this to help you predict the future (sort of). It sounds hard, but let me give you an example of how easy this can be regarding situational awareness. Let’s say you are sitting down at the diner. You’re sitting next to the window, and you look outside. That’s when you see a large man step out of his truck and pull a ski mask over his face. What do you think is about to happen?

Chances are, the diner is about to get robbed. And even if that’s not the case, you can guess that something bad is about to go down. You’ve just predicted the future based on what you could pull together. Now you can either escape or fight back; you don’t have to be a victim. The fact that you noticed it before anyone else and before it happens gives you the time to make the right decision for yourself. You predicted the future because you picked up on the cues. You can practice this and get better at it.

Know your escape routes: You should never enter an area without figuring out an alternate plan to get out. Sometimes the way you came in will not be an option when you leave. Of course, sometimes an alternate door is not an option either. Is there a window? Is there something that can be used as a battering ram or a weapon? I don’t care if you’re at a friend’s house. That’s all the more reason. Ever heard of the Wichita Massacre?

Create a plan and then create another one: When you are scanning, plotting, and planning, you need to be aware of your options. The first plan is not always the best one. Maybe your plan is forced to change because of an obstacle. Perhaps there is an even greater danger at the end of your original plan. You need to allow yourself the opportunity to remain fluid. Of course, this requires constant evaluation, but it will save your life. Don’t get lazy.

Hide, Fight or Flight: This is similar to any active shooter scenario. As with any situation, you need to know your options. Ultimately, you have three. You can hide and hope you are not found. You can fight and take your chances. Or, you can run away and live to fight another day. Hiding or barricading yourself in a secure location is sometimes the best option. This can be true if you’re outnumbered or have a clever hiding place. Fighting or standing your ground is sometimes the best option as well. Every scenario is different, so you must make that judgment call when it presents itself. That being said, having the right tools and having them at the ready greatly increases your chances of survival. Those tools can include an Addalock, hand-to-hand combat training, mace, or even personal defense strategies such as owning and carrying firearms. Finally, avoiding a bad situation before it happens is always the best bet, especially if you are outnumbered or outgunned.

I hope some of these tips help. Just remember that when it comes to situations like the ones I’ve discussed here today, it’s a lot like war; nothing ever goes according to plan. Be calm, be aware and be safe.

Here are a couple of other articles on the topic if you are interested in learning more:

Check out my article titled, “Survive an Active Shooter.”