Are you practicing situational awareness?

Are you practicing situational awareness?

August 4, 2019 0 By Rick

The world is a dangerous place today, but violence and terror have always been with us. The Chinese built the Great Wall for a reason (and there’s no hidden political statement here about “walls” so don’t take it that way). Although today’s “terrorists” are far less dangerous to society as a whole than the barbarians who terrorized Europe for centuries, ordinary people can still face threats on a daily basis, including those from terrorists, drug-crazed individuals focused only on their next fix, delusional and unstable individuals who believe they’re “saving the world,” as well as members of organized crime. Whether you become a victim or not can depend on practicing situational awareness. I realize many people will disagree with my “old school” view of the world (a product of the military and operating in dangerous environments around the world), but I want to share it anyway. I like the way LTC (retired) Dave Grossman explains why we all need to practice situational awareness. 

Sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs 
Grossman says there are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. Some people prefer to believe that evil doesn’t exist in the world, and if it ever darkened their doorstep, they wouldn’t know how to protect themselves. They are kind, gentle, productive people who are not inclined to hurt one another. Grossman defines wolves next. They’re predators, who use violence to prey on the weak. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath – a wolf. Finally, he looks at sheepdogs, those who’re blessed with the gift of controlled aggression and an overpowering need to protect the flock. There’s nothing morally superior about the sheepdog, but he/she does have one real advantage. Sheepdogs can survive and thrive in an environment that would overpower and paralyze most of the population.

Carefully selected targets 
Research conducted a few years ago on individuals convicted of violent, predatory crimes, such as assaults, rapes and murders revealed that the vast majority specifically targeted victims by body language: slumped walk, passive behavior and lack of awareness (listen up all you people walking around with your faces buried in smartphones). They chose their victims like big cats in Africa do when they select one out of the herd that is least able to protect itself. Some people may be destined to be sheep and others might be genetically primed to be wolves or sheepdogs. What I hope to do with this post is to help you increase your situational awareness without making you paranoid – just aware of what’s going on around you.

Your brain 
You don’t have to wait passively for acts of violence to happen to you or your loved ones. Many people want to know “what is the best weapon for home defense,” or “what is the best weapon for when I am traveling?” No matter what the threat, the answer is always the same: your brain. Why? Because you don’t have to wait passively for violence to occur. There are many simple things you can do to help you avoid danger — or to dampen its impact at least. And they don’t involve weapons! Carrying a weapon won’t protect you from a criminal. In fact, being armed could give you a false sense of security. That’s because carrying a weapon could make you think you’re invulnerable and don’t need to practice good situational awareness. And that’s the last thing you want to do – not practice situational awareness.

Proper mindset First, you must have the proper mindset before you can react to a situation. And reaching this mindset begins with accepting that there are evil people in the world who want to hurt others (as terrible as this seems). If you deny this fact, it can be deadly. Second, once you accept that the threats are real and that you are responsible for your own security – not police. You must be responsible for keeping yourself, your family and your home safe. The third element of proper mindset is having the discipline to use situational awareness and anything else you might need to help you and your family stay alive. Remember, your brain/mindset is your real weapon. Mindset has three elements: recognition of the threat, accepting responsibility for your security and the will to use situational awareness and your brain. Action is always faster than reaction. So, let’s look at two levels of situational awareness and how you can practice them!

Relaxed and focused 
The basic level of situational awareness that you should practice most of the time is relaxed awareness, a state of mind that you can maintain indefinitely without all the stress and fatigue associated with focused awareness or high alert. Relaxed awareness is simply scanning your environment calmly – not acting paranoid. Relaxed awareness is not tiring, and it allows you to enjoy life while providing a practical level of personal security. If you notice something unusual that could be a threat, you can “move up” to the next level of awareness, i.e., focused awareness and examine the possible threat and anything else that might be going on around you. If there’s no threat, you move back down into relaxed awareness. If, on the other hand, there is a likely threat, you can now avoid it. You should always increase your level of awareness when you perform ordinary or everyday tasks that increase your risk level, such as visiting an ATM or walking to your car alone at night. Once you’ve completed the activity, you can move back down to a state of relaxed awareness. You can read more about this in Cooper’s Color Code (

Situational awareness — being aware of your surroundings and identifying potential threats and dangerous situations — is something anyone can learn and practice. You can use it to avoid terrorist threats, criminals and to identify other potentially dangerous situations. I use it all the time. I scan my environment every so often, and I always glance over my shoulder when I hear footsteps behind me (especially someone running) just to be sure. I also observe people walking toward me to see what they’re up to. And I continue to watch as the person passes by me and even after he/she has passed.

The earlier, the better 
By practicing the proper level of situational awareness, you’ll be able to identify when an attack is about to happen. The earlier you recognize that an attack is developing, the better. Even once the attack has begun, you can keep it from being a successful one by quickly understanding what is happening and getting away from the attack site, a tactic referred to as “getting off the X.” Being aware of your environment lets you know when a situation is deteriorating, and developing the ability to raise your situational awareness level can help you avoid dangerous situations in the first place. If you remember just some of the things covered in this post, it will go a long way to keep you from becoming a victim. Another piece of great advice is to remember: Run, Hide, Fight – in that order. If you can run, do so but don’t make yourself an easy target. If you can’t run, hide or conceal yourself as best possible. If you can’t run or hide, take the fight to the attacker. It’s far better than being slaughtered like a lamb. OK, there you have it. Some will call me cynical and a pessimist, but I’m neither a pessimist nor an optimist. I’m a realist, and I much prefer that to be caught unawares!