With the Terror attack that occurred in Paris, the reality that these attacks are becoming more wide spread and the fact that there seems to be no end in sight, I’ve been thinking about how people are oblivious to their surroundings these days.
Everyone seems to have their heads buried in their cell phones, listening to music on their headphones, or just simply day dreaming about what they are going to do after work, without a care in the world about what is going on around them.
The definition of situational awareness is having the mindset in which you are constantly evaluating your surroundings for dangerous situations and any potential threats to your safety.
This doesn’t just mean watching for terrorists, this means being aware of your surroundings at the grocery store, walking down the street and getting into your car, because disaster can strike anywhere at any time.
The only difference between a terrorist and an average everyday criminal is the size of their weapons. They are both weak minded cowards that prey on the weak and unsuspecting, and they both focus on soft targets that give them the best possible chance for success.
As preppers we probably have a better understanding of situational awareness (or should have) than most people these days, but how much thought do we give it on a daily basis? I’ll admit, I too “fall asleep at the wheel” at times, but is shouldn’t take an attack like this to wake us up. As preppers we should always try to practice situational awareness and avoid dangerous situations as much as possible.
You might think of the military when you think about situational awareness, but the same principals apply to prepping and keeping ourselves out of dangerous situations. Here are a few things to think about to become more situationally aware.
Here is a video of the situational awareness part of the podcast Lisa just did that goes into a little more detail.
Analyze Your Vulnerabilities
The first thing you need to do is take a look at what you do to make yourself a target, as well as your strengths and weaknesses. There are certain things we can change right off the bat, and some things we just have to deal with. Take a hard look at what you do on a daily basis that you could change.
- When you walk out of a store are you paying attention to what other people are doing? Or do you walk straight to your car with your head down?
- If you are at a sporting event or crowded area do you know where the easiest exit is?
- Are you guilty of having your head buried in your phone while you are walking down the street?
The things we do daily like driving to work become routine and subconscious. How many times have you been driving somewhere and took the wrong turn because subconsciously you were driving to work…I have a few times.
Survey Your Surroundings
In order to assess your surroundings you need to have a baseline, look for anomalies and have a plan of action. This is a little easier to do in places you travel every day, but even if you are someplace new, we still have a general idea of how things should be.
Establish a Baseline: Like I said this is pretty easy in places you go all the time but here are a few examples…
- If you work in an office most people will probably be wearing suits or dressed nice.
- People in the park during the summer will be wearing less clothing that they would on colder days.
- People at Walmart are rude and dress funny. Seriously though, watch how oblivious people are at Walmart…talk about a soft target!
Look for Anomalies: Now that you have a baseline to work from you can more easily spot the anomalies or anything out of the ordinary. Someone wearing a lot of clothing in the summer months doesn’t necessarily mean they are hiding weapons, but at the very least it should register in your head to be cautious.
Have a Plan of Action: If you do see something out of the ordinary you need to have a plan to react, or have a plan to avoid the situation all together. With a little practice this is actually easier to do than you think, as long as you aren’t staring at your phone the whole time.
Prepared vs Paranoid
There is a huge difference between being aware of a situation and ready to act than being paranoid and over reacting. The last thing we want to do is go through life scared, because that’s what the bad guys want.
Someone accidentally leaving a backpack at a bus stop while they walk into a 7-11 to get a soda doesn’t mean you run away screaming “BOMB!”
But if someone were to leave a suitcase in an airport terminal and walk away with no intention to return, that might be a good time to alert the proper authorities.
Like I said earlier, criminals and terrorists look for soft targets that give them the best chance for success. Something as little as looking people in the eyes and giving the perception that you will not go quietly could cause them to move on to the next target.
You don’t need to have your concealed carry weapon (although you should) you just need to look like you might. Having a handgun, pepper spray or a pocket knife on you could give you the confidence you need without even having to use them.
Beware of Preconceived Notions
Just because someone is wearing a 3 piece suit doesn’t mean they will not do you harm, and just because someone looks homeless doesn’t mean they are going to rob you blind.
You hear all the time about people impersonating police officers, and what a better way of getting you off guard than praying on your preconceived notions. This is especially true in a SHTF situation. A woman with a baby coming to your front door asking for food could be a bigger threat than a mean looking biker.
The S.T.A.N.D. Acronym
Situational Awareness: Be aware of your surroundings and be ready to act if the situation arises. Don’t be paranoid, but be prepared to do what is necessary to protect yourself whether that means fight or flight.
Tactical Advantage: In military terms this could mean fighting from the high ground or covering your 6 (your back.) In the streets it could mean not getting caught alone and be ready to react if the situation arises.
Assets on Hand: This could mean what you are carrying with you or knowing what is around you that can be used. What supplies do you have laying around your job that could be used to defend yourself?
Neutralize the Threat: Sometimes the situation doesn’t call for extreme force, neutralizing the threat could mean removing yourself from the situation.
Determination: Be prepared to finish what you started, having pity on an attacker will only lead them to think you are weak. Sometimes this might mean using lethal force, and sometimes it might mean hogtying them and waiting for the authority’s. Always be prepared to end the threat by any means necessary.
Increase Your Situational Awareness?
By practicing our observational skills everyday we can train ourselves to become aware of our surroundings. This article from GreatNortherPrepper talks about playing games that increase your memory and watching for details…
Pick out details in daily life
If you have to drive to work everyday start to pay attention to the things around you on your drive. Pick out 5 random things on your drive into work and on your way home. Like a name “tagged” in spraypaint on an overpass, a lightpole that is out, a Dog in a yard, how busy a store is that you pass. The next day see if you can remember them on that same stretch of road, see if its there, if it changed, etc.
Do this every day. If you dont remember everything thats ok, its building those neurons in your brain to start to do this automatically. The Brain is like a muscle, and like when you learned to throw a ball, play tennis, whatever, you had to practice over and over again until it began to become “right”. Your brain is the same way, over time it will start to do this automatically and you will notice EVERYTHING that is out of place.
Make sure and read the whole article from the Great Norther Prepper website about situational preparedness for preppers, it has some great information from a former veteran.