Sunday, October 23, 2011

Situational Awareness On Foot in the Suburbs

     Situational awareness is a critical component of security and defense. Whether you're securing and/or defending your home, your family in your car, yourself in a mall, or whatever the situation may be; you have to be aware of your surroundings. Always thinking two to three moves ahead. Like defensive driving to avoid accidents, you have to practice defensive living to avoid dangerous situations.

     An important part of situational awareness is recognizing when a situation could become dangerous, not waiting until it is already dangerous and then trying to figure a way out. Your mindset is your greatest asset in these situations. Many of the followers of this blog will recognize the next statement, as I use it often: Trust in your instincts. Instincts have kept the human species alive for millions of years. If your "gut" tells you something is wrong....something is very wrong.
     I will write a post before the Holiday Season is in full swing about security and another post about defense in public areas. But for now Lets focus on situational awareness. Situational awareness is a critical component in both personal security and in self defense. Situational awareness is a skill, and you can learn it if you haven't already. You can improve it if you already have some fundamentals. I use the crawl-walk-run methodology when addressing these issues.  You have to learn to crawl first, then walk, then run. By the time you have reached the run phase, you'll be able to read post incident reports and pick up things that you can add to your skill set.

     I apologize if I'm writing under the level of some of my readers understanding, my intent is not to bore you. People with varying levels of  security skill set read this blog, and I'd like to reach them all. For those of you who are more highly trained than most, please feel free to comment or e-mail me with suggestions. This is a learning process for us ALL, and the more we pass ideas back and forth the stronger we all become.

     For those of you who are familiar with Coopers Colors Code, please be patient. For the rest, please familiarize yourself with this color scheme. This is a fundamental of personal security and defense. It will be reference many times in coming posts, and is the first step (excuse the pun) in your learning to crawl.  If you'd like to learn more about The Cooper Color Code or about Jeff Cooper himself (considered by many to be the father of the combat mindset), please go to the Wiki Page about him, you can find that HERE

    In summary of that page, the colors are:
  • White - Unaware and unprepared.
  • Yellow - Relaxed alert.
  • Orange - Specific alert.
  • Red - Condition Red is fight.
    It is very difficult to keep a medium to high level of situational awareness in a suburban or urban environment. People are densely packed into relatively small areas. Just look at the parking lot in a large shopping mall. For every car there, there is at least one person inside the mall. You can't maintain a reactive buffer around yourself in a crowd. It's just not possible. Avoiding crowds just isn't possible. As we approach the Holiday Season the crowds will only get worse. As the economy worsens, the number of people lurking in those crowds who intend to do bad things will only get larger. 

     Most often you're going to be shoulder to shoulder with people you don't know, in a relatively unfamiliar environment. Most people will have two things on their minds: Shop and Leave. There are a few with other motives, find and avoid them. They're looking for easy prey, don't be easy prey. Be aware of them, act aware of them. They'll look for another target. They want easy targets, they don't want to work for it....or they wouldn't be doing what they're out there doing. The sad fact is they're going to get someone. Your job is to make sure it's NOT YOU.

     Travel in Condition Yellow. Look around you, look at people around you. Don't look through them, look AT them. One analogy I see used a lot is a shepherd over the flock. Be a shepherd, don't be the flock. If you look at twenty people, and one person catches your attention. Analyze why that person caught your attention. Remember that childhood game "one of these is not like the others"? Where several things looked similar, but one of them was different? One thing is different enough to catch your attention....what is it? Look at that person, really look them over. If they notice you looking at them and get nervous....that's a HUGE red flag. Move away from them. If you see them again near you, another huge read flag. Condition Orange time. Begin moving out of the area and mobilizing your family with some urgency. Act quickly and decisively.

     By being aware of your surroundings, you're buying yourself reaction time. You have to react to what the bad guys do. They ALREADY know what's about to happen. You have to figure it out and react. Bad guys rarely act alone. There's several reasons why: Courage in numbers, more guys can carry more loot, and advantage through numerical superiority are just a few. My point is continue your scan. Don't get so caught up in the one person 40 feet away that you don't notice the other person 10 feet away with a knife.

     Be especially alert when entering and exiting your vehicle. Be aware of the vehicles next to you, and if they're occupied. If you're inside the vehicle, make these observations before you turn the car off and get out. If your gut tells you something is wrong, find another parking space. If approaching your vehicle on foot, make the necessary observations before you get to the car and open the doors. If your gut tells you something is wrong, turn around and walk back in the direction you came. Scan your surroundings for additional bad guys, and check behind you frequently. Keep your family into a small cluster and move quickly.

      Be extra vigilant in "safe areas" like schools, churches, banks, etc. This may be a little known observation, but most bank robberies occur in banks. Bad guys know these are "safe areas" and also know that rules about safe areas only apply to law abiding citizens. If you're obeying the rules about safe zones, the only option you have is avoidance. Get out of the situation as fast as you can. If you're wrong about how things appear, you can always come back later. You're better off trusting your instincts even on the off chance they are wrong, than teaching yourself to ignore them altogether.

     Having a spouse actively engaged in situational awareness is a big plus. My wife notices unusual things that could be potential problems. Sometimes we'll play a game to keep our observation skills honed when we're out. I'll ask about 10 minutes after we arrived at our destination "what color was the car parked on your side". She usually remembers. Or she'll ask me "what color hair did the man who just walked past us have".

     Here are some tips to help you improve or maintain your awareness level:
  • Keep your heed on a swivel. Look around constantly.
  • Keep a mental tally of where all members in your party are at all times.
  • Make a mental note of exits as you pass them.
  • Make a mental note of people who arouse your suspicion.
  • Communicate your plans before you enact them.
  • Don't follow the crowd if something doesn't seem right.
  • At  night, park under street lights/parking lot lights if possible.
     I'm not an expert and I don't play one on the Internet. Always, survive to fight another day. 

No comments:

Post a Comment