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The Next Level of Situational Awareness

Building on our first post on situational awareness, lets expand and build on the foundation. We talked about knowing your environment, exits, routes, and your position within the space. We also talked about defining threats and identifying your response, either run, hide, fortify, or fight. What happens if you aren’t static? How do you identify threats, escape routes or decide what to do if you perceive an imminent danger?

First, we need to know where we are. Sounds basic, but in the age of GPS and cell phones we forget to know where we are when Google can tell us where the nearest Starbucks is. Do you know the areas you are driving or walking? Are they familiar enough that if you had sprint for your life zigzagging and dodging down side streets; would you know where you were to communicate with 911? Being able to communicate where you are, or the ability to guide someone to your location could be critical if you are bleeding. If you are going to an unfamiliar location, look at the map ahead of time. If the streets are numbered, are the numbers going up as you head West or North? What about the location of a hospital or a bridge? I’m not saying memorize the city map but know that if you need to head east to get to a hospital that you need the street numbers to be decreasing. A basic layout or understanding can make a big difference, even in knowing how to navigate a closed road in an unfamiliar city. Know where you will be and get the lay of the land so if you must move in a hurry, you have a plan.

Now that we have a plan, how do we identify potential threats? The basics don’t change, scan and evaluate what you see and hear. Your subconscious gathers and processes a lot more data that you can understand in any single sitting. So if your gut says somethings off, that’s your subconscious recognizing something that you haven’t processed yet. Trust your gut! Watch what people have in their hands or on their body. Can you see a bulge on their right hip through their shirt? Do they have a brick in their hand, and they clearly aren’t building a new barbeque pit at 11 pm on this dark street? What about if the person has a backpack? Most people won’t start a fight with both arms through the straps of their backpack, it can slow them down and hinder their movements. Watch those that are carrying their backpack, or have one arm through the straps, or maybe they just ditched the bag. All of these could be indicators of a threat.

The key with this kind of situational awareness is the same as the basic concepts discussed before. Practice so that looking for the threats are second nature. Avoid situations that lend themselves to you being at a disadvantage, like unlit streets or where your back is literally against a wall. Remember to trust your gut, it’s kept a lot of people alive to be cautious and follow their instincts. Eyes up, off the phone, and scan! It doesn’t matter if you are in a restaurant or new city, awareness equals prevention.