Let us look in to how to improve situational awareness. Being able to protect your family and your home comes with more responsibility than just relying on technology and weapons to protect yourself. In the Best Home Defense Weapon article, I mentioned at the conclusion that YOU are the best home defense weapon available. This is because protecting what you love requires Situational Awareness. If you do not know what is coming, how can you be truly ready?
You don’t have to know martial arts to have great situational awareness. It comes with practice, and a willingness to be on constant alert. The moment a threat enters your environment, you will be two steps ahead of them, armed with an arsenal that will stop the threat before they know what hit them.
How to Improve Situational Awareness – Jason Bourne Style
I am sure many of us wish we had the skill sets of a trained assassin at one point or another. I know I was extremely motivated to learn how to improve situational awareness after watching The Bourne Identity for the first time! The best part about it, is most of Jason Bourne’s super human abilities are due to his vigilant situational awareness. He was one step ahead of the enemy at all times, able to outwit and outdo them with every confrontation.
I realize this is a fictional character. Situational Awareness on the other hand is quite real. I want to briefly discuss how to improve situational awareness in your life through 3 simple steps that you can practice on a daily basis. With the rise in public shootings we keep seeing in the news, it is important that you are always ready for a situation like this. Being able to get your family out of that situation quickly, or attacking the threat immediately, is essential.
Some people freeze at the moment because they simply do not know where to run to. I can reassure you that running out the back door of a restaurant through the kitchen is an absolutely must do. I guarantee you will not get in trouble for disturbing the kitchen in such a situation.
Always be Observing
This is the easiest part of improving situational awareness. Always be observing your environment. You want to be in a casual state of alertness. Not frantic, not intimidating either, just casual. You want to be making key points about what is going on around you. Whenever I go shopping with my wife, I typically do not spend a lot of time looking at the stuff on the shelf. I am always casually glancing around the store. I attempt to get a read on what everybody is doing. And we are not staring at this point, or whipping our heads side to side. Just glance around while shifting gazes as necessary. I casually talk to the wife when she needs input on something. I then go back to gazing the crowd.
The point of this is to figure out what the normal is for the environment. A grocery store would look like your typical Walmart or Target. People are typically:
- pushing shopping carts
- grabbing canned food off the shelves
- looking intently at prices or the checklists their wives gave them
- screaming children
- standing in a long line while there are 20 other unmanned registers they have not opened up…
- you know, the typical
You are observing for anything that is abnormal. Something that does not fit in. And vice versa! The seemingly normal scene you walk in to randomly could be completely abnormal. You need to orient yourself to and be prepared for these threats. They may require no action if the threat dissipates, but you should be at least assessing the situation. A threat may spontaneously come around the corner, but you will at least not be completely caught off guard. You will be ready for the plan of action you have been formulating this entire time.
Practice Orienting Yourself
While you are observing your environment, take note of your available exits. This serves a few purposes. First, you need to know where to escape to in the event of a threat. Always keep yourself oriented near an exit so you and your family can bail out quickly. Second, your threat may come through the exit, and because you are wielding your weapons of self defense, you are at the ready and can incapacitate the threat before it causes any harm. Close that gap between you and the threat and lay the hurt on them, then escape once your exit is open.
And third, knowing where your exit is allows you to orient yourself to it. While I am shopping with the wife, I prefer to walk down aisles that have direct routes to the exit so we can quickly maneuver. At the coffee shop I prefer to stand near the front entrance while waiting for coffee.
You also want to orient yourself to any abnormal activity that your observations may have picked up. This is as simple as knowing how to go around the threat, or at least placing yourself as far away from it as you head toward an exit. Threats to you and your family can come in any shape or size, but if they aren’t there to shop for groceries, our keen human senses do a pretty good job of noticing it, you just have to be looking for it. By orienting yourself to the identified abnormality, you can now take action.
Formulate Action Plans
There is no easy answer or action plan for every scenario, but you are better prepared now by observing and orienting yourself. The action is sometimes quite natural. Depending on the severity of the circumstances, you may choose to confront the threat because you yourself are wielding self defense weapons. If you do confront it, it is important to never delay this. As soon as you notice it, take swift action. Close the gap and deploy your baton or taser before any harm can be done.
By taking swift action, you are catching the intruder off guard. Essentially you are performing the element of surprise on the enemy before anybody else in the room knows what’s going on.
If the intruder is too far away to cover any good distance in time, you probably have an exit near you that you can quickly leave through. If you are walking back to your car late at night, a simple action plan is to have your phone setup with 911 dialed and ready to send. Have your taser in hand and ready to fire. Keep your key fob in hand ready to set your car alarm off.
Are You Ready?
Being safe requires placing preventative measures in your life that will allow you to see a threat long before it becomes one. You will have to drop the smartphone to increase your situational awareness, and set your mindset to take action. And practice these methods everywhere you go. It applies to everywhere, including your home. You may start noticing different cars driving around the neighborhood, or an odd couple walking down the sidewalk.
If you read my about page, you will remember my close encounter with a potential mugger. I was on high alert already because it was dark out, and I was in the back alley of a sketchy neighborhood (I soon moved after this). There was a man walking towards me from the opposite side of the street. I unknowingly started taking action to prevent an attack by placing my hand in my pocket, holding on to my keys. If I had turned around and walked away, I would not have been able to see the threat anymore, putting me in an even more vulnerable position. My only way out was in the direction of the threat. I did not make myself a target by keeping my eyes on my phone or being distracted.
Having no action plan in this situation was my biggest problem. I had no weapons besides my keys, and I had never fought a person in my life. All I could do was run. Fortunately the situational awareness prevented any confrontation by looking like I was prepared for a fight, unknowingly to me at the time.
If you wish to learn more about situational awareness, I learned a lot from The Art of Manliness and their article on The OODA Loop. I reiterated some of the concepts here, but AOM goes much deeper in to the subject.
What instances in your life changed the way you do things?