How To Improve Situational Awareness

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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 last 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.

You have to be looking for the details in your environmentHow 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 fight 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 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 is public shootings we keep seeing in the news, it is important that you are always ready for a situation like this, and 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, and 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, but 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, getting a read on what everybody is doing. And we are not staring at this point, or whipping our heads side to side, just glancing around, shifting gazes as necessary. I casually talk to the wife when she needs input on something, then I go back to gazing the crowd.

Do not be obvious when you are observing your surroundings. It is important to blend in.

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 pushing shopping carts, grabbing canned food off the shelves, looking intently at prices or the checklists their wives gave them, people standing in a long line while there are 20 other unmanned registers they have not opened up… you know, the typical.

What you are observing for is anything abnormal, something that does not fit in. And vice versa, there may be something happening, that should NOT be happening. These are potential threats that you need to orient yourself to and be prepared for. They may require no action if the threat dissipates, but you should at least be assessing the situation. A threat may spontaneously come around the corner, but you will at least not be completely caught off guard, and 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, and 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 you baton or stun gun 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, or have 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). I saw a man walking towards me, and 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, but I did not make myself a target by keeping my eyes on my phone or being distracted.

My biggest problem in that situation was I had no action plan. 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?

6 thoughts on “How To Improve Situational Awareness

  1. Wow I could relate very well with this post as I read through. My son is lover of action and adventure games and like every young boy he sometimes sit and seduce and escape plan from your house should robbers break in and he is alone in the house. Unfortunately that sad day came and he was alone in the house, luckily for us, his plan worked. 

    reading  through this post give me more reasons to be super vigilant of my environment and I must say these tips you have given here would save anyone from unexpected harm. Thanks for sharing. 

    1. That is such a great success story! I am glad you and your family had an escape plan for that unfortunate event. Thank you for sharing your story, everybody I believe needs to do the same thing with their family! Even if it is for a fire escape plan, it is necessary to practice.

  2. I was in High school back then. My cousin and I are riding our mountain bikes when suddenly we saw a man just stabbed the other guy in broad day light. We were really close to that man, my cousin was shocked  and just stopped and stare.  I was still pedalling when I saw that she’s not moving and just a few feet away from the crimw scene. I had to stop and yell at her to go on. Well fortunately it must have brought back to her senses so we quickly run away. I just saw a lot of people swarming around the victim after that. It’s really hard to grasp everything in a scary situation. That’s why I completely agree with you to make a habit of observing what’s happening around. Thank you for your sound and helpful ways to improve situational stress. Our family will have something to talk over dinner. It’s better to introduce this to my kids even at a young age. 

    1. That is a scary situation to be in, but fortunately you and your friend were not targeted. Some times the best thing you can do is run away and talk to police later. When the fight or flight mode kicks in, flight is the best way out unless the threat has cornered you.

  3. Awesome article! Situational awareness makes total sense in my opinion. Recently I live in relatively safe city – Prague, but anyway I understand that to keep my eyes and mind open at any moment of my life is essential. Many years ago I experienced a few challenging moments similar to the one you described in your article. They happened in Moscow, Russia where I lived at that time. Once I was walking through a small park in direction to my home and stumbled upon a company of young lads who were drinking alcohol. They stopped chatting and started to stare at me. My first intention was to turn back to avoid any possible interaction with them, but then I’ve got a feeling that I need to move through them looking directly into their eyes and keeping my hands in my pockets. I was so surprised when it worked – they were stunned looking at me going through with readable expression in my eyes that I was ready to efficiently protect myself. In that very moment I’ve realised that the world can be safe when you aware of potential thread and intent to take any action to protect yourself. Thanks a lot for sharing! I’m definitely going to check ore articles on your website. All the best! Bob

    1. Thank you for sharing such a great story. You know what I think happened in your situation? I believe you were the one that scared them! Imagine if you are just hanging out with your friends having a few drinks, and then a random stranger comes walking towards you, staring you down intently… only to walk right past you! I think you intimidated them for sure! Glad you didn’t run in to a confrontation though. If you turn to run, it could look like you have something to hide. I think you did the right thing!

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