This morning I have been thinking about situational awareness and how my perspective has changed over the years. Twenty plus years ago before I retired, I was very aware of what went on around me. Situational awareness was something that was foremost in my mind.
Today I have come to the conclusion that without the constant reminders that we used to receive, I have dropped my guard to a large degree. This is a mistake, and I need to step up my game and pay much more awareness to situational awareness. In the town in which I live, homelessness is becoming a problem and street crimes are up. The demographics of a given town or neighborhood can change dramatically within a matter of months, and all of a sudden, the home you grew up in can be smack dab in the middle of “the bad part of town.”
If there was one book all women, in particular, should read, it’s this one by a former CIA Operations Officer, Street Smarts for Women. It contains chapter after chapter with information about situational awareness, reading people’s body language for danger, and a lot more. I’ve even recommended it to my teen son.
In my own life, I have used the following strategies to stay aware of the people and events around me. Basically, it is knowing what is occurring around you and using the information to avoid trouble.
- Never sit with your back to the door in public buildings. Make sure you have an unobstructed view of who is approaching you, preferable with your back to the wall.
- Always know where the exits are.
- When walking down the city street, know who is behind you. You can often use the store windows to see behind you. Always watch your back.
- Don’t be obviously looking over your shoulder, but pay attention to somebody who is. That is unusual.
- Pay attention to anything out of the ordinary.
- Feel free to profile. It may not be kosher for the TSA or some law enforcement units, but as a citizen, if there are individuals who make you feel unsafe for any reason, quickly find a way out of the area.
- Don’t walk around looking at your cell phone. Some guy in southern California was so engrossed in his the other day that he walked off a cliff.
- It is not just people you pay attention to, it’s also objects that are out of place. Example: what about that strange backpack sitting on the street corner?
- Know what is normal in the area you are at. If anything or anyone seems out of place, take notice.
- Look for people who are acting pushy, authoritative, overbearing, uncomfortable or just out of place.
- Watch the hands. If people are armed with a gun or a knife, they will often pat the area to be sure it is still there.
- Don’t assume women are “safe”. These three sure weren’t.
- If you see a dangerous situation starting, don’t be afraid to walk away and call someone.
- When you are driving, pay attention to your rear and see if anyone is following you.
Now this is very basic information and it sounds simple, but to get good at it you need to practice. Most people start out by trying to have their head on a swivel and end up attracting attention. Don’t be obvious. When you leave an area, talk to your wife or children and see what they noticed. You can make a game of this. Don’t look like you are paranoid, but at the same time, be a little paranoid. I intend to start paying more attention to what is going on around me; I suggest that you do the same.
Updated by Noah, 12/19/16.