I just finished a 5 part series on my YouTube channel about situational awareness. Here’s the playlist if you’d like to take a look:
Situational awareness is talked about so often but still few even know what it is or why it’s even important.
Essentially, situational awareness is simply being aware of what’s going on around us so that we can see things coming and take action, preferably before it even happens.
Being situationally aware is basically being mindset of exactly what’s going on in the moment. You’re not thinking about all the chores you have to do, you’re not thinking about the argument you just had; you’re completely focused and in the moment, observing the world around you.
Situational awareness should be practiced everywhere, not just in urban environments. It should be practiced when you’re out hiking, at home and even at friends homes. Being aware of what’s going on around us keeps us safe and allows us to be ready to take action should we need to.
Here are 10 ways that we can practice situational awareness everyday:
One of the best ways to understand people is to watch people! Not in a creepy way, of course. Spend a few minutes a day to observe the people around you. Look at how they walk, what they’re wearing, how they’re expressing themselves through nonverbal movement and so on. Watch how people act and react. You’ll discover a lot about people, and most likely about yourself, as well, just by watching people.
Practice being ‘in the moment’. Notice the sights, smells, sounds and everything in between. When you’re truly mindful of your surroundings, all of your senses are engaged. You hear everything, you notice small changes, you are fully engaged with the world around you, thus you’re able to act or react a lot quicker if anything were to happen.
Find The Exits
This is always a fun game with yourself and others. Wherever you go, spot the exits. Anything can be an exit, even if it’s not officially marked as one. Windows, loading/unloading zones, back doors, offices that lead out, etc. Make it a game to see how many exits everyone can find.
Take Note of Nonverbal Communication
Nonverbal cues can tell us a lot about how someone is feeling. While some people hide their feelings better than others, most people usually have a tell whether they’re lying, nervous, happy, sad, angry, etc. Whenever you talk to someone, notice the nonverbal communication that they’re giving off, along with the words that they’re saying. Are they matching up? What are the nonverbal cues saying? Be aware that some people’s nonverbal cues will be completely different than others, it’s about reading the nonverbal communication and adding it up to the situation at home.
We need to be strategic about how we place ourselves, our stuff and our vehicle when we’re out in public. Instead of pulling into a parking space, back into it or pull through. This includes at home in your driveway, back into your driveway. Face the door when you sit down at a restaurant. Place your kids in the shopping cart or have them hold your hand, and always place children on the inside, away from cars.
Notice Details on Buildings
Look at the signs, graffiti and other things that might be on the building. Where are the cameras? What do the signs say? What does the graffiti mean? Are there strange signs (like hobo signs?) on the building? Is there a birds nest? Was the building recently painted? Noticing these little details will help us with our overall observation skills. Overtime, you’ll notice little details and changes instinctively. It’s all about practicing our observation skills.
Stay off your phone while in public. Of course, refrain from texting and driving. Secure children in a basket, hold their hand or if you must, use a child leash (though this might be embarrassing, if you know your child is a runner, this is the safest thing for everyone). you could even allow them to watch the phone or iPad while shopping, or let them help with the shopping, giving them a responsibility will make them feel valuable and less likely to run amuck. You know your children best. If you are going to listen to music, only place one earbud into one ear and keep the volume on low. You don’t want to completely block off your hearing. While we can’t eliminate distractions, we can try to do our best to limit them. Of course we’re going to talk to our children and we’re going to focus some attention on the shopping we need to do, but in between all of that, we can always be surveying the area around us.
Part of situational awareness is how we present ourselves. By staying off of our phone, being alert and walking tall and strong, we’re giving off a ‘don’t mess with me’ vibe. Of course, we can continue to remain friendly by smiling, having idle chit-chat and in general showing kindness to others. But at the same time, we have our head held high, walking strong and looking people in the eyes. You want them to know that you know.
Trust Your Gut
Have you ever gone somewhere or been around someone that made you feel weird? Maybe it made you feel nervous or in general, just not right. That’s your instinct trying to talk to you. Listen to it. Even if it turns out to be nothing, great! Doesn’t matter. You listened to your gut and you did what you felt was right. Time and time again I read stories of people who said, “I knew it didn’t feel right, but I did it anyway” and it ended very poorly for them. Don’t brush it off as ‘whatever, I’m just being paranoid’, because even if you are, you’re just looking out for yourself and your family. Tune in to your instincts.
Stay Alert At Home
Our home is usually our safe haven, away from all the chaos of the outside world. Unfortunately, while we don’t need to be on high alert at home and we can relax, we still need to be aware. We need to pay attention to weird noises, investigate broken lights, look at our cameras when they give us notifications (even if it’s been nothing the past 100 times, that 101 time could be something). In general, we need to always be observant of changes in and around our home, aware of strange smells, sounds and so on. Keep your home safe by being aware.
There are a lot of ways that we can practice situational awareness everyday, these are just 10 of them.
The next steps from here would be to understand our layered defenses and practice self-defense drills, mentally and physically, based on a wide variety of scenarios. We’ll talk more about this later on.
Being situationally aware isn’t the end-all-be-all of preparedness, survival and self-defense, but it’s a really good place to start. If we practice these techniques everyday, we’ll be in tune with the world, people and ourselves, ready to take action no matter what comes our way.