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What is situational awareness?

Here is the submission we made to Home Defender Magazine a few years back that was published...


1. Why is situational awareness important?


The importance of situational awareness cannot be understated. The ability to develop and utilize this skill during your day to day activities will increase not only your personal safety but the safety of those around you as well.


2. Whether you are driving home late at night or while out and about running errands, what are the key factors people should keep in mind about situational awareness?


I think the critical component in the phrase “situational awareness” is really pretty simple: it is simply being aware. It is so easy for us to get consumed in our cell phones or in whatever activity that we are engaged in to the point that we forget to take a look around and process all the things that are going on around us. We don’t have to be a high speed tactical operator or John Wick to practice good situational awareness. Anyone can do it with a small amount of effort.


3. A common expression these days is, “If you see something, say something.” What constitutes something unusual or potentially dangerous?

We as humans are designed to survive, so naturally survival instincts are ingrained in our DNA. Generally, we have great natural instincts as people when it comes to something being wrong in the environment that we are in. With that being said, simply trust that little feeling you get in your gut! I think the mere fact that you may feel some sort of uneasiness regarding a situation, whether it be a car you have noticed is following you as you walk around the block, or an unfamiliar person that you observe walking into your neighbor’s backyard should trigger you to say something. By something we mean to notify local law enforcement as soon as possible. Provide the Emergency Dispatcher with all of the pertinent information that you have, including the who-what-when-where and why, related to whatever situation you are reporting. If what you’re describing warrants a law enforcement response then they will come and make their best efforts to resolve the issue. It is important to remember that there is always a perfectly lawful/reasonable explanation and a completely unlawful/sinister explanation for every circumstance. When it comes to my safety and the safety of my family I tend to lean towards the unlawful/sinister explanation because that allows me to plan my response to anything sinister accordingly. I don’t necessarily have to act on my plan if my suspicion turns out to be false, but if they’re correct then I can take the required action to keep my family safe that much faster because I have already preplanned my response in my head. The faster we can appropriately respond to various threats increases our chances of reaching a positive outcome.


4. What are some techniques that help you stay aware of your surroundings and why are they important to practice?

As I go throughout my daily activities I periodically ask myself the following question: “What are the top 3 things in this moment that could potentially hurt and/or kill me and those around me.” As I ask myself that question I begin a simple process called an “OODA Loop.” This decision making process comes from United States Air Force Colonel John Boyd. The first “O” stands for observe. This is the process of taking in all of the relevant data related to the current space that you are occupying and while doing so determining what your potential threats are. The second “O” stands for orient. This is the process of filtering all of the data you are taking in based on your training, personal experiences, etc. During the orientation phase you are determining which threats will require some sort of action from you. During the third phase we move to the “D” which stands for decide. At the decision phase you have already processed the data in your environment, you have oriented yourself to the data, and now you have found that there is a threat that warrants a response from you. This response could be something as simple as deciding to stand next to an exit at a crowded concert. Finally, we move to the “A” which stands for act. In this final phase you carry out whatever decision it is that you have made based on your OODA Loop.

Then the cycle starts again because we live in dynamic environments that require constant evaluation.


5. Describe a time where situational awareness helped you or a loved one stay safe.


My fiancé, our circle of friends, and I attended the Route 91 Concert last October. We happened to be standing just about in the middle of the crowd as the shooting began; the proverbial X as we call it in Law Enforcement. Once we figured out that the shooting was in fact gunfire and not a special effect related to the concert, my OODA loop started. I had already visualized this situation in my head dozens of times so I thought I was prepared. The problem was that I had envisioned this scenario as a responding member of Law Enforcement, not as an unarmed potential victim who had to try and figure out a way to get my fiancé, her best friend, and myself out of an active shooter scenario unharmed. Thankfully, with a lot of help from our Guardian Angels and by not becoming overwhelmed with the situation, we were able to plan our exit and execute our plan in order to get out of the concert relatively unscathed while helping others get out along the way.


6. Anything else to add?


I appreciate the opportunity to be interviewed and I would just like to encourage everyone who reads this to remain vigilant, to be hungry for more knowledge, to seek out self-defense training, and to do whatever it is you can to make yourself a hard target so that you can keep not only yourself safe but your loved ones as well.


Stay Hungry,


3STG

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