I am often asked by students who attend firearm training with me, “what do I do if……?” My first response is to discuss situational awareness and how avoiding a conflict in the first place is a wonderful place to start.
So, what is situational awareness and why is it important? First, it’s important because it could keep you out of harms way and help you avoid conflict or trouble in the first place. Situational awareness in simple terms is being aware of your surroundings. Understanding what’s happening in your environment. Looking, scanning, and processing what’s happening around you and identifying possible red flags. Taking note of your surroundings while walking, shopping, talking on the phone, exercising outdoors, eating out, being in large crowds in public, travel. You get the picture! You can even include sitting comfortably on your sofa at home. By no means does this mean to become paranoid of everything around you but to be prepared in how to respond to a situation. Let’s dive in!
Colonel Jeff Cooper took the military color codes and tweaked them so that we may use them in our everyday lives. Let’s talk about what they mean.
Condition White: UNAWARE
Criminals don’t want a challenge. They look for people who are distracted, preoccupied, oblivious to what is going on around them. These can be people who are glued to their smartphone, unaware of what’s going on around them. Be honest, have you ever been preoccupied on your phone while out? Condition white is appropriate when we sleep! We shouldn’t turn off our brains even in the safety of our home. Condition white can be dangerous because it means you aren’t paying attention to people, things, or situations around you. Here are some examples of Condition White.
Condition Yellow: Relaxed State of Awareness
This is where we want to live every day! This means that you make a conscious effort to be aware of what’s going on around you, using common sense and paying attention. Paying attention to people, walking with confidence, looking people in the eyes, taking note of exit doors, noticing everything in your environment. We want to live in Condition Yellow so that we aren’t taken by surprise. Put down your phones and keep your heads up! Here are some examples of Condition Yellow.
Condition Orange: Heightened Awareness
This condition is the “alert” phase. Something doesn’t look right, feel right, or smell right. Something or someone has made you feel uncomfortable. You experienced a chill, goose bumps, your heart rate may have increased. We all experience that “gut” feeling. Pay attention to it! This is time to focus on the situation and formulate a plan.
Maybe it’s a group hanging around an entrance to a store, someone you noticed following you in the store or parking lot. Perhaps it’s a vehicle parked near your car that looks odd. This is when you have become aware of a possible threat. Stay alert and be ready.
If someone gets too close, move away. If you feel uncomfortable passing through a group to enter a store, leave. Come back another time. If you think someone is following you, change directions and pay attention to what they do next. Any time you feel unsafe, leave! If you can’t leave, have your cell phone ready, pepper spray or even your firearm if you carry those.
You may have felt alarmed but after paying close attention you may realize that there is no threat and can go back to Condition Yellow.
Condition Red: Action
This is the condition for ACTION! You believe that there is an actual threat. Your focus has shifted from recognizing a threat to engaging it and stopping it. Your goal is to keep yourself and others safe. You must RUN, HIDE or FIGHT! This is not a time to think, it’s a time to act.
If you are able to get away – run. If you cannot run – hide, if you can not hide, you must fight! Use whatever tools you have available to you. You may have pepper spray, striking tool, firearm, chair, baseball bat, etc. We may not know if it’s our natural tendency to freeze, flee, or fight, but at this point where your life is in danger, make the decision to take whatever action is required to stop the threat.
It’s important to understand that Situational Awareness isn’t about how strong you are physically. Yes, that may help but it’s mostly about how you pay attention and use all of your senses while you are out. It’s about having a survivor mindset! You want to avoid being the person who thinks, “it will never happen to me.” There are bad people out there looking to do terrible things. Again, not to create paranoia, but to live life prepared to act if needed to keep you and those around you safe. YOU are responsible for your own safety. You can’t depend on your spouse or family members, or law enforcement. You can easily be the “wrong” person if you are always living in Condition Yellow and using good Situational Awareness. The wrong person is the woman who walks confidently, is alert and aware of her surroundings. Someone who looks determined and prepared. By increasing your Situational Awareness, you may never know what conflicts you have been able to avoid. Remember, your life is worth defending!