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Situational Awareness: What it is and 6 Tips to Enhance it.

By Ghost:

Are you aware of what's going on around you?

Are you aware of what’s going on around you?

Situational awareness is a key component to successful preparation and survival.  In whatever environment you may find yourself, be it the wilds of the world or any concrete jungle, being aware of what is going on around you is a key component is risk management and decision making.  For instance, if you are on a hiking trip, paying attention to weather patterns, if properly observed, should enable you to decide to set up camp prior to a weather front coming in, or being caught in a deluge.  Alternately, by being unaware of danger signals on the streets of a city, you may find yourself in a position to be attacked whereas if you had picked-up on the subtle signs around you, you stand a better chance of taking steps to avoid a dangerous situation.

An example of situational awareness versus state of mind.

An example of situational awareness versus state of mind.

The environment around you produces a vast amount of stimuli which most people ignore as “background noise”.  Sounds, weather, temperature, motion, colour, patterns – all produce data for us to interpret.  A great deal of this is ignored as our brains rarely fixate on things that are “routine”.  Until they are not.  Fear.  The body’s natural radar for trouble, will begin to effect changes on your physiology if you are attuned enough into your environment to perceive the subtle changes.  Two fantastic references to this are Gavin de Becker’s “The Gift of Fear” and Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s “On Combat”both available through our site (just click on the link above and search under “books”).

Survival strategies are transferrable across environments.  Urban or rural.  Around your home or overseas.  Taking a vigilant and keen interest in the goings-on around you will give you an edge in dangerous situation by providing you with valuable information with which to make choices for action (or inaction) which will hopefully keep you alive or unharmed.

Situational awareness is a way of being.  When driving, you should constantly be checking your side and rear-view mirrors to be aware of the vehicles around you, plan lane changes due to signs, adjusting your driving appropriately for the road conditions, and anticipating other driver’s actions to ensure you avoid collisions.  Most of the time, this is done on a semi-sub-conscious level.  If you have been driving a while, you won’t be talking to yourself about looking at your mirrors, much like a brand-new driver who is still nervous and tense about the whole thing.  From another angle, however, do you pay attention to strange vehicles that follow you around?  Do you know what to do if you notice this?  I suggest drive to a police station and see if they follow you there.  Whatever you do, don’t go home.  Drive around and make last-minute turns to see if they follow.  If they do, you can be reasonably certain you’re being followed.  Head to the police station or call 911 on your cell phone and ask for police assistance.

Is this car following you, or just going the same way?

Is this car following you, or just going the same way?

The same applies when you leave your home, be it in the city or in the outdoors.  In the outdoors, do you catch the silence on the path?  Why did the birds stop chirping?  Are there branches snapping off the trail?  What’s that smell?  Is the sky changing?  Am I looking at the path for potential hazards or obstacles as well at the trail ahead?

Fast-changing weather can catch you unawares if you're not paying attention.

Fast-changing weather can catch you unawares if you’re not paying attention.

In the city the same thought process should run in the background.  This is a dark part of the street…is there anyone in that dark doorway?  I’ve seen that car a few times today…coincidence?  That guy has been behind me for a while now…is he following me?  (In a parking lot alone at night…) Are those guys really fixing a flat tire? Are you suddenly alone in a parking garage or alley…with only one strange looking person walking towards you?

Being alone isn't always a good thing.  Is there anyone else there with you?

Being alone isn’t always a good thing. Is there anyone else there with you?

Now, I’m not trying to create or spread paranoia.  Most of the time those questions will only highlight innocuous situations.  BUT, for the 1% for the time where real danger may be involved, having that foreknowledge of danger will hopefully give you the opportunity to counter a threat.  Most successful attacks are due to surprise.  Most attackers are looking for a “soft target”, someone who they believe will not put up much of a fight and can be easily overpowered and surprised.  Making suspect people aware that you see them and are cognizant of their presence (and if you exude an aura of confrontation) you will I once attended training on anti-kidnapping escape.  We covered case studies of how people are kidnapped for human trafficking purposes in less than 20 seconds.  The precision that these men showed was frightening.  If they want to get you in their vehicle and you don’t see the set-up early, you’re done.  Period.  No matter how tough or strong you are, you’re getting into that van or car and going for a ride.  Then the question becomes how do you escape, but that is something to discuss at a later time.


At the end of the day, being aware of your surroundings and environment is a critical piece of the survival toolkit.  If you practice it often and across all situations in which you find yourself you will get much better at it until it becomes a reflex which goes on in the background.


6 Tips to Enhance Your Situational Awareness

Situational Awareness is the capability to read people and situations and expect the eruption of violence before it actually happens. It is highly recommended that everyone should always look for and take the time to notice safety-related aspects of what is happening around them. Situational Awareness is certainly very important to survival and results in our near future.

Being in a state of fearful or paranoid is not what situational awareness is all about. Rather it is a relaxed state of alertness that you can include into your character. This doesn’t mean that a person should spend his life hectically, and all the time looking for mysterious people. The level of awareness should be appropriate to the present circumstances.

These are some helpful tips to boost your situational awareness to consider and apply to forestall a survival quandary:
1. Recognize Elements around You
The first step in achieving Situational Awareness would be to grow to be conscious in the crucial elements within your setting. Start out by noticing the threats that surround you. Then expand your awareness to other non-threatening components.  This might sound overwhelming, but tend not to be concerned. These are abilities you currently use on a daily basis. The very first step is created to assist you expand and enhance your perception of what is taking place close to you.

Paying attention to what's going on.  Details, if not needed, are easily discarded, but if important can be remembered.

Paying attention to what’s going on. Details, if not needed, are easily discarded, but if important can be remembered.

2. Evaluate and Recognize Circumstances

This includes understanding a number of elements by the processes of pattern recognition, interpretation, and evaluation. Use this data to decide how it’ll affect your drives or in this case your eventual survival. This can help you develop a comprehensive picture of one’s immediate surroundings plus a better understanding of Situational Awareness.

How often do you stand close to the edge or allow people behind you as the train approaches.  With your back against the wall or being away from others, you're less likely to be surprised or pushed off the platform.

How often do you stand close to the edge or allow people behind you as the train approaches. With your back against the wall or being away from others, you’re less likely to be surprised or pushed off the platform.

3. Study to Predict Occasions
The most effective aspect of Situational Awareness involves the ability to project the long term actions of elements around you. Soon after you might have been ready to identify components within your atmosphere and may comprehend the circumstance, it is actually time to take your Situational Awareness a single step further.
For instance, predicting climate patterns, understanding animal warning indicators and staying ready to fend off attacks are all essential skills in an emergency survival scenario.

4. Be Watchful of Time
Time is an important issue in understanding Situational Awareness. The pace of your setting is continuously being altered by the actions of individuals, activity characteristics, and outside elements. When unplanned events start to arise, be sure to make the vital alterations for your schedule and objectives to help you survive.

5. Stay clear of Complacency
Assuming anything is underneath will influence your vigilance. Always challenge yourself and those close to you to be ready for contingencies.

Complacency.  Simply foolish.

Complacency. Simply foolish.

6. Communicate a Course of Action
Successful communication may be principally the most critical issue in reaching and sustaining situational awareness. When in an emergency difficulty together with your household or companions, be sure to speak up and verbalize any meant action. Fully understand that the level of situational awareness accomplished is connected to the level and excellent of communication with other people around you.  If you’re alone, don’t be a soft target.  Get to a place where you have a better chance of escape, make noise, shout, confront, or run.  Don’t let inaction be your downfall.


If these tips don’t help, then for the sake of all that is holy, GET OFF YOUR PHONE AND PAY ATTENTION!  Behind the wheel, walking down the street, even riding a bike, I see people on their phones OBLIVIOUS to the world around them.  Put down the phone.  Look around.  Pay attention.  It’s your safety on the line, not mine.

Are you aware of your environment?  No?  PUT DOWN THE PHONE!

Are you aware of your environment? No? PUT DOWN THE PHONE!

Being aware of what exactly is going on all of the time is enormously tough for anyone particular person, especially during a high tension survival situation.

The best way to win a fight is to not get into one in the first place.  That’s what one of my old martial arts instructors used to tell me.  It’s good common sense when you’re not looking for trouble.  Use the same philosophy by being aware.  It’s easier and safer to avoid a potentially dangerous situation than fighting your way out of one.

I trust this will give you a good handle on this topic while opening the door to a new way of thinking which may one day save your life.

For now, be smart, be aware, be safe, be well, be bold, be fearless.


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