Situational Awareness

Let's take a quick poll to start today's post. How many of you had your head buried in your phones during your morning commute, or even better, how many had your headphones on this morning?

My guess is almost everyone.

Did you even notice anyone or anything that was around you? Do you even remember how you got to work? While you're waiting for your train or standing in line for a coffee are you paying attention to your surroundings or instead are you checking how many likes your latest Instagram post received? Probably the latter, right?! I’m guilty of that too. But by keeping your head buried in your phone, book or listening to audio you are opening yourself up to be a target.

A target for who or what you ask? On a daily basis, that will be mostly common criminals. People who want to steal your money, your phone, or even worse assault you. I wake up to at least one text message alert from DCPD that there has been some sort of assault, robbery, carjacking, or murder in the city while I slept.  And while these incidents don't often happen right in my neighborhood (some do) they are happening around me. I don’t want to be a victim. I want to be prepared in any way that I can to avoid situations like this.

These texts and news alerts should be used as incentive to train ourselves to take into account our situational awareness.  

What is situational awareness? Simply put it's being aware of your surroundings. From driving, to walking, to conversing with a neighbor, you always want to be aware of what is happening around you.  You want to be scanning your environment and checking ‘your six’.  As you are taking in your surroundings you should be looking out for any red flags and have an understanding of what you might be observing.

You can sort of think of this as keeping your head on a swivel but not in frantic way. You want to be calmly scanning your environment…what do you see, smell, hear, and feel? By maintaining a calm demeanor, you’ll be mentally prepared to assess a situation if you notice any red flags. Additionally, by keeping your head up you project more confidence and appear to be more alert, which make you less likely to be a target.

What are some of the red flags you should be looking for? This depends on your environment and what is normal for your environment. For example, is it 100 degrees outside and someone is wearing a down jacket. You want to look for things that seem odd, standout, or out of place.  You know the area where you live the best so trust yourself when something looks out of place.  

Situational Awareness Tips

  1. Ditch the headphones. If you must listen to music, audio-books, or podcasts then only use one earbud so that you can still hear what is happening around you.

  2. Keep your head up. Instagram isn’t going anywhere. Calmly scan your surroundings and casually look behind you when you’re walking so you know if someone is creeping up on you.

  3. Make eye contact with people you pass on the street. Criminals are less likely to target people who they’ve made eye contact with.

  4. Walk the perimeter of the crowd.  If you are in a crowded area, stay on the outside of the crowd. This allows for an easier escape should you need to and you are less likely to be trapped in the middle.

  5. Take notice of your position. Are your sightlines blocked? Are you standing or seated somewhere so that you can visually see all exit/entry points? Against the wall eliminates the need for you to be concerned with what is happening behind you.

  6. Have an exit strategy. This doesn’t need to be complicated and takes only a few minutes. Make note of your exits, the possible pathways to these exits, and any objects to help guide you should your sight be compromised.

  7. Understand what is normal for the environment. Does something or someone seem odd or standout?  

  8. Carry a tactical flashlight. This can be used to check under your car at night, to help light up dark streets, inside retail establishments, and can also be used as a weapon should you need it.

  9. Avoid the phone call walk. I know a lot of people (women specifically) that call their friends, family, or spouses if they are walking alone at night. I've done this too. You may think because you have a person on the other end of that phone that you have someone that can help you but there really isn’t much they can do.  This gives you a false sense of security.

  10. Trust your gut.  If something feels off, then cross the street, go in the other direction, walk into a store, or find a police officer.

You want to put yourself in a position to observe, detect, and avoid/react. We are all walking through a fog most of the day and completely oblivious to what is happening around us. Being situationally aware means you are less likely to be a target and you are reducing your risk by paying attention. The point here in this post and at SMT is not to scare you. It’s to educate, inspire, and encourage you to become self-reliant. By being more aware of your surroundings, you'll not only know what's happening around you so you can be prepared but you'll be more present in your day.   

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is based on my opinions and for informational use only. I am not an expert in this field and any items/services/products mentioned in these posts should be used at your own discretion and in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. You can read more about my privacy & disclosure policies here.