Friday, March 6, 2015

Developing Situational Awareness Part 3

I talk a lot about situational awareness and paying attention. Especially pertaining to defense and security. I talk to my family about it until they have tuned me out. I want them to know and understand what situational awareness is and what to do to develop it. In this series we’ll talk about and try to explain situational awareness in more detail and how to develop it further.
To help understand this awareness we’ll use the OODA loop which we all use every day. As we go through out our day we Observe, Orient, Decide, Act many times. In competition or combat the one who goes through the OODA Loop correctly the fastest, usually wins.
The third point of more in depth situational awareness is Decide. We’ll also include the last and fourth point of Action in this post.
To be able to make good decisions you need good information (observe) and options. You have to have something to draw from. Training, experience, education. These give you options. Get trained in self-defense. Whether it is lethal or non-lethal weapons, or hand-to-hand defense, you’ll need training and practice. To have something to draw from you’ll need options. Does the threat warrant lethal force for defense? If you only train in one discipline you’ll only have one option.
General James N. Mattis, the Marine Commander for US CENTCOMM (U.S. Central Command) has said:
“Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”
This seems like an odd bit of advice from a commander, but if you notice, he doesn’t say kill everyone, but to have a plan to.
Have a Plan of Action Based on What You Observe
You visit your favorite coffee shop and a bad guy with a gun decides to drop in as well. But because you’ve followed the principles above, you’re the first to see him as a threat. Great. But what are you going to do about it? Seconds matter here. You don’t have time to formulate a well-thought-out plan. What’s more, the stress of the event will muddle your thinking and decision-making.
In addition to asking yourself the baseline and anomaly questions every time you enter an environment, ask yourself a third question: “What would I do if I saw an anomaly?” In other words, come up with an action plan.
So let’s go back to the coffee shop example. Let’s say the anomaly for which you want to create an action plan is “guy comes in with a gun.” The best course of action in this scenario depends on a few things. And knowing what those few things are requires you to be situationally aware. If the robber came in from the front door and you’re near the rear exit, your best action would be to book it out the back door right away. On the other hand, if he entered through the back exit near you, according to the Department of Homeland Security, your best action would be to immediately close the gap between him and you and incapacitate him.
Establish baselines. Look for anomalies. Have a plan. That’s what situational awareness comes down to. This awareness can be used as a preventive tactic. Animals are creatures of opportunity. They’ll typically only attack another creature if they look vulnerable. Lions will go after younger, sicker, or older gazelles because they’re easier to catch. The same goes with humans. Criminals are typically going to go after a person who looks vulnerable, whether the victim is physically weaker or will simply be easy to catch off guard.
Practicing situational awareness goes a long way in keeping you from appearing like an easy target. When you’re out and about, look alert. Get your nose out of your smartphone. When you’re walking back to your car at night, have your keys at the ready and constantly scan your surroundings. The less vulnerable you look, the less likely someone is going to mess with you.
Always carry a tactical flashlight and use it at nighttime. Having a light allows you to better observe in the darkness, but it can also act as a deterrent to would-be bad guys. Because law enforcement officers are usually the only ones shining flashlights down alleys and under cars, if you’re shining your light as you walk to your destination or back to your car, the bad guys are probably going to think you’re a cop and will likely just leave you alone. If worst comes to worst and you do end up getting jumped, you can use the tactical flashlight as a defensive tool by blinding your would-be attacker with the bright beam or even hitting him with the beveled edge that’s often built into the handle.
Situational awareness is a mindset that you have to purposefully cultivate. You want to get to the point that it’s just something you do without having to think about it. To get to that point, you have to practice it regularly. Starting today, consciously remind yourself to look for entry/exit points whenever you enter a new building. Start observing people and establishing baselines and generating possible anomalies while you’re at work, at the gym, or at the mall. And then start coming up with action plans on what you would do in that specific situation if you see a possible threat. Don’t be paranoid, just mindful. Do that day in and day out, and situational awareness won’t be something you have to intentionally think about, just something you do naturally. Keep your head on a swivel, check your six, and keep your back to the wall.
Semper Paratus
Check 6