Dear Fellow Survivalist;
I’ve talked to you about situational awareness before, but this is an important enough subject, that it’s worth revisiting from time to time. I’ve found in my own life that it is easy to become lax in my personal vigilance, if I’m not constantly reminded of the need to be aware of what’s going on around me.
That awareness is a critical part of self-defense; even more important than carrying concealed. There are times where vigilance can save your life, even if you don’t have a gun on you; but it’s highly unlikely that carrying a gun will save your life, if you don’t have your eyes open to what others are doing, especially those others who would do you harm.
With that in mind, I’d like to take a few minutes to give you some practical steps you can take to see what’s going on around you, increasing your own situational awareness. These are all things I practice every day, as a matter of course. I’ve done them long enough, that I’d have to call them habits.
Those who have been in the military should recognize the phrase “check six.” This refers to the deliberate act of looking behind you, in the six-o’clock position, to see if there is anyone there. I don’t care if you’re a pilot or an infantry soldier, you need to check six and make sure the enemy isn’t sneaking up behind you.
That applies to you and I, just as well. I don’t care if you’re driving your car, walking down the street or shopping in the mall, do you know who is behind you? Do you even know if anyone is there? If you do, have you given them a visual sweep to determine if they are a likely threat? If not, why not?
Sometimes we avoid turning around, so that we won’t look paranoid. Who cares? Isn’t it better to look paranoid and be safe, rather than to look cool and have someone grab your chin and put a switchblade up to your jugular vein? Make a regular habit of checking six, just to make sure there isn’t any danger there.
Speaking of doing a visual sweep of people, a major part of that is looking for the telltale bulge of a weapon under their clothing. Most people’s bodies are symmetrical, so anything that sticks out only on one side is probably not part of the body. It might be a weapon and it might not. With pretty much everyone carrying smartphones these days, it might be totally benign.
The biggest thing that can prevent you from having situational awareness is your smartphone. We spend so much time looking at our phones today, that we don’t even talk to the people sitting at the table with us, let alone know what’s going on around us. Learn to put the phone down and take a look at the real world around you.
Granted, there are times when it is necessary to look at your phone. But you can control those times. Wait until you are someplace safe to answer that text message. Check your e-mail in the office. Don’t spend all your time on social media. In other words, get a real life, interacting with the world around you, rather than the artificial one in your phone.
One of our times of greatest vulnerability is when we transition from one space to another, such as walking out the front door of our local supermarket. We’re leaving an environment where we’ve already seen what’s around us and entering one in which we haven’t. We could literally be walking into a crime in process.
Whenever you find yourself in one of these transition points, especially when walking out the door of a store, step to the side, out of the traffic flow and take a look around. Give yourself a minute to figure out what’s going on and to check that there are no potential dangers waiting there for you.
One of the places where we are all perhaps the most distracted is when we’re eating in a restaurant. Not only do we have the aforementioned problem of having our heads in our smartphones; but when we’re not looking at them, we’re generally looking at whoever we are with. So we’re not bothering to check six, or even check what might be behind the person across the table from us.
There’s a huge difference between this and how the average special operator sits in a restaurant. First of all, they’ll never sit with their backs to the door; but rather facing it. That way, they can check out everyone who comes into the restaurant, giving them a once over to see if they are a potential threat. Since they are facing the door, the movement of the door opening and someone coming in will catch their attention, so it will be easy and natural to give them that visual sweep.
There’s actually probably more of a chance of getting attacked in your home, by home invaders, than of being attacked in a restaurant. Yet we all tend to let our guard down when we walk in the door, possibly even to the point of taking our gun off and putting it in the night stand. Then, when someone kicks open the door, we’re unarmed and unaware.
When I’m sitting in my home office, working, I can see out a window that overlooks the access to my home. When I’m in my favorite chair in the living room, watching a movie, I can see anyone who walks up to the front door. In doing so, I minimize the times when someone can enter my home by surprise and attack my family.
Finally, criminals with guns aren’t the only thing that situational awareness can protect us from. When I was teaching my children how to drive, I taught them what I called “the first rule” of driving. That was, “Always assume the other guy is going to do something stupid and watch for it. This simple rule has saved me from countless accidents over the years, when people did stupid things driving. So, put these habits in place and you’ll automatically increase your situational awareness. But even so, don’t forget to keep your powder dry and your survival gear close at hand.