As defined in Wikipedia, Situational Awareness is the perception of environmental elements and events with respect to time and space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status after some variable has changed, such as time, or some other variable such as a predetermined event.
Over the years of teaching law Enforcement and citizens I have spoken about the importance of being situationally aware of things going on around you in your daily life. When you are out and about whether it be driving the kids to school, driving to and from work, out to dinner with the family or just hanging around the house. Being aware can help keep you one step ahead of what’s going on around you. Being a step ahead can give you that small, extra amount of time to see things happening so you can try and change your place in that scene.
When teaching officer survival courses or civilian self-defense courses I like to use the model that the late Colonel Jeff Cooper developed. The Situational Awareness Color Codes. If you were in Law Enforcement or the Military you’ve probably heard of or were taught the color code system so this is a small review. Civilians may have never heard of this so here you go, this is for you.
When Cooper developed this way of teaching about Situational Awareness he broke down levels of alertness into color codes. These levels start in a lower level of alertness and they escalate higher. The color codes change with the levels. Here is the breakdown:
The first level or condition is WHITE: This is a relaxed or unaware state of mind on what is going on around you. This happens when we assume we are safe or in a safe place. These safe places can be our homes on a Sunday watching the game, a family get together or anyplace we may be where we drop our guard on our personal protection. If you walk around in your life in condition WHITE you will be caught off guard and unprepared and bad things could happen to you.
The second level or condition is YELLOW: This is where you may remain relaxed but you are still in a state of awareness of people and things going on around you. As we would say on the SWAT team “Keep you head on a swivel and be aware of everything going on around you.” Now this does not mean and I advocate walking around in a state of paranoia. You just have to be able to move about your life paying attention to your surroundings so you are not taken by surprise by another person. Some examples of being in condition YELLOW are as follows: Being aware of other drivers on the road, looking before you start to move through the intersection when the light turns green. Thinking about where you want to sit in a movie theater or restaurant and knowing the exits in these and other places.
If a threat should present itself when you are in condition YELLOW it should not be a total surprise to you. It will be somewhat of a surprise but at least you will see it start to develop and be able to formulate a plan.
The third level or condition is ORANGE. While in condition ORANGE you meet up with a potential threat. You identify this threat by their actions and or words. If this threat is coming toward you, you should have shifted your attention to this person and have a plan of action in place and be ready to initiate that action. Do you have a plan? Do you train in self-defense techniques? Would you know what to do if you had family members with you when an aggressive, violent person approached you? Would they know what to do?
The fourth level or condition is RED. Condition RED is where you now take action. That plan you have put together and practiced is now going to be put into action. The threat is real, the situation has escalated to the point where you are either engaging with the threat, however deemed necessary, or you are running from the threat. Either way this can be a very exhausting time for you. The physiological response to this threat is known as the FIGHT-OR- FLIGHT RESPONSE also called Hyperarousal or the ACUTE STRESS RESPONSE. This physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack or threat to survival.
At the end of the day, be aware of where you are and what is going on around you. Have a plan for both you and your family to include clear communication when venturing out. Discuss the plan you have with your family and make sure everyone is on the same page.
Remember! We don’t plan to fail, but we do fail to plan!
John Riddle-Progressive Self Defense Systems-Boca Raton, Florida