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Situational Awareness: Establish A Baseline And Look For Anomalies

June 24, 2015, by Ken Jorgustin


While establishing situational awareness, one might say that first we must establish a baseline, and then look for anomalies.

Every place, every environment, including the people in those places, have a baseline. What is a baseline? It’s what’s “normal” there. The normal baseline in a given situation will be different from one environment to the next and from one person to the next.

For example, the baseline at a small cafe might involve people sitting quietly at dining tables or speaking in moderately hushed tones to their partners, or perhaps reading a book while sipping a coffee or working on their computer – while the line at the register and those working behind the counter have their own environmental ‘baseline’ (people looking up at the menu board or nosing in their smartphones while waiting in line while those behind the counter are hustling to fill orders)…

We first establish baselines, so that we can then spot anomalies…

What are anomalies?

Anomalies are things that do happen and shouldn’t. As we take in our surrounding while establishing a baseline, anomalies are the things or actions that direct our attention towards them. They stand out.

Mentally ask yourself these baseline questions first, every time you enter a new environment:

1. What’s going on here?
2. What’s the general mood of the place?
3. What’s the “normal” activity that I should expect here?
4. How do most people behave here most of the time?

Then ask yourself this anomaly question:

What would cause someone or something to stand out?

As simple as it sounds (situational awareness), hardly anyone has it while out in public. You can practice this yourself – and it can actually be fun… After awhile (if you practice often) it can even become ‘second nature’ as you find yourself doing it somewhat subconsciously. Just ask yourself the questions listed above whenever you’re entering a new environment…

Thoughts inspired from the ‘Art of Manliness Collection’ by Brett and Kate McKay.

More Situational Awareness articles here