4 Steps To Situational Awareness

Situational Awareness is increasingly important. We live in a HIGHLY DIVIDED nation. The social chaos began long ago. It will accelerate. None of us are immune to the possibility of encounter. It can happen suddenly, and without warning. UNLESS… you are situation aware.

Situational Awareness sounds simple enough — being aware of your surroundings. But it is non-existent form most people… Knowing what’s going on around you. Identifying potential threats, criminal behavior, and dangerous situations.

I once read the statement, “Situational awareness is more of a mindset than a skill”. I couldn’t agree more. It can be practiced by ANYONE with the will and the discipline to do so.

If you are one of those who would like to become more situation-aware, here are four steps to get you there:

Recognize That Threats Really Do Exist

At the very core is accepting and recognizing that threats really do exist – even within your bubble. They may exist within your proximity during your day-to-day travels and routines. Unfortunately many people are afflicted with normalcy bias. Most have little consideration for their own security while living in their cocoon of perceived safety. What they don’t know is that it (their perception of security) is a very thin veneer. A false sense of security can be consequential…

Take Responsibility For Your Own Security

The police, are not everywhere. YOU are the first line of defense. Responsibility. Remember this, “When seconds count, the police are just minutes away”. You would be LUCKY if they arrived in minutes. Likely much longer. You need to look out for yourself, and not succumb to a mindset that someone else will be there to protect you.

Trust Your Gut Or Intuition

You know that ‘voice’ of intuition in the back of your head? You should listen to it. Apparently many victims who experienced feelings of danger prior to an incident – chose to ignore them (and therefore became victims). Your semi-subconscious mind, coupled with your senses, have a way of alerting you to potential danger – if only you ‘listen’ to it.

Conscious Effort To Practice Situational Awareness

The final step is to actually do it. Discipline yourself to consciously practice situational awareness. Pay attention to what’s happening around you. Your gut feelings. And to stay ‘in the yellow’ (relaxed alert). This is not paranoia (believing danger is lurking everywhere). Rather, it’s a subtle adaptation to one’s behavior and mindset. Practice being alert of your surroundings, even while you’re distracted or busy (when many times even hostile activity can go unnoticed).

Stay away from crowds.


  1. As it says, Practice, PRACtice, PRACTICE… I like to do a simple drill by parking my car at the store, rather far from the entrance and while walking to the door, LOOK, WATCH and LISTEN to what is going on in the parking lot. Look at the cars parked, anyone inside, who is standing around in different locations. Not going up and looking in cars but just being aware. Ever so often turning around, what’s behind you. You can do this very simply not looking like an idiot, not dawning attention to your self. Just a simple practice drill with something that most people do often, go shoping.

  2. Ken,
    Great post. I was taught long ago to stay observant. Not only to recognize potential danger but be aware of safe zones in case of the need to move away fast or escape. One thing that really stuck with me was that people these days don’t look up. Be aware of what could be above you, in buildings, trees, hills etc. Keeping that in mind also for the possible need for evasion, Grey, so to speak. Don’t wear solid black colors while out at night, sometimes black stands out against lighter- dark backgrounds as lighter colors do. As jcb says “Practice”, be aware, forethought. These can save lives.

    1. Have you noticed how it seems everybody has ear buds in their ears ? They cannot hear some one talking to them or carry on a conversation or even be aware if somebody is close to them. I drove up close to a man working in his flower garden and spoke to him and he never even looked up or heard my truck. I saw then he was plugged in and was oblivious to my presence I drove on. You are spot on about being aware of your surroundings and not be in condition “White”.

      1. Spec5
        Yes, I was in grocery store today an all younger generations have them stuffed in their ears. Looks like Q-tips, which they forgot to pull out after cleaning their ears…lol

        No wonder they do not use any manners when shopping, to busy being encompassed their small little world of whatever is going on inside that Q-tip.😁😂

        1. What’s worse is when they don’t use their ear buds and walk around the grocery store with their music blaring and everyone can hear it. Just another proof of the “I’m the only one that matters” mindset.

      2. Spec5

        if i have my ear buds in, ireally dont want to talk to anyone, dont have to either

        1. Kulafarmer….. I totally agree with you. Usually when I see the people I know who have their “buds” in and our eyes meet, I just acknowledge and and move on. I will talk at them later.

      3. I don’t ever wear earbuds. Can’t. I have a hard enough time wearing hearing protection when running the tractor. A lot of my “awareness” relys on my hearing, and i am uncomfortable when one of my senses is taken away.

  3. My dad would always tell me to “Keep your head on a swivel”, advice I will never forget and pass along.

  4. Good review, Wife and I avoid crowds shop on line, use curb side pick up. Our home is secure since we had a break-in while we were out some years ago and lost several valuables we have added bars to all openings. Guns are close by.

  5. Ken,

    Great reminder to “keep your head on a swivel” while out and about. I was taught to do this from the “get go” as a young underground miner by the old guys.I quickly developed a miner’s 6th sense in the dark. ( have blindly stepped out of the way of falling rocks many, many times) Stuck with me above ground all my life. Constant state of observation, i even find myself looking out all the windows of the house when i wake up in the middle of the night, before going back to bed. Now i am teaching my DW the same mindset. Even in old age it is something that can be easily developed if practised.

  6. Most remote key fobs have a red alarm button. You can usually operate fobs from inside your pocket, you dont always have to point it at your car. If you walk with the fob in your hand when around your car you can set off the alarm instantly if things get sketchy. And some car alarms do not arm unless they chirp- just locking the car won’t do it.

    1. Speaking of your fab. I locked my keys in my truck last night. Someone said if someone pushes the button on your spare key from cell phone to cell it will open. Holding the phone 1-2’ away from locked vehicle. I don’t know if this works. (Yet)

      1. Papa J
        I keep a spare key in my purse, as I have been known to become distracted at the worst possible moment. Family calling as I am getting out of the vehicle, where by I would lock the keys in the vehicle. Then have to call On Star to have them open it up for me. When we dropped the service I had spare keys made just for this reason.

        If your vehicle(s)are the newer version, would ask about a back up electronic key(system)for entry into the vehicle that you can carry in your pocket at all times. Just an idea…

    2. P.S. You can also just record video as you walk about, it will record audio too, just delete it later.
      And if you’re robbed don’t struggle for your phone, give it up, maybe the cops can track them with it 😉

  7. Had an interesting validation on situational awareness right after BLM became vocal about how anyone in white skin is inherently racist because we tend to view supposedly innocent choir boys as thugs.

    Walked out of the grocery store and noticed that across the aisle from my car, a car had backed in to face my car. That car was running. The driver was a black male, early 20’s, head down as he texted.

    At my driver side door was another running car, with a person sitting in the passenger seat. Black male, early 20’s, head down as he texted.

    On my passenger side sat the third running car, with a driver. Black male, early 20’s, head down as he texted.

    A statistical impossibility to have that combination appear organically. The sad part is, there could be a white person who saw that set-up, have their gut signal alarm, yet still talk themselves out of taking the necessary steps involved to not become the victim, simply due to having an idiotic narrative pushed at them without engaging their critical thinking to refute its malicious intent. All the aggressor needs is that split second of indecision on his victim’s part to make his move.

    1. M’Lynn
      How did you handle this situation? Did you request an escort or request security to verify what they were doing on a business parking lot texting one another.
      That situation stuck me as a smash & grab, coordinated for the highest return with the least amount of work possible.

      1. Antique Collector –

        I left that part out since I figured it would be a good scenario for folks to work out in their head, since it was a unique set up.

        If I had been alone I would have backed up and gotten Security for an escort. There were two of us though, since we had gone to stock-up and our cart was overflowing. Lifted the tailgate, sent the friend I was with through the interior of my SUV to start the engine while I stood by the tailgate. I figured any one of the three could come towards me, so I had the cart positioned to swing any of those directions. If they had all descended my plan was to jump in and lower the lift gate, then for us to honk like crazy to draw attention. After the car started it was able to pull out slowly to block me from them because I moved behind the trunk of the car on the drivers side, since my friend could open the front door and trap him from getting out. Then I zig-zagged through several aisles to get to an area that afforded us the ability to get everything loaded without incident. As we were loading, all three cars pulled out, so that seems to indicate that they assumed I’d call the Police.

  8. If you are out in a public place, always locate the exits and the routes to reach them. This includes parking lots and other outdoor areas. The infrequent times we dine out, my husband always sits so he can see the entrance. I got mom ears and eyes so I am the people observer. It’s become second nature.

  9. The LEO’s and Vets who post here may be familiar with a term called “Reactionary Gap” – at least that’s what they called it when I was trained in defensive firearm tactics. Simply put, RG is the minimum distance a person must have in order to react (with a weapon) to an impromptu attack. Your personal RG will most likely depend on your physical fitness and if you have any medical conditions like arthritis or any condition that would slow your reaction time. You can overcome some physical conditions through practice and training. There are some very good training methods to get your mind and your body in shape for this. Google OODA Loop for more info.

    I think it is important to note that ANTIFA – when they are in protest mode – often carry a firearm and that in the most recent cases of violence they had their guns drawn first before the confrontation occurred. Meaning, they are looking for trouble, not reacting to it.

  10. We taught situational awareness to our children, which is especially important now, considering the times we live in, and all the tech distractions that take people’s attention away from the present. I learned early to trust my gut and I know God used that to protect me from potentially dangerous situations. Looking back on incidents that happened through the years they were pretty random. I can see what I did right and I learned from my mistakes. I walk quickly with purpose, will look someone in the eye, park near the store or out in the open, avoid walking past a group hanging out together, sit with my back to the wall and can watch those coming in and out of a restaurant, look to see if someone is following me, and I rarely do any of my shopping, etc. after dark anymore.

    I was Mama bear when the kids were small. There were many times that I had red flags about how a man was eyeing my young daughter, or when we were being followed down the aisles in the grocery store. There are warnings about children being kidnapped and sold into sex trafficking, so it’s even more imperative that parents take this to heart and protect their children.

    My oldest has warned me that if I’m out shopping, etc. and I can’t avoid someone bumping into me, just don’t engage, don’t allow any escalation. There are some who are deliberately trying to spin others up, egg them on into an argument, video the argument, and use it to call the person a racist and get them in trouble.

    Anyway, this article was a good reminder to think through different scenarios and our responses, to consider what we currently do to maintain safety, and to remember some of our past experiences and what we learned from them.

  11. When I was young and a fox, I was walking back to my car and not paying attention and I bent in my car to put my package in and some guy came up behind me and pushed me in made a rude movement and took off. It happened so fast and I was shocked but I was so lucky as it could have been much worse. Since then I have always paid attention to my surroundings.

  12. You wanta learn situational awareness. Try gutting out an elk by yourself at sundown, in Wyoming, Montana or Idaho, once you’ve heard all the Grizzly stories. Trekker Out P.S. Guarantee you won’t be wearing ear buds!

  13. -I do own a pair of (wired) ear buds. I think I might have worn them twice in the past year or so. Just not my ‘thing’, I guess. (I had to buy them for work.)
    -Papa S.

  14. Required reading should be Jeff Cooper’s color codes of situational awareness and mental mindset. Learn for your survival.

  15. As an injury prevention and safety instructor, one of my favorites was “There’s no such thing as an accident, only a lack of situational awareness or appropriate and timely response.”

  16. It’s funny how we over look signs of nature. The tell tale signs that can give us information if we choose to read it and take the time to comprehend.

    I was hunting this morning, shot a doe, there were several deer in the field.
    I didn’t know if I had made a good hit and couldn’t follow the doe, because of trees and brush.
    The remaining herd of deer stood close to the tree line, not escaping in the woods, but watching in the same general direction, flagging their tails, but not running.
    So I took my binoculars and glasses the field. Sure enough the doe was barely visible, laying there in between the swaying trees and brush, right out in the open field.
    I watch the birds, mostly chickadees, flutter in one direction out of the swamp, meaning movement is coming from that general direction.
    I watch the horses in the pasture. There raised heads and ears forward tell me there is movement in the brush.
    Nature can be our situational awareness.
    We have to know how to read it.

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