Situational Awareness Exercises and Drills

situational awareness exercises to practice

Situational awareness is being aware of one’s surroundings, identifying potential threats and dangerous situations. The purpose here is to suggest some situational awareness exercises to help you become more aware of what’s going on around you in the real world…

Situational awareness in todays world is of considerable importance.

It is more of a mindset than a tangible hands-on skill.

It can be applied by anyone with the resolve to do so.

Here are a few exercises to help practice your own situational awareness skills:

Situational Awareness – Bad Things Do Happen

First though, to establish a mindset of situational awareness, one must recognize that threats do exist. Bad things do happen, and it could happen in your realm – even when you feel ‘safe’.

One must also be of the mindset to take responsibility for one’s own personal security. The ‘authorities’ cannot be everywhere (and we don’t want them everywhere). They cannot stop every potential criminal action. People need to look out for themselves to the extent that they can.

The situational awareness mindset also entails trusting your “gut” or instinct. Often a person’s subconscious will notice subtle signs of danger that the conscious mind has difficulty quantifying or articulating.

Have you ever suddenly had that feeling of danger without being able to put your finger on it – so to speak? Ignoring such feelings can lead to serious trouble.

Discipline and conscious effort is required to practice situational awareness. Effort is required to pay attention to your surroundings. Eminent danger or hostility can go unnoticed when you are distracted.

Though after awhile, your conscious efforts of observation will become subconscious and instinctive. It’s not paranoia. It’s common sense.

Tip: Bad people don’t necessarily appear as though they’re bad people. It’s usually not obvious. Just another person on the exterior. As they say, you can’t always judge a book by its cover. Instead, observe what people are doing, ‘read’ them, what are they saying… – not so much what they look like (though it can sometimes be a tell).

Situational Awareness Exercises

Here are a few drills to improve your situational awareness skills:

This should go without saying, but, the #1 reason that most people are not aware of the real world while out in public… Their phones. And ear buds. The mind is elsewhere. Checking social media. Messaging. Listening to tunes. I’m sure you know what I mean…

“For decades I have marveled at the way so many people walk through stores, parks, sporting events and such, oblivious to their surroundings. Smart phones make it much worse.” said a MSB reader who works Security.

Hey listen, I’m not knocking the convenience of these things. I listen on my AirPods too. It’s just that while out and about in public, I do not. Anyway, back to the drills…

1. Identify all the exits when you enter a building. It doesn’t matter what kind of establishment. Just look around for ways in and out of the main area. Even if only to the back ‘stock room’. This forces you to become aware. This is an especially good idea for the establishments that you frequent on a regular basis. If something were to happen, you will already know other ways to exfil.

2. Count the number of people in a restaurant, subway or train car. This may seem kind of boring or dumb. But, it forces you to observe others. Really, you don’t have to count, rather, just try to look at everyone individually – even for just a quick moment. Sometimes, someone or their actions may ‘stand out’ as you scan. It’s interesting.

3. Take a look at the people around you and attempt to figure out their stories. Imagine what they do for a living, their mood, what they are focused on and what it appears they are preparing to do, based merely on observation.

4. Next time you’re in a parking lot, look for – and count – the number of cars with people sitting in them, whether you’re walking to the storefront, or coming back to your car, or even driving through.

5. Look for distracted drivers. This shouldn’t be hard to find! I’m sure you’re like me and see this all the time… Distracted drivers doing stupid things because they’re distracted. This will force you to be more alert while driving. Looking for clues that a driver is distracted. Sometimes it’s subtle, others, quite obvious.

Engaging in such simple situational awareness exercises and drills will train the mind to be aware of these things almost subconsciously, even while in a relaxed state of awareness.

[ Read: Situational Awareness Tips]

[ Read: Situational Awareness: Watching Others ]

Add your own suggestions for situational awareness drills: