You must blend that situational awareness with actions to take immediately upon the perception that a situation has arrived. Notice I said “perception” and not confirmation. Know why? Because you need to react accordingly with the perception: the confirmation may be too late.
Scoffers are already picking this one apart, thinking “OK, well, you react…what if you overreact and nothing was really wrong?” Guess what? I wrote “accordingly with the perception,” meaning that if you are acting accordingly, you’re not overreacting and therefore not responding/taking action with more than what is necessary.
React accordingly, and after you’re in the clear, then you can assess everything that has happened.
Here’s the reason I’m writing this article:
The other day I parked my vehicle and was getting ready to walk into an establishment. Just as I left the vehicle, two state troopers pulled up: one in front of my vehicle (head to head) and another slightly off to the first vehicle’s left, but facing mine as well. A trooper left each vehicle, and although they had sunglasses on their attention was riveted to me. They watched me and began to follow me as I walked toward the establishment.
Having nothing to worry about, I continued toward the building; however, my logic is that the time to worry is when there is nothing to worry about. This is a day and age when cops shoot first and ask questions later. Mistaken identity doesn’t bring a person back from the dead, and it’s better to err on the side of caution. As I walked toward the building, I angled my approach and immediately placed both of them in enfilade.
This means as I stepped in the front of one of them, both were lined up (in a “line,” if you will) before me. Neither had drawn a weapon, but the motion I made is instinctive…or “muscle memory” if you wish to label it. Both were, if it became necessary, in my line of fire, and the first one (closest to me) was masking the fire of the second if they wanted to play. “Masking” means to block another’s line of fire by (stupidly/unknowingly) placing yourself in between his fire and a potential enemy/target.
Now, obviously these two thought they “had something,” and from their movements and actions, it was also obvious that they soon realized I was not their quarry. Dismissing it and them (while keeping an eye on them), I entered the building. One of them poked his head inside the door, and the manager/proprietor looked at him.
“Don’t worry, what we’re looking for is not in here,” he said, and then left.
There was no incident, but I stress this to you: this was a situation.
For those who love law and order, do not take this as an indictment against those state troopers, but keep this in mind: the days of “Officer Friendly” are over. Sometimes warranted by fear (in the case of city cops constantly attacked by gangs and other miscreants), and sometimes unwarranted, many times they’ll pull the trigger and not mete out the force that is commensurate with the perceived threat. My thoughts? I’m not bothering anybody, but if I’m in the ground because of their mistake, I’m the one who really pays for that mistake, right?
It’s better to face a jury of 7 than to be carried by 6.
The situational awareness will help you to avoid complications. Be aware of your surroundings, and who is in those surroundings. My wife and I gassing up her vehicle, and as I pulled up to the pump, there were two young men and a young woman just acting stupidly…right in front of the door to the convenience store/gas station. My wife was going to go in and pay while I pumped the gas. I motioned for her to stay put while I both paid for and pumped the gas.
The men were carrying beer and the woman carousing with both while all played the fools. No matter. I kept my eye on them and paid for the gas, then came out and pumped it as they moved off (“staggered off” being a better term) across the parking lot.
Situational awareness. I didn’t have to say anything. I avoided a situation. Most of the times avoidance is the best answer. Move out of the area and away from the potential situation before it escalates. It will all be forgotten in no time. It is important in the moment for the threat it potentially poses, however, in the long term it is not even worth the time of day.
Situations accomplish nothing if they’re allowed to escalate: avoid them as much as possible.
7 Tips To Improve Your Situational Awareness
Let’s cover some simple basics that you can use all the time.
- As with “Driver’s Education,” Get the big picture: see everything that is happening around you and take in the full view.
- Watch what people are doing, and what state they are in: whether they’re mad, inebriated, overly friendly…watch them and pay attention to their actions.
- Watch what people have in their hands or on their person (such as a knife strapped to their belt, etc.)
- Know where you are. Are you up against the wall as two men are approaching you from two different directions? Do you have a narrow alley to walk through and a gang of thugs just took notice of you and they’re in motion? Are you in the back corner of a dimly-lit diner, and in came the Hell’s Angels and they’re staring at you?
- Know what your escape routes are. In #4 above, do you have alternate routes to take? Do the Hell’s Angels know about that small fire exit door beyond the restrooms? Have a backup route to employ…in all things you do…whether walking, driving, or just sitting having a cup of coffee.
- Have a plan in place. If you’re attacked, how will you defend yourself? Having a plan in place and knowing how you’ll execute that plan…rehearsing it in your mind…this will keep you from being completely unprepared.
- Avoid a situation by not allowing it to happen. You can leave the area. If your bargaining skills/people skills are good, you may be able to talk your way out of it and defuse it before it occurs
Take it seriously. Take each thing seriously, and remember that even the most harmless looking scenario can turn into a full-blown problem at any moment. Think outside of the box. Remember: lawbreakers aren’t worried about breaking the laws…the ones you are upholding. You’ll have to assess the situation as it arises, and you must also assess it as it changes. Take care of business when it occurs, and take care of one another. JJ out!
Jeremiah Johnson is the Nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces (Airborne). Mr. Johnson was a Special Forces Medic, EMT and ACLS-certified, with comprehensive training in wilderness survival, rescue, and patient-extraction. He is a Certified Master Herbalist and a graduate of the Global College of Natural Medicine of Santa Ana, CA. A graduate of the U.S. Army’s survival course of SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), Mr. Johnson also successfully completed the Montana Master Food Preserver Course for home-canning, smoking, and dehydrating foods.
Mr. Johnson dries and tinctures a wide variety of medicinal herbs taken by wild crafting and cultivation, in addition to preserving and canning his own food. An expert in land navigation, survival, mountaineering, and parachuting as trained by the United States Army, Mr. Johnson is an ardent advocate for preparedness, self-sufficiency, and long-term disaster sustainability for families. He and his wife survived Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Cross-trained as a Special Forces Engineer, he is an expert in supply, logistics, transport, and long-term storage of perishable materials, having incorporated many of these techniques plus some unique innovations in his own homestead.
Mr. Johnson brings practical, tested experience firmly rooted in formal education to his writings and to our team. He and his wife live in a cabin in the mountains of Western Montana with their three cats.
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