Situational Awarness Redux

Situational Awarness Redux

This is a discussion on Situational Awarness Redux within the Carry & Defensive Scenarios forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; In a discussion about the Monkey Dance I ran into this observation: Situational awareness is an over-used phrase. Without specific education of the things you ...

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Thread: Situational Awarness Redux

  1. #1
    VIP Member Array shockwave's Avatar
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    Situational Awarness Redux

    In a discussion about the Monkey Dance I ran into this observation:

    Situational awareness is an over-used phrase. Without specific education of the things you need to be aware of it’s only words. Meaningless.
    Right. Situational Awareness (SA) is about a lot of things, and it goes well beyond just being alert and attentive - although it does mean that. As the term comes up a lot here, and as it's fundamental to defense and avoiding problems (always better than actually having to deal with trouble) it's worth a reminder on what you should be doing when out and about.

    Your standard predator has SA, too. He or she will be scanning the environment, looking for crimes of opportunity. A car left running while the motorist runs into a store, a person walking while texting or reading mail, these are obvious. But also people moving too cautiously. A woman tottering in heels, a man swiveling his head nervously and acting hypervigilantly. These attract attention because they do not blend into the flow of normal movement.

    So there's that.

    The confounding problem of good SA is that you can't force it. Consider the skill of touch-typing. If you look down at the keyboard and watch your fingers hitting the keys, you mess it all up. By the same token, if you think, "Now I am exhibiting strong SA," you'll likely look hinky and make yourself a mark.

    Rather, it's largely subconscious. In the pattern of social activity, you want something to trigger your attention. A break in the flow of movement, something there that shouldn't be there. A change in background noise. All your senses are in play. Sight, sound, smell, when something is "off," that's your cue to discover why.

    The conscious component of SA is to develop habits like walking around your car from a slight distance before approaching, steering clear of parked vans, edging away from clustered groups. Thus SA is a combination of smart habits and a tuned sense of what's normal in a given environment. If circumstances have you yelling and drawing a firearm and so forth, then you've fallen into a trap and are escaping. SA can keep you from being in that situation.

    We carry because our SA may not be good enough, or it might not factor into a situation at all. When it does work, you might not even know that it did.
    "It may seem difficult at first, but everything is difficult at first."


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    Member Array Holliday's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shockwave View Post
    In a discussion about the Monkey Dance I ran into this observation:



    Right. Situational Awareness (SA) is about a lot of things, and it goes well beyond just being alert and attentive - although it does mean that. As the term comes up a lot here, and as it's fundamental to defense and avoiding problems (always better than actually having to deal with trouble) it's worth a reminder on what you should be doing when out and about.

    Your standard predator has SA, too. He or she will be scanning the environment, looking for crimes of opportunity. A car left running while the motorist runs into a store, a person walking while texting or reading mail, these are obvious. But also people moving too cautiously. A woman tottering in heels, a man swiveling his head nervously and acting hypervigilantly. These attract attention because they do not blend into the flow of normal movement.

    So there's that.

    The confounding problem of good SA is that you can't force it. Consider the skill of touch-typing. If you look down at the keyboard and watch your fingers hitting the keys, you mess it all up. By the same token, if you think, "Now I am exhibiting strong SA," you'll likely look hinky and make yourself a mark.

    Rather, it's largely subconscious. In the pattern of social activity, you want something to trigger your attention. A break in the flow of movement, something there that shouldn't be there. A change in background noise. All your senses are in play. Sight, sound, smell, when something is "off," that's your cue to discover why.

    The conscious component of SA is to develop habits like walking around your car from a slight distance before approaching, steering clear of parked vans, edging away from clustered groups. Thus SA is a combination of smart habits and a tuned sense of what's normal in a given environment. If circumstances have you yelling and drawing a firearm and so forth, then you've fallen into a trap and are escaping. SA can keep you from being in that situation.

    We carry because our SA may not be good enough, or it might not factor into a situation at all. When it does work, you might not even know that it did.
    Excellent Post!

    Yellowish-Orange is where this state of SA would fall on Cooper's Color scale.

    Holliday
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    VIP Member Array shockwave's Avatar
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    Yellowish-Orange is where this state of SA would fall on Cooper's Color scale.
    Yes. For those unfamiliar, this is explained in more detail in Cooper's Principles of Personal Defense.

    White: Unaware and unprepared. If attacked in Condition White, the only thing that may save you is the inadequacy or ineptitude of your attacker.

    Yellow: Relaxed alert. No specific threat situation. Your mindset is that "today could be the day I may have to defend myself." You can remain in Yellow for long periods, as long as you are able to "Watch your six."

    Orange: Specific alert. Something is not quite right and has your attention. Your radar has picked up a specific alert. You shift your primary focus to determine if there is a threat. Staying in Orange can be a bit of a mental strain, but you can stay in it for as long as you need to. If the threat proves to be nothing, you shift back to Condition Yellow.

    Red: Condition Red is fight. Your mental trigger (established back in Condition Orange) has been tripped. "If 'X' happens I will shoot that person" - 'X' has happened, the fight is on.

    The higher up the scale you move, the more mental resources you need. People with PTSD are often stuck in an orange-red zone and they are debilitated by it. Cooper's insight was that the defender can move up and down this scale as circumstance require.
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    I don't use color codes as I'm color blind. I'm either on or off.
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    SA should be renamed 'Situational Awareness System'. It's about the methodology that is used, the safeguards that are in place (and checked periodically), the layers, the teamwork, the features, the failure checking. Right now it's too simply conceived.

    And, with this systemic approach there is a certain amount of 'set and forget', because we WILL forget. Build that fatigue factor (sensory fatigue) into the system.
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    I wouldn't say that being aware of what going on around is meaningless until you have training. IMO, one of the first things that people should learn when trying to enhance their awareness is to pay attention to what is 'normal' in those circumstances. IE, when you are in a parking lot, most people are walking typically in a fairly path from their car to the entrance of a store or vice versa. When someone appears to be doing this, it should set off an alarm for something to be off. This is the most basic step. To advance from there you need to know exactly what they are doing that is abnormal and why. In the parking lot situation it is someone loitering, paying more attention to the other people than anything else, or cutting between rows of cars rather than seem to be walking from or to their car then you need to know what that most likely means.

    Most of these things our powerful subconscious mind does all the time. You hear from victims of violent crime constantly that they had a bad feeling, or something just didn't seem right before the attack happened. SA allows you to conciously analyze what is going on around you and know WHY it isn't right, and it'll allow you to act quicker and more decisively. A person looking into car windows may be them looking for a car window to break and grab the contents of the car. Looking at the people walking may be that person looking to rob or attack someone. When you see that behavior you can immediately recognize it for what it is and allow you to react appropriately. Compare that to someone who doesn't ever pay attention to their surroundings and they just 'get a bad feeling' about a person they see. But they don't know why they feel that way and they don't want to be an a** or appear to be a racist so they don't change their actions at all based on that feeling.

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    Senior Member Array cn262's Avatar
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    So, my personal perspective on this is a bit different - more of an extension. I totally agree that you need to be aware of things going on around you. Most people can't focus on and remember every detail of everything, but the human mind is really good at correlating different inputs (proximal stimulus - what you see, hear, smell, etc.) and detecting patterns. So, instead of trying to see everything you look for things that don't seem normal or right. With a little practice those things that are different tend to stand out, and you're not spending all of your attention trying to find it. A good condition yellow mode.

    So, here's the extension. I also try to look at things from the perspective of someone trying to hurt or take advantage of you. I'm sure that a real bad guy does a lot better job of this than I do, but it provides very useful context. For example, if I were going to attack someone when and where would I do it? A practical result is that this changes my behavior at night when taking the dog out. It helps you identify and understand weakness, and that understanding helps your protect against it (actions and attitude). My belief is that this really helps de-select you as a target which ultimately helps you avoid problems, so the ones you do notice are more likely to be real.

    So, at least in my mind, it's much more than just "keeping your head on a swivel." And, this type of approach lends itself to leveraging the OODA loop. If you can identify a likely threat sooner you reduce your response time, giving your more time to orient and decide. Right or wrong, it changes your perspective on threats and feels empowering.
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    SA is a great and necessary thing. However one can take it to extremes, see a threat that does not really exist, react, and SA themselves into a confrontation where none would have occurred otherwise.

    Theres a fine line between warning off some would be attacker and hacking off somebody doing nothing but walking to close for your comfort by barking verbal commands at them to stop doing something they have every right in the world to do.
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    Quote Originally Posted by shockwave View Post
    In a discussion about the Monkey Dance I ran into this observation:

    Situational awareness is an over-used phrase. Without specific education of the things you need to be aware of it’s only words. Meaningless.
    Right. Situational Awareness (SA) is about a lot of things, and it goes well beyond just being alert and attentive - although it does mean that.
    I think that observation is spot-on. Hard to know what you're seeing unless you can see beneath the surface, sense the patterns and flow, realize its meaning and import. Most folks who walk around show how they can look at things but not really see anything. That's the first step. As most of us know, though, S.A. goes much deeper. It does indeed take a bit of knowledge about behaviors, situational norms, about reading people, about sensing small changes in one's environment and making connections (ie, delving into why those 'little hairs' are rising on the neck).

    Agreed, many of the best-tuned aspects of our sensing comes unconsciously. The mind is constantly working, as a discriminator and pattern-matcher, trying to help us make sense of the world. Moments later, we can pause and realize something's not right. Be glad that Grongk, Ulik and our other distant relatives all honed their abilities to sense the lion in the reeds, the croc in the shallows, and all the rest. We owe much to them.
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    Distinguished Member Array kelcarry's Avatar
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    "Situational awareness" is a two word phrase. Making this simple--"common sense" is also a two word phrase that means the same thing. Some of us may live in a cloudy land with our oars a little above the water when we wander around 24/7 doing whatever we want to do and some of us are acutely aware of what common sense means and adjust our lives and, in some cases, actually sacrifice some of life's pleasures based on the common sense that tells us "don't go there" and "don't do that". Some on this forum will define SA in a more clinical and defined manner and it is very good information, but many are already doing everything that has been defined as a matter of basic common sense. I can always learn more and find out things that I have overlooked--that is why I read many threads on this forum and found the summary definition on this thread to be interesting; it summarizes, to me, everything that I always try to do in any of my comings and goings. It did leave out the fact that many things you may want to do, which are not really necessary and could cause you a problem, should be avoided. If you really think you need to have a firearm (as opposed to your usual CC) --maybe not being there is an obvious and clear choice.
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldVet View Post
    I don't use color codes as I'm color blind. I'm either on or off.
    Oh, you're off for sure.
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    Staying out of the mix is better than getting out of the mix. Getting out of the mix is better than being in the mix.
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    Its not jedi magic... its just paying attention and being intelligent enough to comprehend what you See, Hear, Feel, Smell or Taste. A person can be more aware though conscious intent, momentary stimuli or specialized training and experience. Everyone is hard wired to detect danger and much of that ability is not something you can easily articulate. Those abilities can get greatly expanded through training and experience but everyone has a certain innate ability to perceive danger, they just have to listen to their little voice. The bottom line is: If you pay attention you will realize more than if you dont. How you go about surveying your surroundings is simply a methodology which is developed by the individual based largely on their level of training and experience... the end result is situational awareness. Honestly, I think the term is about as overused as the word "tactical".

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    The big issue I have with some of the situational awareness focus is the belief by some that it's the answer to most everything.

    What I have seen in videos and training as well as real life awareness means somehow we are aware all the time. It is just not possible with cell phones, kids wives etc. The normal day to day things that happen.

    Bad guys it seems like to work when the odds are in their favor. One will distract you and another will pounce.

    Common sense keeps me away from seedy people and areas they frequent. So I feel safe when I am not distracted like most people see

    But it's only part of the picture IMO

    That is why force to force training is important as well as staying in shape. It's a lot easier to to run if you can run and won't have a heart attack doing it.

    So add both together and I thing you have a pretty good protection plan when your spider sense is down and you are caught unaware

    just 'bout the action boss...

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    Distinguished Member Array kelcarry's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Happypuppy View Post
    The big issue I have with some of the situational awareness focus is the belief by some that it's the answer to most everything.

    What I have seen in videos and training as well as real life awareness means somehow we are aware all the time. It is just not possible with cell phones, kids wives etc. The normal day to day things that happen.

    Bad guys it seems like to work when the odds are in their favor. One will distract you and another will pounce.

    Common sense keeps me away from seedy people and areas they frequent. So I feel safe when I am not distracted like most people see

    But it's only part of the picture IMO

    That is why force to force training is important as well as staying in shape. It's a lot easier to to run if you can run and won't have a heart attack doing it.

    So add both together and I thing you have a pretty good protection plan when your spider sense is down and you are caught unaware

    just 'bout the action boss...
    I agree with what you have said. Sometimes words on paper get to be finite opinions and that is not necessarily what is implied in a reply--part of my problem when I get involved in forum writing. SA has its limitations, as you say, but sometimes you read things or are exposed to things that make you shake your head and wonder about "what was he thinking". Classic example IMO is the thread on this forum about "I almost shot someone". You stop at a convenience store at midnight because you only have 3 cigs left and need some smokes? Or I read about a holdup and carjacking at an ATM at 2 in the morning? The list is endless. Maybe OK by most of you but it would never and has never existed in my 72 year lifestyle, which includes most years in NYC and urban areas, and I have never had an altercation of any kind anywhere, anytime.

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