Tag Archives: situational awareness

Should a flashlight be part of your daily carry?

Aaron Little makes some compelling arguments in favor of making a flashlight part of your daily carry in this video- check it out:

Quite a bit of trouble can be avoided if you can:

  • Avoid going places victims go
  • Avoid doing things victims do
  • Avoid acting like victims act
The flashlight is a handy accoutrement for avoiding these behaviors – and a quality, high-lumen flashlight can do wonders to incapacitate a bad guy long enough for you to escape a situation. You should seriously consider one for daily carry if your lifestyle is conducive to doing so. So many options exist today that you should be able to find something that is conveniently sized and powerful at the same time. 
Sometimes situational awareness doesn’t equate to identifying a threat. By not acting like a victim you can often disqualify yourself from becoming a target for a crime. And it doesn’t matter if you have a flashlight or not in that case.
Have a safe weekend. 

Holiday Season Situational Awareness


A criminal wants one or more of three things: your property, your body or your life. Being careless with any of these things will make you a more attractive target to criminals- aka a soft target. The holiday shopping has the potential to overwhelm anyone, but there are things we can all keep in mind to make ourselves hard targets to avoid becoming a victim. Make sure you don’t just read this but also remind your loved ones about these simple tips.

From a recent Edwards AFB memo:

  • Keep your doors and windows locked (both car and home)
  • Before you leave the safety of your vehicle survey the parking lot- is something suspicious? Trust your instincts- if something doesn’t look or feel right it probably isn’t– avoid it.
  • Park in well-lit areas: criminals prefer darkness to conceal their activities 
  • Stay off your cell phone while walking to and from your vehicle- stay aware of your surroundings
Some other things you can do to make yourself a hard target include:
Stay aware of your surroundings- remember that if you don’t act like a victim it can go a long way to help you avoid criminal interest.

Situational Awareness- What NOT to Do

There is so much to learn and ultimately master to attain strong Situational Awarenss skills since life won’t give us road signs like the one pictured above. Honing your OODA loop is a vast topic in and of itself. However something I have not seen much of in all my own research and learnings on the topic is what not to do. Here are some things everyone should know to avoid when it comes to smart and effective Situational Awareness.

Don’t Ever Stop Observing your Environment

You should Never let yourself be in condition white. Obviously there may be times where you are in a relaxed condiotn yellow- like a Saturday morning spent in your basement in suburbia. Ideally you should never let yourself slip out of observing your environment – and if you’re outside the layered security of your own home you better stay out of at smartphone and keep your attention on your environment.

Don’t Ignore Something That Stands Out

Once you notice someone that stands out, keep an eye on them. Don’t take the sheeple approach of hoping really hard that the creep on the bus wringing his hands and angrily talking to himself gets off at the next stop – be aware of him. How often have we heard victims talk about “having a bad feeling about someone or something but continuing on anyway”? Listen to your instincts – they are typically cueing your mind.

Don’t Be Too Nice

Never be too nice to anyone. It is perfectly fine to be respectful to everyone, but as soon as someone becomes a threat or distracts you from the task at hand, you don’t have to be nice to them. Guard against people getting into your personal space– typically 10 ft if you can maintain that much distance. Being nice to a Bad Guy won’t stop them from trying to harm you or take advantage of you.

Don’t Panic

If a threatening situation does arise, never panic. Your natural response will be to stay in shock and do nothing or to do something stupid in a futile attempt to resolve the situation. Neither of these are responses that put you in control. What does help you gain control? Breathe and focus on OODA – focusing your mind on trained responses can help you overcome panic. Focused and rational actions can  help you survive when seconds count. It only takes one action to disrupt a bad guys plan to attack you- stay calm and work on disrupting the bad guy’s predicted flow of events by not acting like a victim.

Don’t Jump To Conclusions 

If you are not sure about a situation, leave. Getting involved in a situation you happen upon is ALWAYS a bad idea. Let the paid professionals sort out trouble and keep yourself out of legal and physical trouble. You have no way of knowing if the guy in the suit or the guy who looks like a bum is a police officer when you walk into a physical confrontation between the two. As far as I’m concerned my job is to protect myself and my loved ones and to get home safely to them. That’s all- I’m a private citizen, not a deputy.

Don’t try to Intimidate a Threat

Never try to intimidate an attacker or a potential attacker, by drawing your weapon or by any other means. Brandishing a weapon is a crime and can cost you your 2A rights. Why risk it? Also the second you point a gun at someone you have now made yourself the threat- you may get shot by another concealed carrier because you waved a gun around. The only reason you should draw your weapon is if you fear for your life – facing an imminent threat.

 Intimidation is not a defensive tactic- and these days you’re not doing the 2A any favors by being a gun-toting tough guy.

Situational Awareness Practice: KIM Games

Situational Awareness is made actionable using the OODA loop. If you don’t know the OODA loop yet know this much: Col John Boyd coined the term- aka Boyd Cycle. It has 4 phases: Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. In some ways the Observe step is the most important for the average American. 

This is because if you can effectively identify a potential threat before they get close to you- or better yet even notice you- you have the opportunity to avoid any unpleasant interactions. Watching eyes and hands can do quite a bit to help you ID a potential bad guy -be sure to watch those hands because that is where most attacks will originate. 

One way to sharpen your observation skills is to play KIM (keep in mind) games. This is a very simple game: the idea is to study a group of 10-20 objects briefly, divert your attention to something else, and rely on your mental picture to come back to that group of objects to describe what you saw. Here is an exampleused by USMC snipers:

…they would put different objects on the table: a bullet, a paper clip, a bottle top, a pen, a piece of paper with something written on it — 10 to 20 items. You’d gather around and they’d give you, say, a minute to look at everything. Then you’d have to go back to your table and describe what you saw. You weren’t allowed to say “paper clip” or “bullet,” you’d have to say, like, “silver, metal wire, bent in two oval shapes.” They want the Intel guys making the decision [about] what you actually saw.

You can also do this with places you frequent during the morning rush hour (regulars in a coffee shop or restaurant), cars parked at work or on your block, or set up random arrays of objects at home like the ones pictured above. A nice variation is to have someone change an item in an array when you’re not looking (for example when you left the room) see if you can pick out the change without a cue from your buddy. 

The more you practice these skills the sharper your observation will get. Here is a clever tip from the Boy Scouts for practicing KIM all on your own:

These are excellent ways to develop your children’s defensive skills – avoidance and recognition is especially valuable in a world where droves of people are oblivious to everything around them thanks to their smartphones.



5 Barriers to Effective Situational Awareness

Maintaining situational awareness is an ongoing task- not something you learn once and automatically continue. Dangerous situations don’t happen to most of us on a daily basis- while this is generally a good thing it does allow our brains to easily focus on other things- leading to a dangerous false sense of security.

Here are 5 common barriers that reduce our ability to understand a situation. Understanding each of these will barriers can help you recognize them. With time and a little practice you can strengthen your own mindset to focus your awareness when you are in places or situations that require you to do so. Remember that the OODA loop is your framework for maintaining situational awareness- simply reading this article will help you Orient to these barriers. 

Perception (based on faulty information processing)

Perception is an individuals view of reality. This can be affected by these dangerous contributors:

  • Past experiences – these may or may not be helpful. If something appears similar to a past experience we are likely to respond accordingly to the situation in progress
  • Filters- sometimes we don’t acknowledge information that does not align with our mental picture
  • Expectations- sometimes we interpret new information in our environment in a way that aligns with our plan or expectations  
Excessive motivation
If one motivator occupies too much of your attention you have disrupted your own OODA loop. Don’t let your own behavior impose filters and expectations that inhibit your ability to assess and respond to your environment effectively.
Routine is a dangerous thing- it can lull you into assuming that everything is under control. Before you know it you’re fixated on the wrong things- maybe it’s your phone. Task fixation in public is bad, task fixation while parked in a parking lot is an invitation for bad guys to make you a victim. When you’re in a public place that’s familiar and mundane, challenge yourself. Ask your companions (this is great for times out with your kids) to point out nearby cover, exits, etc. Make a game out of it.

Know how to recognize your own signs of stress. When you’re overwhelmed it takes longer to perform simple tasks and you sabatoge your own OODA capabilities. Prioritize and minimize distractions as much as you can when you notice your stress levels rising.
Taking care of yourself includes forcing proper rest cycles if that’s what needs to happen. Fatigue will diminish anyone’s ability to process inputs from their environment. In fact there is not much good at all that comes from a lack of proper rest. This is one of the most difficult barrier to overcome as it requires time or someone to take your place. For that reason among many others we should all do our best to avoid fatigue.
Congratulations- reading this has broadened your personal depth of experience. Now you know what the 5 common barriers to effective OODA execution are. When you’re in public or in a potentially dangerous situation and you recognize them the best thing you can do is work on refocusing yourself. Losing your situational awareness increase your risk of making mistakes you could have avoided under more typical circumstances. Practice the mindset and it will be harder to lose it when you need it.