Situational awareness is an important skill to have. Yet, there’s a lot of people that don’t use it. Go out in public and you’ll see what I mean.
People are checking their phones. They have their earphones in, attempting to shut out the rest of the world. And little do they realize, they set themselves up to be easy targets. Especially at night when they’re walking in not so well lit areas.
At the same time, we live in a world where disaster can strike anytime, anywhere. Some good for nothing that is pissed at the world will start shooting up a place or attacking people at random. The point is danger lurks at every corner (not to be confused with Yours Dangerous of course). You shouldn’t fear it. But you need to stay a step ahead of it.
At this point, you’re probably wondering “what the hell does this do with being a better man”? To be a man of Danger (the other kind) and adventure, it means being able to think on your feet. This means getting out of the way when shit is about to go south.
If you don’t become aware of your surroundings, someone will pop out of nowhere and catch you off guard. That’s when you’re paralyzed in fear or you run someplace in an attempt to get away from danger. What you’ll be learning in this post is what situational awareness is and use it at any time.
What Is Situational Awareness?
The term itself sounds self-explanatory. That’s because it is. Situational awareness is knowing what is going on around you at the present moment.
Establishing A Baseline
Take a look around you. You might be at home reading this. All is quiet. It’s business as usual. If this is what happens in your normal environment, that is considered your “baseline”.
The “baseline” is the normal activity that goes on in the current environment. Go to a McDonald’s during lunch rush (that is, if you don’t mind waiting in line for a few minutes). You have some lines of people inside, the drive thru is busy, and people are working up back at a bit of a quicker pace. This is typical in a busy environment like this.
Now that you know the baseline, the next thing you need to know is train yourself on what seems out of the ordinary.
The OODA Loop
OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. This was developed by Colonel John Boyd, an Air Force pilot and later a military strategist. Believe it or not, the OODA loop is used in situations outside of a survival situation. Even some leaders in business have often relied on this strategy in making decisions. But we’ll talk about that in another blog post.
The OODA loop is a decision cycle that you use to react to events. The idea of this is to create a decision much faster than your enemy (or opponent). Let’s break down each of the elements of the OODA loop:
Observe: At this stage, you’re getting an idea of what’s around you. You’re quickly collecting a ton of information that processes in a matter of seconds.
Orient: You analyze what you have gathered at the observation stage.
Decide: Determine the best course of action based on your observations and analysis.
Act: Self-explanatory. Act on your decision.
Here’s an example of the OODA loop in action:
You’re out and about on a Friday night. You’re en route to a new club that just opened up. Things look good up until you see some kind of confrontation about 200 feet away from you. There’s yelling and screaming. OK, this seems a little usual for a Friday night. Just a couple of drunk guys duking it out. No big deal.
Then one of them pulls out a gun. At this point, you remain calm. But you’re alert. The incident is right in your intended path. At this point, you observe what is happening. You see an potentially deadly incident about to unfold. Upon knowing this, you make the decision to re-route yourself to your intended destination. And you turn to the right. You know the city quite well, so you’re glad you have that advantage going for you. (That reminds me: we’ll get to the part on how you can get out of a dangerous situation like this very quickly. Keep reading.)
Was that clear to understand?
You observe what’s around you, get a good idea of what is happening, making a decision based on your findings, and acting on it.
If you’re alone at home and all is quiet. You observe, know that nothing is happening, decide to keep reading/surfing the web/whatever, and execute on said decision.
One thing you’ll need to learn in order to be more situationally aware is normalcy bias. That’s defined as assuming that something is wrong, when it’s really business as usual. It’s OK to be a little paranoid or jumpy when you hear sudden noises or see something a little out of place. And people might give you weird looks. Over time, you’ll begin to realize that some sudden noises or small, out of the ordinary things turn out to be normal. Don’t panic like it’s the end of the world and lock yourself up in a concrete bunker. Because people think you’re a crazy motherfucker.
Changes In The Environment
Baselines will be slightly different depending on the time of day or week. In the earlier example, we mentioned that two drunk guys fighting on a Friday night is typical. Because a lot of people are out at bars and clubs. It’s a little busy, so that’s your usual baseline. If it was on a Monday night when things are a little quiet, then that may raise an a few eyebrows.
Keep Your Damn Head Up
Or keep your damn ears open. Either way, this is important. Shit can hit the fan at any time and just about anywhere. This isn’t to scare you or turn you into some paranoid freak. It’s the kind of shit that happens. So, while it’s OK to text while you’re at home, don’t do it while you’re driving or in a crowded subway platform. If you’re listening to music through your headphones, don’t get too lost in the music. Stay sharp and stay observant.
Know When To Get The Fuck Out
This is a damn key thing to know when it comes to situational awareness. You should try this the next time you enter a place. Know where the exits are. If you’re at a restaurant, find the closest available seat that is near an exit. Sit with your back pointing towards it. That way, when you know something is about to go down, you’ll have a quick escape.
If you know your city quite well, memorize a few alternative routes. You will still get from to Point A to Point B. It may be a little longer than normal. But taking the extra time to get their will save your ass.
Learning situational awareness is a skill that every man must learn. This should be done in order to protect himself, his girlfriend or wife, and even his family. Approaching situations where you are oblivious to what is really going on can get you hurt or worse. Next time when you’re out and about, be aware of your surroundings and know when to get out of harm’s way.
Also, I’ll be delving more into topics like this in future blog posts. So stay tuned.