Situational Awareness 101

situational awareness 101

The ability to know what is going on around you as you head out seems to be an incredibly rare skill set nowadays. People walk down the streets with their eyes on their phones, some maybe listening to music, completely unaware of their surroundings. We’ve all witnessed it, and we all fall victim to it.

Situational awareness is not so much about gathering every little detail about your environment, but more about knowing which details to pay attention to. During this guide we are going to be looking at how you can effectively enforce situational awareness within your life.

The fact is, it is YOU that is ultimately responsible for your own protection and that of your family.

One thing that your mind starts to rely on is what is known as Normalcy bias. This bias leads us in to a false sense of security. Let’s say that you visit the local shop every morning to pick up some shopping. Nothing bad has ever happened here to you before and so this influences your mind in to thinking that nothing bad will EVER happen to you here.

Little signs could display that are out of the ordinary but your mind may dismiss them entirely. It is because of this, that you MUST be aware of your normalcy bias and learn to overcome it while practicing your situational awareness.

Establish Your Baseline

You must first establish your baseline in order to effectively perform situational awareness. This baseline is the state of what things look like, sound like and feel like at any given moment within the normal state of affairs.

Each place that you visit will have a different baseline. In your own town, it wouldn’t take you much thought to know the types of people that visit the area, the types of clothing that they wear, and the types of cars that are usually on the roads.

By establishing this baseline for the area that we live, we’re then capable of instantly recognising any variations to our baseline—which ultimately allows us to escalate the situation as appropriate.

The Alert State

Whilst practicing your situational awareness, your alert state needs to be right for the situation and environment. The best alert state of awareness is what is known as “relaxed alert” or the yellow color code. There is no particular threat going on around you but you have your head up and you’re using all of your senses to take in your surroundings.

Now, if you visit an area that you know has a very high crime rate, your alert state should be raised. In the same way, your alert state should change with any threats that occur at a moments notice – if something out of the ordinary suddenly shifts your attention.

Although your alert state is slightly heightened, it is important that you also remain relaxed. This will allow you to stay focused on what is going on around you. If you don’t have complete focus you can easily miss a warning sign that something is wrong. If we become nervous or stressed, we make more errors.

Minimise Blind Spots

Effective situational awareness is all about positioning. This one is a simple step that simply means that no matter where you go or what you are doing, you position yourself in such a way that allows you to take in the most of your surroundings whilst also minimising blind spots.

If you have a friend or partner that is also practicing their situational awareness, you can help each other by playing a game. It doesn’t matter if you are walking down the street or at a restaurant. Once the game starts you both start taking mental notes of the surroundings. Once you both leave you can start taking it in turns to ask the other one questions such as, “How many people were sat on the next table?”, “What colour was the car at the front?”, “How many people got up and went to the toilet whilst you were there?”, etc.

Become Fully Present

Once a possible threat has been observed, it is time to remove from your mind everything that is outside of this threat, and become fully present in the moment. Every other distraction in your mind is pulling you further away from the threat. This is more distance that your mind will have to cover to return to the threat, assess the entire situation, and come up with a viable response.

Let’s say that you are doing your morning shopping again and an armed man walks in and you make note of the threat. What do you do next? Situational awareness becomes useless if you can’t perform the necessary actions under stress once the threat has been detected. You must be fully aware of your abilities whilst operating under duress.

  • Learn how your body responds in threatening situations
  • Learn what happens to your emotions, thoughts, heart rate, muscles, etc.

Once you understand how you operate, you can then start to become accustomed to operating within this altered state.

Learn to have a basic plan of action upon witnessing a threat upon establishing your presence in any given area. Establish waypoints in your head that will be used as your go-to actions upon observing a threat.

Whilst sat eating in a restaurant be thinking about what your options are should a threat present itself. Is the fire evacuation plan blueprints on the wall? Learn where you are supposed to exit and take the table nearby. what we’re doing here is formulating mental exercises that give us options in the event of a sudden threat. These little mental steps will eventually become routine and with time, you will find your subconscious taking over the work.


By learning to take in your surroundings you will start to see little details that you never saw before. Suddenly the world around you become a different place. We miss so much of this world because we fail to take notice in the finer details.

There are opportunists everywhere looking for somebody weak and vulnerable, an easy target. Good situational awareness can make sure that you do not become their next victim. Be aware and stay safe.

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