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Situational awareness - Head in the clouds......or switched on?

In the film Batman Begins, on two separate occasions, Bruce Wayne is told by his soon to be nemesis that he has to be ”Mindful of his surroundings”… he wasn’t… the result… an icy dip in a lake followed by being pinioned by a burning rafter… With opportunistic criminals seeking every advantage are you switched on… or switched off?

The definition of situational awareness:

“Being aware of your surroundings and identifying potential threats and dangerous situations”

Situational awareness is not something that is practiced only by highly trained security professionals. Indeed, it can be exercised by anyone with the will and the discipline to do so. Ultimately it’s not a skill but a state of mind.

Getting started on the road to “switching on” involves recognising that threats exist. Having your mind existing near to a river in Egypt…denial….makes your chances of quickly recognizing an emerging threat and avoiding it highly unlikely. Bad things do happen.

The next step on the road is that you have to understand the need to take responsibility for your own safety. In these times of austerity, the resources of any government are extremely limited. Therefore, the authorities simply cannot be everywhere to prevent every potential criminal action.

“Learn to trust your gut instinct”

You must learn to trust your “gut” instinct. This has after all been honed over centuries. Trusting your gut and avoiding a potentially dangerous situation may cause you a bit of inconvenience, but ignoring such feelings can lead to serious trouble.

The discipline of practicing situational awareness requires a conscious effort to pay attention to gut feelings and to surrounding events even while you are busy and distracted. Therefore, the key is to be observant even while doing other things.

People typically operate on five distinct levels of awareness.

• Zoned out – oblivious to everything going on around you.
• Relaxed awareness – relaxed but watching out for problems.
• Focused awareness – looking for potential problems.
• High alert – Adrenaline time, you are in a situation but able to react.
• Comatose – You are petrified, unable to react and going into shock.

“The body and mind require rest”

The body and mind both require rest, so we have to spend several hours each day at the zoned out level while asleep. When you are sitting at home relaxing it is perfectly fine to operate in this mode.

However, some people maintain the zoned out mode in the wrong environments (e.g., when they are out on the street at night), or they are back to the river in Egypt, “nothing will happen to me…I’m bomb proof!”

It is important to stress here that situational awareness does not mean being “paranoid” or “obsessively concerned” about personal safety. You can’t operate in a state of focused awareness or High alert for extended periods before exhaustion sets in. We simply weren’t designed to operate under constant stress

If you knowingly venture into an area that is very dangerous, it is only prudent to practice focused awareness while in that area. For example, if there is a part of a city that is controlled by criminal gangs – and the area cannot be avoided for whatever reason – it would be prudent to practice a heightened level of awareness when in those areas.

Final say…

The situational awareness process is simply about being aware, focused and having the ability to trust your instincts. This coupled with the knowledge of where you are and looking like you belong could make the difference…

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