The tragedy of what happened in Las Vegas reminds us that we live in a violent world, and often times a world that is completely out of our control. But what is in our control is living our lives in a way that reduces our chances of becoming victims of violence, and knowing what we can do to survive if we find ourselves thrust into the middle of a violent situation. I describe it as ‘Situational Awareness.’
For me the term Situational Awareness is “the ability to remain alert and aware of your surroundings, and of what is taking place around you at any particular moment in time.” I’m certain there are others who would define it differently, but that’s the definition that I think fits best.
Each situation that one may confront will be different, but there are some general rules of thumb one can take to reduce their potential vulnerability, and to increase their chances of surviving an attack. With survival in mind let’s take a look at things people can do to better protect themselves when out in public, whether it be from street criminals, from active shooter situations, or from terrorists.
I challenge every reader to try this little experiment. Next time you go to a grocery store or the mall, after you park your car stay seated in your vehicle for just a few minutes and watch the entrance to the structure. Count how many people, young women in particular who are walking out toward the parking lot while looking and pecking away at their smart phone or laughing and talking with friends, oblivious to their surroundings. It’ll shock you to see how unaware so many people are.
The bad guys who are intent on car-jacking someone are looking for that victim who simply isn’t paying attention to their surroundings. They’re not looking to victimize the person who is alert, looks confident, and is scanning the area before they even step off of the curb.
How many people when they go to a restaurant, once seated take a few moments to find an alternate exit from the restaurant? Simply walk back towards the restrooms, which generally is where the service entrance to the kitchen is for waiters. Take a peek inside and you usually can locate the delivery entrance doorway.
This doorway generally exits out onto an alleyway where supplies and food deliveries are received. It may also serve as an employee entrance to the building. Taking a few moments to scout this out may save your lives if hate comes in the front door. You and your loved one’s can immediately run out the back door. Follow the same practice at the mall or any other facility you’re in. Take a moment to locate an alternate exit.
At every presentation that I give I ask people how many of them have ever stayed in a hotel and usually everyone has done so at least once. I then ask them how many have taken the time to look at the emergency evacuation diagram posted on the inside of the door to their room. Fewer hands are raised. Then I ask the group, after they have dropped their luggage down in their room how many have taken five minutes to actually walk the route depicted on the diagram. Rarely do I ever see a single hand raised.
Imagine waking up in the middle of the night with the fire alarm going off only to open your door leading to the main corridor and finding it filled with smoke. The only lighting to help guide you is from the small emergency lights mounted on the corridor wall, and they are only barely illuminating the area.
Since you took the time to review the emergency exit diagram and actually walked it you’re going to know exactly which way to go to safety, while others may panic or take another less safe route. Hopefully you’ll also take the time to help your neighbors out as well as getting yourself to safety.
There will be nay-sayers who disagree with my suggestions, or they will offer “what ifs” by the dozen. Not every suggestion is going to help with every situation, they are merely guidelines that you can use to help educate yourself, and help to make yourself more situationally aware. After all, sometimes it simply comes down to being willing to fight to survive.
It will take a concerted effort on the part of everyone individually to teach themselves to develop safe practice habits. But once done they will find themselves practicing situational awareness without even thinking about it. It simply becomes second nature to them.
These few suggestions certainly don’t encompass every situation one might find themselves thrust into, nor provide all the options or answers in response. Which is why I highly recommend signing up for a crime prevention course with your local law enforcement. Most large police agencies offer Citizen Police Academies and other crime prevention programs people can attend to help them better educate and train themselves to follow good safety and crime prevention practices.
Be careful of “security experts” in the phone book or on the Internet, it seems nowadays anyone can tack up a shingle and proclaim themselves as some sort of “terrorism expert,” so be selective and seek out reputable resources. Again most large police agencies are generally reliable.
But above all educate yourself through training and commitment. And continue to develop your situational awareness practices long after your initial training is over. If you commit to that you can better protect yourself and your loved ones by avoiding dangerous situations in the first place, or if you find yourself in a situation where hate comes through the front door, you’ll know how to respond and quickly exit the back door.