Situational Awareness: How To Be A High Risk Target

Updated: Dec 16, 2021

Situational awareness is simply being aware of your surroundings. As you can imagine, awareness plays a major role in threat detection and our capacity to avoid and defend danger. Each of us are equipped with highly advanced senses that have evolved over thousands of years, each with the purpose to keep us alive. But unfortunately, most of us today simply turn off our threat detectors in favour of distraction or entertainment.

Situational awareness is at an all time low, despite having the most advanced survival senses on the planet. The fact that people have died from playing Pokemon Go should tell us that society has a serious awareness problem that needs to be addressed.

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Here are three things that having good situational awareness does for your safety.

"One need not destroy one's enemy. One need only destroy his willingness to engage" -Sun Tzu

1. Avoid danger altogether.

If you let your senses do their job, they will often keep you out of harms way. Whether it's avoiding environmental dangers like dangling street lights or speeding cars, or avoiding human threats like an aggressive crowd ahead that looks seconds away from a shoot out.

2. Increase response time.

Awareness equals response time. When you're paying attention, you'll be able to detect cues that tell you something isn't right, which then trigger a response. Let's take a street kidnapping for example. If you're paying attention, your ears will pick up the odd sound of a car slowly trailing you from behind, prompting you to look back and check out what's going on. At this time, you'll see the threat and have time to run away. But if you're not paying attention, you'll won't pick up on any alarming signals, and you'll only find out about the attacker once they've already grabbed you. Being aware of our surroundings means giving yourself the most time to defend possible attacks.

Awareness = response time.

3. Deter criminals from targeting you.

Awareness is a deterrent in itself because it makes an attack more difficult. It robs criminals of the element of surprise and raises the chances that the target will escape, along with a good description of the attacker. Criminals look for the path of least resistance. Kidnappers want to execute an abduction in as little time as possible and with as little resistance as possible. Therefore someone who is not paying attention to their surroundings is an easier target than someone who is.

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When Do I Need Situational Awareness?

In perfect personal safety land, we'd all have 007 secret agent level awareness all the time. But that's not real life, and in certain settings it's truly not as necessary. It's important to learn how to identify High Risk settings so that you can avoid them or take further safety precautions. The number of people around, visibility, remoteness, and location are all factors that contribute to a settings Risk Level (RL). These are the places that you want to make sure to practice good situational awareness, as well as other prevention measures like walking confidently, sticking with a group, and perhaps staying sober. And when you're in a safer setting like school or work surrounded by good friends, it's okay to relax your super senses.

I will also say that although the dark alley way in the dangerous neighbourhood seems to be an obvious place to put your phone down, we are statistically most likely to be attacked on our every day routes. So technically, the most important location for you to use situational awareness are the paths you take every single day, despite how familiar and safe they may feel to you.

How To Improve Your Situational Awareness

Awareness is a skill. We are all capable of great awareness, but we do have to consciously practice it to make it a habit. And the more we practice, the better we get! Here are the things we can do to improve our situational awareness.

1. Remove Distractions