Situational Awareness and the Art of Feeling Safer

Situational Awareness and the Art of Feeling Safer

29/05/2024

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Security

Situational awareness is critical for staying safe and will help you feel more secure.

Growing up in an environment with daily risks can teach us valuable skills, including risk assessment. If you grew up in a city where crime is high, drugs are prevalent, and violence is common, you will unconsciously learn how to behave, what signs to look out for, changes in body language that suggest threats, and your intuition for risk and danger will be heightened. Conversely, growing up in a safe rural environment may leave you unaware of these signs. The same is true when traveling and experiencing different cultures. It’s important to recognise new signs and pick up on the ambiance to stay safe.

Situational awareness is a skill that can be learned, and this next section is a crash course in some of the basics. In his excellent book titled ‘The Power of Awareness” Dan Schilling defines situational awareness as “knowing where he is and what is around him, what is going on in my surroundings and my place in them”

Predators prey on the weak and vulnerable, whether in the animal kingdom or in human society. This is especially true for street robbers, who can instinctively recognise a potential victim who appears vulnerable. The key is to avoid looking like an easy target. One way to do this is to be mindful of your surroundings and avoid appearing distracted while walking down the street. For example, using the map feature on your mobile phone to navigate can make you appear vulnerable.

The reason is that you are communicating the following:
● You don’t know where you are going.
● You don’t know where you are, so once they have stolen your phone, you won’t be able to contact the police immediately and will probably not know the exact location of the incident, making it more difficult for the police to investigate and catch the criminals.
● You are not focused on your surroundings. You are not aware or familiar with your situation.
● You have, at the very least, a phone to steal.

When leaving an Underground station at night, have you ever noticed people checking their phones as they emerge? While it may seem like a harmless habit, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks. The bright screens of phones can attract the attention of robbers who lurk around station exits. These thieves quickly assess potential victims based on their appearance and whether they appear to be distracted. So, next time you’re leaving a station, be mindful of your surroundings and keep your phone in your pocket until you’re in a safe area.

What about if you call a friend or put on your headphones to listen to music to comfort
yourself as you walk home in the dark or through an unfamiliar place? By doing so, you shut down one of your senses, your hearing, so you won’t hear an attack coming, and you won’t have seen the attackers, making it difficult to give a description. The key here is to recognise that your intuition is telling you that you don’t feel safe. Rather than trying to quiet your intuition, listen to it; it is designed to alert you to dangers. It is telling you something, so pay attention to it and think about what it is telling you.

Being situationally aware means thinking differently from the average person who wanders blindly through their day, oblivious to the threats around them. It does not mean that you must become a ninja or be obsessed with the idea that an attack is around every corner; it is about being present and thinking ahead. It is about reducing risk.

To reduce risk, think ahead. A good practice is to ‘horizon scan’; this ensures that you are not caught off guard by something ahead, such as a large crowd, an angry mob, a fight, or a drunk person. An interesting exercise to practice as you walk or drive is to give a commentary on what you see; this is a practice that all police officers must do when being taught to drive at high speeds and during pursuits. It will surprise you how difficult it can be and how much information you overlook.

As you walk along the street, it might sound something like this: “Walking towards the centre, a junction 100 meters ahead, two men standing in the doorway smoking, a woman walking towards me with a pram blocking the footpath. At the junction, there are traffic lights. The pedestrian lights are currently red, with traffic flowing. There is a car parked on the side of
the road with a person sitting in the front seat.”

It may not sound like much, but you have identified several potential hazards. Will you have to walk in the road to let the woman with the pram pass? Why are the two men standing in the doorway? Is the person in the parked car with them? Should you cross over to the opposite pavement?
With moped, scooter, and cycle robberies on the rise in some cities, it’s important to stay vigilant. Thieves may fly past you and grab your belongings before you even have a chance to react.

Here are two tactics to stay safe:
1. Walk towards oncoming traffic so you can see any approaching vehicles.
2. Walk as far away from the road as possible, with any bags you carry on the building line side of the footpath. That way, if a thief wants to target you, they not only have to mount the pavement but also come close to the building line, which increases the risk to them.
If you are targeted, don’t fight the attackers. Whatever they are trying to steal, it isn’t worth risking your life to keep hold of your possessions. Give the attackers what they want, then get yourself to a safe place and call the police.

For any questions or inquires about safety and security, contact Karol, our Business Security Manager.

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