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The first principal of staying safe in any place is knowing what is going on around you – always and everywhere.
The most critical, but also elusive, basis for effective decision-making in any dangerous situation which may include the protection of human life and property, such as emergency response, command and control operations and self-defence, is situational awareness.
Know what is going on around you
The practise of being aware of what you are doing and observing your surroundings is called situational awareness. Although this factor is frequently discussed, it is concerning that very few people actually understand what it truly entails and why it is so important for self-defence.
In many situations, thinking ahead of time and knowing what to look for can eventually determine the difference between life and death. It pays to practise situational awareness if you have to make the same trip into town every day, drive the same route to work, or go for a peaceful walk in your immediate neighbourhood every day.
Whether you and your family are alone at home, visiting friends in the neighbourhood, or going shopping in the city, you should always be prepared – even (or perhaps especially) if you are performing routine tasks that appear to be harmless or risk-free at the time.
How to stay alert about your whereabouts
Practice the following as ways to gain situation awareness in ordinary settings:
- Practise being “in the moment”. When you are always aware of your surroundings, all of your senses are engaged. If you can hear, smell, and see everything while you are relaxing, walking, driving or jogging, you can react more quickly if a dangerous situation arises.
- Identify all possible exits from a situation – you should make yourself aware of any act that can technically be an exit out of a situation and could be useful in an emergency.
- Unobtrusively observing people around you and watching how they react or express themselves is a great way to understand and be aware what is going on or what might happen the next moment.
- Nonverbal communication can reveal a lot about any person. Is their body language consistent with what they are saying? Many people have obvious giveaways when they are lying to you or are nervous.
- Distractions should be avoided because they make you more vulnerable. If a distraction in a specific situation cannot be avoided, you should at least try to minimise it in some way.
- Listen to your instincts and trust your gut feelings. If you are uncomfortable with someone or somewhere, you should leave as soon as possible.
- Walking tall, seemingly alert and limiting distractions are all important and may deter criminal approaches.
Conditioning your mind to notice all kinds of things in your environment and identify whether they are, or could become, obstacles when you need to make a quick decision is an important principle of safety. The more you have mastered this, the less likely you may become to be hindered by circumstances and outside factors that can stifle your decision-making.