Situational awareness is exactly what it sounds like: being aware of the situations around you at any given time. Staying alert. Scanning the areas around you to identify potential threats. To some this might sound excessive, but when we look at scenarios surrounding crimes in which victims were unknowingly placing themselves in harms way it begins to make sense. So many violent assaults can be prevented or have very different outcomes if the intended victims were simply more alert. Remember, seconds count. So when that person walking up to you from behind is noticed and you turn to face them, ready for anything. When that mugger is eyeing your purse and instead of being immersed in your phone you make eye contact with him saying "I see you". When the kidnapper is wandering through the crowd looking for a victim and they see you scanning the crowd, observant and alert. When you regularly look up and scan as you put groceries into your car or buckle in your child. When the burglar knows you're home alone but is stopped by your alarm system and locked doors. These are all scenarios that could go very wrong very quickly when we are distracted, on our phones, or blissfully unaware of what could be around the next corner, or in the parking garage, or behind that wall.
Another example is the armed citizen witnessing a burglary taking place and as he sees the criminal he springs into action, rushing in to stop a crime. In his hurry to help he doesn't notice the perpetrators accomplice and as he passes the woman nearby she takes a gun out of her purse and fatally shoots him. This is a true story. And how different it would have been if the well-meaning citizen had stopped to take in details and scan the situation around him. Perhaps he would have never attempted to intervene. Perhaps he would still be alive today.
Jeff Cooper once said that: "Once we accept that our familiar and prosaic environment is in fact perilous, we automatically sharpen our senses." And this holds true to this day. When we accept that there are those who are intent on committing crimes and these people can be anywhere at any time, then we can begin to adapt a mindset of awareness and be ready for whatever might come our way. We are our own best ally when it comes to self-defense. Whether we are at the mall, walking to work, at a concert, or even dropping our kids off at school, simply being observant as we go about our day makes us less attractive to potential assailants. Criminals aren't looking for a fight, they're looking for victims.
Situational Awareness was explained and simplified in a system commonly known as the "Color Codes", which were developed by the U.S. Marines during WW2 but later modified by Jeff Cooper to use in educating civilians for self defense. In Concealed Carry and Home Defense Fundamentals by Michael Martin, the Color Codes are masterfully written out to be understood and implemented by anyone. Using Martin's and Cooper's explanations of the codes as a reference, I've created a simply diagram below to explain the Color Codes which are crucial to being situationally aware and help you to avoid being a victim.
Implementing this Color Code mindset in your life doesn't have to mean that you're carrying around a weapon (although having a weapon, even pepper spray when used properly, will definitely better your chances if you have to face a threat head-on) but being alert, aware, and ready with a plan means that we have chosen to put ourselves in a category of people that are less likely to have to defend themselves someday. A category that screams "I am alert, I see you, and I'm ready". Being Situationally Aware in our daily lives means being intentional about how we perceive the world around us, realizing that the best way to win a "fight" is to avoid it in the first place.