Robert Nicholson

situational awarenessIn simple terms, Situational Awareness is just plain old paying attention of what’s going on around you.

Since the dawn of the human race we have been programed to survive by using our intuition. The center of our brain is where our basic bodily functions reside, that part of the brain that connects to the spinal cord. The brainstem controls the functions basic to our survival, such as heart rate, breathing, digesting foods, sleeping and so on. It is also where our instincts for “Fight or Flight” reside.

People with children or grandchildren automatically increase their awareness when accompanying them to public places such as playgrounds, the circus or other venues. But when it comes to themselves they do not do as well.

Put down that electronic device that you’re staring at that has grown into part of your hand. Take those earbuds from your ears and actually hear what is actually happening around you.

A few years ago a person, staring at his cellphone, fell to his death by falling into an open manhole. Other stories abound, but you get the idea, he simply was not aware of his surroundings.I retired from a thirty-year carrier in law enforcement. Because of my job I developed a keen sense of awareness and observation. Even today, when in public I always observe. At restaurants I always sit so that I can see the main entrance and who is coming in and out.  I always check for alternative exits. When parking our car in lots, I always back into the space for ease of leaving or heaven forbid, for a speedy removal from a trouble spot.

Part of being aware is also seeing and feeling what is missing. Has a busy area or street suddenly become empty? Do you enter a convenience store and there are no people in it including the cashier? Or do you see something and get a gut feeling that something is wrong? Have you walked into a restaurant and gotten an immediate sense that you should leave? Are you about to step into an elevator with a stranger and something stops you? These are just a few examples of things that would make me alter my course or retreat to another area.

Using your peripheral vision, seeing around you by using reflective surfaces, stopping from time to time, looking confident, establishing persona boundaries, dressing without all that flashy jewelry so you don’t stand out, observing other people and using your own intuition will serve you and your family well. To help your family become more aware, play an “Awareness Game” with them, questioning things they remember about going into a restaurant, for example.

The next part of situational awareness is thinking about what is normal and what activities might be an anomaly. Then ask yourself the question, “What would I do if I saw a problem?” Come up with a plan of action. Seconds count in these situations. The point is when you are out and about, be proactive and not reactive. The US Marine Corps has a term for this, “Left of Bang.” On a threat timeline, starting at the left, what happens leading up to a bad event is all left of Bang; Bang being the bad event. Everything right of Bang is reactive. There are volumes written about this subject.

Enjoy life, have fun, but be aware to stay safe.

Billie Nicholson, Editor
June 2017

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