If you are reading this, you are most likely a defender of our Second Amendment. You may even conceal carry a handgun when you leave the house. If so, congratulations on taking your safety, and the safety of your family and friends seriously. We all know that the best defense against a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. But do not fall into the same trap many people do: that carrying a handgun makes you “bullet-proof.” It simply does not.
In fact, if you have become lazy because of that gun on your hip, you may be in more danger than an unarmed citizen who is very vigilant. Vigilance is the key to your safety and those with you – and vigilance starts with situational awareness.
According to Wikipedia, Situational Awareness is defined as:
“…the perception of environmental elements and events with respect to time or space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status after some variable has changed, such as time, or some other variable, such as a predetermined event.”
And while situational awareness is a key component to riding a motorcycle safely – Eg. Is that car approaching from the side road going to run the stop sign and pull out in front of me? – many riders leave their situational awareness with their helmets when they climb off their scoot. In other words, they become unaware of everything going on around themselves.
Increasing your situational awareness starts with PAYING ATTENTION! Pay attention to everything going on around you. If you are like many people, that smart phone you are self-absorbed in is putting you at risk. Do not walk around in public with all of your attention focused on your social media networks. I have walked up to friends who are on their iPhone and greeted them several times before they were even aware I was there. That same person will never be able to defend against an attack by a thug if they are only paying attention to liking their friends’ Facebook posts.
It would be helpful to look at the way a thug intent on doing harm thinks. First, you must think of these people as being like a tiger which is stalking their next meal. Like that tiger, they purposely scope out the weakest animal in a pack before they spring forward to attack. Shit-bag thugs do the same thing. If they are going to commit an armed robbery they will look for the softest of targets – that person least likely to defend themselves when they spring forward to attack. Perhaps it’s that person peering intently into their smartphone. Perhaps it’s that person walking along the dark sidewalk talking to their girlfriend on the phone. Or perhaps it’s that person in the restaurant sitting with their back to everyone else. These are their easiest targets – those who due to their total lack of situational awareness have left themselves the most vulnerable – and least likely to be able to fight back. Even if they are packing a concealed handgun, they will be unable to act quickly enough to use it in their defense – and may even have their gun taken away from them and used against them.
Here are some suggestions which will help you increase your situational awareness:
- Avoid dangerous areas – Do not put yourself into a situation where you will be more likely to have to defend yourself.
- Remove your smartphone from your consciousness when you are in a public place. It is okay, even preferable, to have it with you, but your attention should not be focused on it.
- If you are walking into your corner gas station put your phone in your pocket. Look around the establishment before you enter. Is it well lit? How many people are in there? Are there any people who look dangerous? (Yes, it is okay for you to profile people.) What can you use for a barrier if the proverbial “shit-hits-the-fan?” Where are the exits? Have you examined the people present well enough to describe them for a police report? If not, you are not situationally aware of your surroundings.
- Do not sit where you have blind spots. Avoid sitting with your back to everyone else in that restaurant. I personally like to find a corner table and have my back to the corner.
- Events change and you need to change with them. Closely examine newcomers entering the restaurant, pub or gas station.
- Most importantly remove anything which can become a distraction.
The more you practice situational awareness, the easier it becomes. Be aware of the people around you. Be aware of the structure you are in. Search out exits. Scan faces. Stay away from dark areas where you can easily be ambushed. Do not ever become the prey because your concentration is elsewhere.
This article was originally published in Thunder Roads Tennessee/Kentucky magazine and is used with permission. It was written by Michael Noirot – a/k/a the Grey Beard Biker.