Life in an Insecure​ World - Situational Awareness and Training

We have all been there before; eyes glued to the T.V. screen as we watch, yet another, active shooter or lone wolf incident unfold. As the frequency of these incidents around the globe continue to increase at an alarming pace, it is with each new incident that we are reminded that nowhere is off-limits. Yet, for many in our society, the topic of personal security and the practice of situational awareness remain utterly foreign concepts. 

Utilizing Situational Awareness to Elevate Your Personal Security Profile   

Situational awareness is best summarized as the cognitive assessment of a given space and the development of tentatively planned responses to abnormal situations. The practice of situational awareness is not only important for recognizing terrorist threats, but it also serves to identify criminal behavior and other dangerous situations. Some in our society misguidedly assert that the practice of situational awareness requires an individual to already be or will eventually condition a person become overly concerned, paranoid, or insecure about the world around them - none of which is true.

In contrast to these irrational stereotypes, individuals who dedicate themselves to living a security conscious lifestyle possess a tremendous advantage in comparison to those who live a life of complete oblivion when the unthinkable happens and a situation turns from good to bad or bad to worse.

Think Mindset More than Skill

It is important to note that situational awareness is more of a mindset that is developed than a hard skill that is learned. This means that the same principles practiced by the government or private security officers are equally applicable to civilians who possess the will and discipline to adhere by them.

To establish the appropriate mindset, an individual must first recognize that threats exist. The presence of ignorance or denial about the events around the world and closer to home will diminish an individual’s ability to recognize an emerging threat and respond with the appropriate action – which might mean avoiding the threat entirely. It is imperative to understand that, in this context, to unnecessary douse layers of apathy, denial, and complacency can be a deadly combination.

The discipline element refers to the conscious effort required for an individual to assess the events that occur around them; even while busy and distracted. On occasion, the steps required from an attacker to accomplish their objective must be conducted in a manner that makes the actions visible to their victim and other outside observers. At such times even obvious hostile activity can go unnoticed amongst those whose attention is placed elsewhere. Therefore, individuals must learn to be observant even while focused on other things, because it is at these junctures when good situational awareness can allow an individual to detect a threat as it begins to materialize in order to avoid it entirely, take on the threat directly, or to alert nearby authorities who swift actions will protect others in the vicinity.

Situational Awareness principles - Color Codes of Awareness

Typically, an individual operates on five distinct levels of awareness. Although there are many ways to describe these levels, "Cooper's colors," for example is a system frequently used in law enforcement and military training, perhaps the best overview is found in Stratfor's article Building Blocks of Personal Security: Situational Awareness 

Once the basic principles of situational awareness are understood, an individual must further hone their abilities through continued training and simple but important daily exercises (until these exercises become so ingrained that they occur naturally).

You Fight as You Train - The Importance of Stress-Based Training

I cannot stress enough to those who have made the decision to carry a firearm in public that a CCW or LTC permit class should be the foundation upon which continued and more focused training is built on. Training beyond the minimum requirements essential to ensure you have developed the tools and confidence required to respond during an incident as a force multiplier and not an added liability.

Specifically, Active Shooter Response courses and programs are designed to address the unique stress-based challenges experienced during active shooter incidents. A quality active shooter response course or program should include both armed and unarmed intervention techniques against an active shooter. These course will prepare individuals for the unfortunate reality that a significant portion of public spaces throughout the United States restrict the licensed carry of a firearm.

Students who participate in an Active Shooter Response course or program will have the opportunity to build on skills developed from previous courses while learning how to incorporate new concepts that are tailored to allow for them to appropriately respond during an active shooter incident. Importantly, the additional competencies developed during these courses or programs will enhance the overall situational awareness and personal protection profile of the students who participate and successfully complete them.  

Decisions Have Consequences

At the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves a simple, but important question: Does my lifestyle make me an asset or liability to those around me?

In the end, the choice is yours... How will you decide to live?


Ronald P Jacobus III holds a B.S. in Criminal Justice and a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin - Platteville. He has interned with the Major Assault Crimes Detective Branch at the Los Angeles Police Department's 77th area Division and later with a security policy think tank in Washington D.C. In 2014 and 2015 Ron served as a Facility Probation Officer in Scott County, Minnesota; where he worked with juvenile youth. He currently resides in Austin, Texas where he works as a Policy Specialist in the Texas State Senate. While his policy portfolio includes an array of criminal justice and border security issues, his primary policy issue relates to critical infrastructure protection.