In one of my recently published articles, I defined situational awareness. I also presented a list of risks and threats commonly found in the urban environment and those posed by large and smaller groups of people and individuals. Selco, who survived in an urban setting, offers excellent examples of the differences between Urban Survival and Rural Survival as well as guidance for survival planning.
Here I will go over techniques for development and practices to improve situational awareness. Before we move ahead and get practical, let’s see one more aspect of situational awareness theory and psychology. Let’s also look at how it works in our minds to apply it in the most productive manners during training and everyday situations.
The four levels of awareness
I’m talking about awareness levels, which is a “scale” of alertness according to the context in which we find ourselves. There are several versions of this scale out there, all based on Col. Jeff Cooper‘s work. Cooper originally designed it as a practical guide for police and military agents who need to move fast between levels when readying for combat or violent action.
While I personally have some reservations about the way Cooper’s Color Code was adapted (and promoted) in the “situational awareness” concept, the scale’s idea is to provide a simple yet effective reference to ordinary people, and for that, it works. Besides, the levels of awareness help educate us on self-assessment and control.
It is essential to note the mind can’t operate in constant states of high alertness. Too much stress for too long is detrimental to our performance and even our health. Besides, it’s practically impossible to maintain a high level of awareness for long periods. We must learn to adjust, dial down or up as the context changes, and as our mind/body requires.
- Level 1: Relaxed – When (for instance) we’re at home watching a movie, focused on the TV, and tuned out to the rest.
- Level 2: Relaxed Awareness – There’s no significant threat, but we are aware of the situation around us, usually because we’re performing some task that demands some attention (as when driving and paying attention to what’s going on around, other vehicles and people moving and signaling (or not) their intentions, etc.).
- Level 3: Focused Awareness – The situation demands a higher level of focus (for example, when driving in the snow or a heavy storm, at night or through a poorly conditioned road with hazards)
- Level 4: High Alert – Thing’s have gotten scary. We recognize an actual or imminent threat and become ready to act. It can be fight, hide, or flight. At this level, we’re still able to function.
Above Level 4, there’s paralysis, panic-induced freeze, and comatose. Our senses get overwhelmed, and the rush is too big to cope, so we “shut down” as an automatic defense mechanism takes over.
Here is a bit of advice for preppers on how not to let anxiety paralyze you.
Know your limits and adapt accordingly
Moving abruptly between levels or jumping stages too quickly is what can cause break-outs. We go from Level 1 to 2, or 3 to 4 without a problem. But moving from, say, Level 1 to Level 4 in a snap can cause a short-circuit. There are techniques and training to deal with quick shifts in mental state, which, as said before, is the original proposition of the Cooper Color Code.
But there are limits, and even trained professionals can become paralyzed in some situations. That’s why we must learn and practice to “enter” the level of awareness best indicated to each situation and move or “flow” between the levels. It can become more natural and automatic once we become more aware. We reduce the chances of getting caught by some unpleasant surprise. (Read more here.)
Even SHTF and other dangerous situations will allow for periods of relaxation. Maybe not “Level 1” total relaxation, but more acceptable or perhaps manageable levels that still provide the awareness required by the situation and the relaxation needed by the mind.
Cognitive systems of the brain and how it concerns us and situational awareness
Our brain has two systems. One is the “automatic,” responsible for the majority of our daily tasks. It is intuitive, multitasking, and economic (demands less energy/time to decide). The other is the “deliberate” system, which handles analytical decision-making. It can only process one choice at a time (more focus) and is more energy/time-consuming.
Understanding this is useful for decision-making and also developing new skills. When we start something new, our “analytical” mind gets busy analyzing every individual aspect of the task at hand. In this phase, we’re slow and clunky. Once we repeat enough, the “automatic” mind takes over, and we no longer need to focus on every detail (or any at all) to perform the task. We become fluent, fast, and smooth.
Situational awareness doesn’t mean just becoming aware. It implies running scenarios and analyzing possibilities, arriving at a conclusion, and taking action to achieve the desired outcome. There’s a decision(s) involved. For this entire process to become useful and effective, it must be done fast and efficiently by the “auto” system. To get there, we must practice and repeat the steps necessary individually.
In short, we must practice focusing on one or two aspects at a time until it becomes internalized and natural. It will then be an acquired ability, and our brain will work automatically in a fast, comprehensive, efficient, and intuitive manner. That should be our final objective.
Techniques for Situational Awareness Training
Practice and training don’t mean willfully chasing dangerous situations, but rather exposing ourselves to everyday situations and interactions with focus and intent, purposefully working on these aspects and skills as explained above. There are many ways the average Joe or Jane can avoid being a target.
Disclaimer: Please note this is from a common-man perspective. I’m not a specialist. These are the techniques I have used myself and with others I have successfully guided. Situational awareness is not rocket science. It is a vast topic, though. If you believe you need advanced or specialized training for some reason, look for professional orientation or enroll in a tactical course.
1. Stay informed
We begin to become aware by staying connected to our world, tuned to what’s happening in all the different levels of our reality: neighborhood, city, state, country, and international. Like it or not, current events and prepping are inextricably entwined.
- Locally, it’s best to do your own work and keep in contact with the people in your community. Be casual and generic, rather than intrusive or particular. The aim is to be on top of situations concerning infrastructure, the chain of supply, security, etc.
- On the macro level, stay informed about political, geopolitical, social, and economic scenes. Here the idea is to zoom out and have a general picture of developments in the world. It’s OK to focus on topics that have the potential to affect us directly. For this, choose your sources wisely and separate noise from signal (another skill).
2. Head on a swivel
Having “eyes in the back of your head” is a beneficial skill. No one has to turn into an international spy. Still, techniques for “looking around” or specifically spying on someone or somewhere (without giving the impression that we’re focused or too intent on doing so) are essential.
- Some people take this as a cue to look around every 10 seconds, searching for danger. Doing so draws unwanted attention and makes us look paranoid or frightened in the eyes of others. Act casual, relaxed, but attentive and decided. Avoid looking worried, scared, or anxious.
- Use shadows, mirrors, and glasses in buildings, storefronts, vehicles, bus stops, etc., to casually and discreetly glance around. Our peripheral vision is a powerful ally too. All the time, I pretend to look at something on a store window or whatever to spy on what I actually want with the corner of my eyes.
- Every once in a while, take a look back and to the sides, calmly but assuredly. Being intentional indicates we are alert and attentive.
- A slightly more discreet tactic is to use noises such as other people or passing vehicles to turn my head and look around. This way, I can scan the surroundings or peek at something or someone without staring directly.
- Use your phone in a planned, deliberate way. For instance, pull it out while turning your back against a wall or store entrance (to avoid being surprised from behind) and pretend you’re talking to someone or reading, texting, etc., while you scan around or look at people or places more deserving of your attention.
- The power of darkness: during the daytime, I’m always wearing sunglasses, even when overcast. Mostly because I feel comfortable, but also to hide the direction of my sight.
This is a great way to learn how to be more observant.
3. The right attitude
It’s vital to achieve a balance here: not confrontational and not appearing like a victim. Being confident is different from being cocky. Most of the time, people (especially street people) can tell between someone aware, confident, and capable of handling him/her self and someone faking toughness. Never underestimate the capacities and abilities of others, no matter what.
- Capable and self-reliant people don’t pick fights, don’t provoke, don’t take offense from random and impersonal provocations and attacks, don’t lock eyes in defiance (or fear), and above all, don’t have anything to prove. On the contrary: if you see a person moving away or calmly trying to avoid confrontation or de-escalate a situation, it’s probably someone with serious self-defense training. Bruce Lee famously said, “The most dangerous person is the one who listens, thinks and observes.”
- Whatever happens and whoever is on the other side, if we want to survive, we need to avoid danger. Situational awareness is crucial for achieving that. Showing you’re aware and tuned is an excellent way to hold off potential attackers. Criminals will always favor surprise and thus prefer to prey on distracted people. For them, it’s a matter of risk/reward, and the risks are more considerable when someone can anticipate their moves.
4. Entering and exiting
These are common situations that can involve higher risk/vulnerability, depending on the settings. Entering and exiting places require Level 2 or 3 for a few moments to look at routes, hidden risks, potential threats (which can be anything like other people and moving vehicles), and even ongoing works (for instance, around or near construction sites).
- Whether driving or walking, we should make a habit of searching the surroundings with attention when leaving or entering garages, buildings, etc. Not only to avoid being robbed or attacked but also to prevent collisions and other accidents.
- One common situation preferred by thugs and robbers is someone entering or leaving their vehicles. Most people do this in automatic mode, often while searching for the keys, talking on the phone, grabbing a piece of clothing or a purse, or in a hurry. Don’t be like that. Have everything at hand and ready before heading to/from the car and remain focused and aware until safety is reached.
- We can also be attacked while stuck in traffic or at a stoplight. Focus on driving, be ready and stay alert for suspicious people or activities at all times in these situations, particularly when going through locations that may present a risk for attacks, accidents, or are known crime/accident spots.
5. Evaluating people
We must know how to analyze strangers from what we can pick, recognize between real and fake threats and non-issues, and adjust and act accordingly. It is essential in the streets.
- One common mistake is judging based on looks alone. Some criminals know that people do this and use “reverse grey man tactics,” i.e., they make a deliberate effort to blend in and fool their victims and the authorities. Some are very efficient at blending in; therefore, appearance alone may not cut it.
- Analyze demeanor, body positioning, stance, how everyone treats personal space (theirs and others), where and whom they lock their eyesight on, things like that. Pay attention to clothing details, how the person scans the surroundings, how they walk, etc. Overall, we should look for “oddities” in other people’s appearance and behavior.
- Avoid personal judgment or emotional assessments: this should be as impersonal, objective, impartial as possible to have some use.
- Everyone should be treated with equal respect. But in the streets, there are all kinds of people and everyone is a stranger. Each type of person and interaction demands a specific positioning on our part. I’m talking specifically in regards to reaction. For the most part, we should leave other people alone unless contact is needed for some reason.
6. Rehearse situations
Back in the early 2000s, I took part in the local community safety council. I’ve had a previous experience taking part in the neighborhood watch group while studying in Colorado a few years before and tried to introduce the concept to my local scene. It didn’t work in the end, but the research I did to make that presentation was of great personal value.
Chuck Remsberg’s seminal The Tactical Edge – Surviving High-Risk Patrol stands today as a reference for tactical evaluation, training, and dealing with life-threatening situations. It’s complex, thorough, and extensive (as are all great works) and was written for police training. But the lessons and information provided are helpful for everyone living in a big city. It has some great insights and valuable knowledge for preppers.
Remsberg uses “mental movies” to describe what he calls “crisis rehearsal.” Business people, negotiators, and salespeople also use this technique. It is essentially conjuring up and visualizing situations, “playing” in our minds what we’d do, how we’d act, and what we’d say to come out on top and achieve the desired outcome (winning). I like to imagine and play out what this person would say or do and what I would say or do in response. Daisy recommends doing just this when watching survival-related movies.
There’s, of course, a physical side to being prepared to deal with a real-life situation, whether it’s some martial arts training or another self-defense discipline (firearms, tactical combat, etc.). One must be prepared and trained to act. But here, we’re specifically dealing with the mental aspect of this preparation, which is related to situational awareness in essence—for that, playing and rehearsing situations while in the streets can be very effective.
“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training.” This quote, attributed to the ancient Greek poet Archilochus, is one of my favorites. It reminds me of the importance of constant practice. Use it or lose it. In all these years guiding and helping others in street survival training, I’ve seen people improve significantly. Many went from totally tuned-out and oblivious to incredibly sharp and aware.
The best and most effective way I’ve found to practice the skills listed here is to walk and spend time in the streets, often with the homeless. It may seem obvious, but it’s not something easy when we’re out there: there are too many distractions, and early on, we have difficulty staying focused on the task at hand for even fifteen or thirty minutes.
But it’s just like working out: as time passes, we naturally become better, stronger, more fit. The same happens with our awareness if we keep at it (walking has the bonus of improving our fitness).
- The most significant advantage of walking is the speed: it’s the slowest we can travel, which allows for greater attention to the surroundings. When we’re skating or cycling or even running, we must focus a lot on movement around us to avoid obstacles. Walking frees us from a lot of that to focus on whatever we want and practice the skills.
- One good exercise is to pause from time to time and stay put, paying attention to what’s going on around. Sit down on a bench, bus stop, anywhere with some movement. Do that in different places and areas around town: commercial, corporative and residential regions, parks, train and metro stations, plazas, shopping centers, museums, etc.
- Situational awareness should also be practiced in everyday situations: when leaving home, driving to places, strolling in the mall, going for lunch or dinner, everywhere. The practical, real-life application of situational awareness is the main objective. Doing so internalizes awareness and turns it into a mental state. Once it becomes natural, we’ll be more apt to move between attentiveness levels and remain in better control of our focus and emotions.
8. Trust your instincts
Finally, no amount of skill or practice will help if we don’t trust ourselves. Follow your gut and act upon it. Don’t worry about being polite. At the core of any and every kind of training, physical or mental, in every discipline is instinct. Situational awareness is a tool: the more we sharpen it, the more reliant and confident we should be to perform when the situation presents itself.
Yet, we’re not in this to be right but rather to be safe. For that, we must act. Don’t worry. Acting comes naturally. But stay alert and conscious of this vital aspect from now on, especially during training.
These are the main elements of situational awareness, according to my experience and knowledge. As always, there’s a lot more to be said about it. (I could go on and enter the specifics of urban ‘zoning’ (analyzing the heterogeneity and different aspects of the city to determine dangerous/safe areas and routes), how to develop an information network to collect “street intel”, resource mapping, the importance of educating others about awareness for collective/community safety and more.)
These and other strategies are explained in more detail in my book, but if there’s interest, drop a note in the comments below, and I’ll do another article exclusively on these topics. Perhaps even illustrating with some real stories to explain how these principles work in real-life situations. For now, stay safe and share with the community your tips and experiences on situational awareness. I’d be interested in hearing those too.
How do you enhance your situational awareness?
What are some ways you work on your own situational awareness? Do you practice with family members? Please share tips and questions in the comments.
Fabian Ommar is a 50-year-old middle-class worker living in São Paulo, Brazil. Far from being the super-tactical or highly trained military survivor type, he is the average joe who since his youth has been involved with self-reliance and outdoor activities and the practical side of balancing life between a big city and rural/wilderness settings. Since the 2008 world economic crisis, he has been training and helping others in his area to become better prepared for the “constant, slow-burning SHTF” of living in a 3rd world country.
Fabian’s ebook, Street Survivalism: A Practical Training Guide To Life In The City, is a practical training method for common city dwellers based on the lifestyle of the homeless (real-life survivors) to be more psychologically, mentally, and physically prepared to deal with the harsh reality of the streets during normal or difficult times.
You can follow Fabian on Instagram @stoicsurvivor
You mentioned a couple of things that hit home with me. Years ago, when I lived in Colorado, I took a wilderness survival course. Yes, it does help to have the ten essentials and proper clothing and equipment when you hit the backcountry. But the most important thing you can have in an emergency situation is to maintain your composure, and keep your wits about you. Going into a panic will NOT help the situation when something goes wrong (and a lot can go wrong when you’re climbing a mountain).
Also, when I was a trucker (big-rig), I took a course that really helped with situational awareness while driving – the Smith System. In that course, they showed how most people (the vast majority, actually) can’t pay attention to two things at once (in this case, it was listening to a list recited in audio while looking at a list on the screen, and trying to recall both lists in order). That means don’t jam the tunes on the radio or talk on a cell phone while you’re driving, not if you plan on paying attention to the road. The idea is that you need to scan the road ahead, looking for potential hazards (like a child or a dog running into the road, turning vehicles, etc.) and keep distractions to a minimum. Many people just zone out while driving and don’t even remember the trip to get to work or the store – they simply don’t pay enough attention and easily could become a victim of a carjacking or worse.
One way I’ve taken care of the urban survival problem is to just move away from the big city. I have no desire to live in or visit one anymore. Problem solved. Now I need to work on the rest of it (growing food, ham radio, firearms practice, etc.). That, and building my local network.
Love your points Jim!
The head on a swivel deal makes tons of sense to me. Thank you for the pointers on doing it smarter!
Keep the tips coming 🙂
I always cringe when I see people (women especially) walking around with earbuds in, or totally immersed in their phones.
No situational awareness at all.
Put the phone away so you are not a target for street thugs.
Put the earbuds away so you can actually hear if someone is behind you.
Excellent article. I would like to suggest a fantastic book that goes along these lines: “The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and Why”.
“Capable and self-reliant people don’t pick fights, don’t provoke, don’t take offense from random and impersonal provocations and attacks”
you mean moral and civilized people don’t. immoral and uncivilized people most certainly do – it’s the best way to keep their target confused and talking as they move in closer for action.
“One common mistake is judging based on looks alone”
(laugh) careful, tip-toe around the issue ….
“urban ‘zoning’ (analyzing the heterogeneity and different aspects of the city to determine dangerous/safe areas and routes), how to develop an information network to collect ‘street intel’, resource mapping”
be interested to hear more about that, just to know what all that means.
Sorry if it sounded complex or fancy, it’s not LOL. It’s basically knowing well the most important parts of town and routes, and having a general, overarching idea of the city you live in.
What I did was a map of my city according to perceived and real threats. “Perceived” is my own assessment of risks, surveyed during my walks and rides around town in all these years (in which I also map safe routes, no-go/high-risk zones such as gang/traffic/crime areas, and also resources such as water, food, supplies, etc.).
As cities get more dangerous (thirdworldization) one must know where to go and where to avoid. Mostly where to avoid, because entering no-go zones can be fatal. Obviously.
I did that after realizing how unaware and uninformed most of the people I know are about the city they live in. Most just slap on an address onto the GPS and follow it blindly, not caring for where they’re going thru. This may be OK in Switzerland but it certainly ain’t so here. And I see this becoming even more dangerous as the situation deteriorates (including in Switzerland).
Real risks are the known risks, as per the reports of authorities, the press, etc.
This is a good article. The only area it falls short in in Instinct.
I would have liked to see that expanded upon in greater detail. Trusting your instincts must become second nature and overrule all other things.
Subconsciously you will pick up on details (if your instincts are developed) that your conscious brain will not notice. Most good operators rely on this more heavily than upon what you think you are seeing.
It is not blinded by prejudice or fear or anything else. This is the warrior skill and mentality that you need to develop.
The more you rely upon it the better it gets, Some might call it Intuition. But it is far more than just that.
Many of us ( probably like the author), rely upon it so much that we do not even ” know” we are doing it. It is so common, to our existence that we do not recognize it.
So work on developing your instincts and always follow them, they will keep you safe and out of danger.
Yeah perhaps I should’ve covered more on instinct. It started to get too long, I had to leave something out lol. Maybe I’ll write another one to go more into this and other aspects, there are a couple of true stories that highlight and illustrate a lot of what this piece tries to cover quite well IMO.
This is at the same time a vast yet simple topic, it’s my personal opinion but I feel it’s important not to overthink and a lot more practical to get “hands on” because once we start practicing it with intent and purpose (and some techniques), we just keep improving.
As you said it well, once we wise up about this we just can’t turn it off anymore. Instinct comes with time and practice. So maybe the word you’re looking for is “reflex”, I guess that goes beyond instinct eh?
Shortly before the COVID lockdown I was in a very large airport that is near several military bases. It was a week or so before a holiday, so there were many, many young military personnel. I was appalled to see that almost every one of them was on their phone — even many who were walking. They were not situationally aware at all. I was sitting near a young couple who nearly missed their flight because they both had ear phones on and were on their phones. I remember thinking what a prime target a place like that was. I learned while living in the city to be very aware and alert to my surroundings because that was the only way to stay safe. I now live in a safer rural environment, but I am almost always with my daughter who has disabilities and I have to cue her to dangers like poles on the sidewalk and curbs that she might not see. I work with her all the time to help her be more situationally aware, which adds to my own awareness. It is important that she learn to recognize dangerous situations. We play the “What if . . .?” game a lot as a way of getting her to look around and see where the exits are, what kind of people are around us, what we should do if some kind of incident happens.
Was it San Antonio? I used to live there and it was usually full of Air Force and Army folks.
re: Carol’s mention of this book:
It is well worth looking over the description and the many reviews.
The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and Why Paperback – Illustrated, June 16, 2009, by Amanda Ripley
If someone or someplace feels wrong .. pay attention! If something looks out of place either figure out why or get away. Better safe than sorry.
Its more than look and listen. Sonetimes its a feeling too.
Also, don’t be “guilted” into not following your instincts. As in, “if you think that black male is acting suspicious you must be a racist.” That is just being pressured to let your guard down.
#5 Evaluating people.
My first step is usually judge on Looks. Sorry but if you look like a thug…..you get put into the thug category in my mind. I have yet to see a report where a guy in a suit & tie tried to do a purse snatching or assault someone. Most street-level thugs aren’t smart enough to even think about grey-man. Once I put you into the Thug category you get extra scrutinization. I analyze your walk, pace, where your eyes are locked onto, are they acting “outside the norm”, do you have sidekick a few steps behind or next to you, etc.
I find my instincts to be pretty accurate. Do I profile? Damn right I do.
#3 The Right Attitude.
Being Hobbit-sized, I have learned that how you carry yourself goes a long way. Because I workout, I tend to look like a small gorilla and walk confidently.
@FLAPrepper1 you said it better than me. When I say “don’t judge on looks alone” I mean that looks alone may not tell the whole story. But it’s indeed the first impression and it’s all too important. Instincts are “developed senses” and we should absolutely trust them, especially if we’re investing in having them sharpened.
Even with good SA, crime can still happen. While I was at a big city hospital parking lot waiting for husband, 2 very immature thugs tried to steal the truck I was in.
When I parked, I locked all doors and kept my seat belt on and rolled my window half way up. I was using my cell phone since I was sitting there for hours, but I looked up and checked mirrors and windshield every 5 or 10 minutes. Still in the interval, 2 kids managed to hide behind the truck bed, (which sat high) after navigating a parking lot full of vehicles. The one with a 380 pointed at my face was 4 ft away by the time he yelled to surrender the truck.This was at 3:30 in the afternoon. Yes, that added to the surprise factor, but I was angry that those two boys had gotten that close and reacted accordingly.
After reviewing the scenario, I kept asking myself, what would I do for 4 hours if I could not park somewhere? Because this could happen anywhere in any parking lot. I had no friends in the big city and I’m not a shopper. So, would I drive around until I ran out of gas? Very frustrating.
@desertdove you said you were angry they had gotten so close and reacted accordingly. What did you do???? What was the outcome? On the edge of my seat here….!
When he threatened me from 3 feet away with his 380, I presented my 380 in his face. My finger was on the trigger so he knew I was serious. I yelled at them and told then to get out of there. ( they were shi young they had no facial hair) I hijacked his brain. He did not hijack mine.
The other kid flattened against the empty car beside me. I hope they both crapped their pants and had to run in it…..
Great information that anyone preparing or thinking about travel should read and take to heart. When you travel even just outside your community you are more susceptible and vulnerable. This information is great for adults and older children (diluted down).
A police officer once told me that when stopped at a traffic light always leave enough room between your vehicle and the one in front of you so that you can see the pavement between the two vehicles. This allows you the possibility to change lanes in the event of an attempted carjacking.
This is such an interesting article. I am a small female and have learned I must be aware when out in public. I started using my resting bitch face very young just to keep the creepers at bay! I also keep my head on a swivel when entering or exiting anywhere.
I did get caught a bit off guard when I was working in a large, loud warehouse a few years ago. I was on my way to the restroom, my feet were hurting from a long shift so I was sufficiently distracted when my senses just went off like a loud shot. I immediately turned my full body and began backing away and that’s when I got the full view of a young male co worker trying to sneak up on me. I had never met him so this was not a jovial gotcha kind of thing. The look of horror on his face when I turned told me he was up to no good. He immediately backed up with his hands up, apologised and past me by. I don’t know if he was out to hurt me or just thought it would be funny to see how close he could get to this tiny defenseless lady. He’s just lucky it wasn’t in a parking lot because he would have got a face full of pepper spray!
Sadly, I’ve also had someone try to get in my home before as well so there really is nowhere you can completely shut your senses off.
Do I do these? Yes??
Informed: mostly on (I tend to ignore* hard-right issues, LGBTQA+ issues, family unit abuse issues, and international conflicts (including trade and non-trade, but not including intelligence conflicts)). I include science-/tech-related conflicts.)
Swivel: depends on my immediate locale and the day. If I’m driving, 360 degree vision is workable. If I’m bicycling, 170 degree vision is my limit, aside from lane-change/left-turn occurances. If I’m walking, I usually manage 270 degree (horizontal) x 170 degree (vertical) vision, with some segues into 360 (horiz) when strange sounds, or attractive bodies, trigger oggling. On some days, paranoia is dominant, and remembering the vertical conflict environment is second nature. Other days, depression is dominant, and remembering that there is a universe outside of the 90 degrees of horiz and 80 degrees of vertical (ground-ahead-of-my-feet to what-is-not-blocked-by-eyebrows) is too difficult. And, in nighttime, I tend toward “depressed mode” until a car’s sound in a nearby lane (or an invisible animal’s sound) triggers a brief bout of “paranoia mode”. . . . I’ll add to the article’s guidance: do not forget that a potential shooter may occupy some rooftop (or, frivolously, a bird might be in the overhead trusses/eaves). Vertical awareness, even if it only results in noticing cloud patterns, is important, too.
Attitude: If I’m not lost in depression, I exude either confidence or single-minded obliviousness. (I sometimes forget that people watching includes watching people, not merely staring toward the sidewalk. My shocked dodging probably conveys more obliviousness.)
Enter/Exit: Yep. Also, look in backseats as you approach your vehicle. (Too many stories of kidnapping survivors’ first realization of danger being either breathing behind them as they drive away or a hand over their mouth from behind the seat. Or do you not read Reader’s Digests?) And, if you “lost your car”, you have an additional reason to circle your vehicle’s vicinity. (Like… act like someone who has lost their car. It won’t hurt you to have an unknown potential enemy write you off as a flake.)
Eval folk: Irregularly. Foolish, so see my “Attitude” response.
Rehearse: (mi quarente centavos ($.40)) If you saw The Matrix (movie 1), remember the Lady in Red event. Also, previsualize what different bulges might look like (or, maybe, wear a tight t-shirt and put your cell in various places on your body under the shirt and note how the bulges look. Do the same with a small thick paperback book (Bible, Boy Scout’s Manual, Engineering Handbook, a new/used romance). If you have a concealable weapon, do the same with it holstered.
Practice: Irregularly, but I’ve a good imagination and a willingness to give myself hypothetical situations to plan responses to.
Instincts: Mine suck. I only have “woman-dar”, despite years of practice. Hence, I visualize and practice, and otherwise try not fret too much. (This is foolish, because it can engender complacency. But, I wasn’t aware of my complacency until I my late 30s.)
* – There are a lot of reasons for this, but they usually fall into 2 categories: firehoses of info, and don’t recognize the mindsets involved. Per the former: each issue grouping tends to have several-to-many sources of info (I’m not counting repeats of articles with the same wording as multiple sources; this seems to be a failing of rightist media – breitbart or a local news agency posts the first version, and the rest share the same article or very close variants) and a steady stream of new-but-related articles. Digesting the full gamut = guzzling from firehoses. Per the latter: while I have a vague grasp of Conservatism, Fundamentalism, Lesbianism, Gayness, and Political Dominance, retaining enough awareness to quickly recognize the implicit threats cuts into my thinking capabilities for other subjects (including opposing views). As it happens, the collective vision required for sciences, intelligence work, and gaming compliment each other.