We have spent time over the past few weeks researching the last string of active assailant attacks across the globe. The recent incidents in Garland, El Paso, and Dayton are just a few as well as a knife wielding assailant in New Zealand. We continuously ask the question, “How can we help make people aware of situations before they happen?” We also ask, “What will give people the added seconds they need to be on the offense before they need a defense?” Our answer is to tell people to “Get your head out of your Apps.” Our technology centric society has lost situational awareness because our focus is on our devices and not our surroundings. We have lost the ability to identify threats before those threats have the opportunity to exploit our weaknesses. Our fixation on text messages, emails, memes, and social media keeps our brains disengaged and causes us to become oblivious to our surroundings. The answer to stopping many of these crimes is not in creating more legislation. It is simply to insist that we all develop situational awareness. We need to identify threats and escape, evade, or defend ourselves before we become statistics. I would like to offer ten tips to help you develop situational awareness.
- Turn the alerts off on your phones or devices when you are away from home. Keep your device tucked away and your focus on your surroundings.
- Become a student of human behavior also known as being a people watcher. Learn what right looks like in different settings. We call this learning the baseline. If you know what right looks like, you will be amazed how quickly something wrong jumps out at you.
- Practice mindfulness. Meditation helps increase your focus and ability to recognize subtle changes in your environment.
- Learn to recognize the feelings that tell you when something is not a good idea. We affectionately call these “Spidey Senses”. Don’t blow those feelings off. Your life may depend on it.
- Play the “what if” game regularly while traveling. Create scenarios in your mind while you are out and about to help you prepare for incidents. As yourself what you will do if something happens right here, then let your mind work through the situation.
- Force yourself to keep your device put away until you are in location that requires less situational awareness. If you must use your device, put your back against a wall while you check your messages. This allows you to see and to reduce your vulnerability by 180°.
- Keep the ear buds or headphones off your head until you are in a location that requires less situational awareness.
- Practice recall games that help you remember faces, shoes, hair, and hands. The Kim’s Game works really well.
- Begin managing people’s expectations. Get your friends, family, and coworkers used to you not replying to text messages while you are traveling. This will upset some people at first.
- Pay attention to sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. Learn to use all of your senses when you are out traveling.
We truly hope that these tips help you and that you develop super hero level of situational awareness. I can tell you one thing for sure. It will never happen if your head is buried in your device.