On December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was a citadel, the home base of a powerful U.S. naval force. But on that terrible morning, people on the ground were unprepared to respond to an attack and someone ignored a blip on a radar screen. The Japanese warplanes that swept in had a terrible advantage, and in minutes the mighty U.S. Pacific Fleet lay devastated, with thousands of Americans dead. That horrible moment typifies an eternal lesson: Be vigilant and be prepared to respond appropriately to the “blip on the radar screen.” You can have a more powerful gun than RoboCop, be faster on the draw than Bob Munden, a quicker shot than Bob Vogel and more accurate than Gunny Zins—you could even have just won the Mixed Martial Arts Championship of the Galaxy—but all this won’t save you if your head is in the sand when you are attacked. A basic rule of the self-defense world is that action beats reaction. The bad guy gets to be the actor, and you are stuck being the reactor. The only antidote for that poison is something professionals call the reactionary gap. You have to live your life in a way that enables you to see coming danger in time to react. Let’s look at a few vulnerable scenarios in daily life, and how you can better prepare yourself to anticipate them through situational awareness, so you can spot threats, defend yourself and those who count on you.

The Rest Stop
Some hideous things have happened to people at highway rest stops, most often in the depth of night, but sometimes in broad daylight, too. It has become such a concern that some jurisdictions are station-ing police at rest stops. In Florida, you’ll generally find a highway patrol officer on site at every rest stop, at least during high-crime hours. When a place is so dangerous that a state is assigning armed troopers there, that’s telling you something. Never forget that there is a reason they call it a rest stop. It’s a place where you go when you need to rest, often when your mind is more focused on your distended bladder than the dangers nearby. Stay alert. Remain alert going in, coming out and in between.

Consider Example One. One of my female friends, a cop who was on vacation, became exhausted on the superhighway and realized she was no longer at the optimum safety potential to be driving a mobile bludgeon at 70 miles per hour. She pulled into a rest stop to, well, rest. She left her windows down just a bit for air, locked the doors, reclined the driver’s seat back and caught some shut-eye. Late that night, some bad guys cruising for innocent victims saw a pretty girl asleep in the car. They came up and tried to rip the door open to get at her.

She came up with the Glock she carried off-duty. The men ran like the animals they were and were long gone by the time the local police she had summoned arrived. But she was glad she had something to protect herself with—I’m glad too. She had put enough barriers between her and them to buy her time to reach for her force multiplier.

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