“I never saw him coming.”
“He came out of nowhere.”
“I had no idea he was there.”
These are phrases uttered by people who end up in bad situations. They did not see the danger or threat before it became a serious problem.
Situational awareness is a term shared in countless classes and training programs, yet few people discuss in detail what it really is. Situational awareness is much more than some tactical, combat-centric skill set. It is as much of a lifestyle as it is a skill. The applications of this awareness are infinite and reach into all aspects of our daily lives. In the most basic way, situational awareness is about being plugged into your environment and the people in it. There have been sages in the past who have expressed exceptional summaries of the need for this awareness. One of the most respected was Colonel Jeff Cooper. Originally meant for military applications, the principles he shared quickly spread to those concerned about their self-defense.
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Colonel Cooper designed a color code chart that associates levels of awareness to specific colors. By understanding how we process danger, we can formulate a method to train ourselves to be more aware.
The first color is white. Condition White represents a state of complete unawareness and unpreparedness. In this state you are oblivious to things going on around you and are exceedingly vulnerable to attack.
The next level is yellow. Condition Yellow represents a state of relaxed alert. There is no specific, obvious threat present, but you are aware that danger is always a possibility. You are aware of people around you as well as the environment in general. Condition Yellow is our goal state for everyday life.
Next in line is Condition Orange. This is a heightened state of awareness in which you observe or are aware of a specific threat. In this condition, you are beginning to formulate possible responses to deal with the danger. An example of this is when you realize that a threat is indeed following you or advancing toward you.
The final condition level is red. The level of awareness for Condition Red is essentially the byproduct of having to take action from Condition Orange. This is the stage that is associated with action. Things have escalated to the point where you are either engaging a threat or are in retreat. It is physically and mentally exhausting to be in Condition Red, as it demands that you be 100-percent dedicated to the danger at hand.
Our goal is to maintain a Condition Yellow in our daily lives. This is the base level of awareness and the springboard for any further escalations in conditions. Staying at Condition Yellow in everyday life allows us to be aware of our surroundings and better protect ourselves from threats. This applies to driving in rush-hour traffic as much as it does personal protection situations. The ability to stay in Condition Yellow takes conscious effort in the beginning, but it will shortly become second nature. The methods used to help with this can be turned into life games. What color was the car you parked next to? How many people were sitting near the park benches? Small exercises like this can enhance your base level awareness skills.