28 April 2014

JPFO's Alertness Refresher: Know What is There

Alertness Refresher: Know what is there

by Chris Bodine
JPFO writer contributor, © 2014.

You are miles away talking on your cell phone, oblivious to everything - suddenly you feel a stunning blow to your head as a thug sets about mugging you. Too late now as you fall to the ground, and, despite being armed are unable to function as your wallet and phone are taken, followed by a crippling blow to the ribs added for good measure. You just didn't pay attention to your surroundings did you? Be very glad your gun wasn't found.

The principles of self-defense do not just cover unarmed combat and/or the use of a firearm -- they have to ideally include the avoidance approach, which has to be based on good situational awareness, thus actually avoiding confrontation in the first place if possible - by far the more desirable option! This is self preservation at its best, armed or not.

So, what is 'situational awareness'? Pretty much self explanatory but it is a very important measure for literally anyone to adopt, whether they carry or not or are black belt devotees. As most will know, it has often been described with a color labeling for various conditions, but it is worth running through these just as a reminder. First is the white state where a person is essentially totally unaware of their surroundings and events - the 'head in the sand' state, or tunnel vision if you like. Then we have yellow which is probably the ideal - a total awareness of surroundings but without any stress or paranoia, just a basic broad alertness.
The next stage we'll describe as orange, whereby there is the notion that 'something ain't right', or the famous 'gut feeling' -- generally this not something to ignore and it is surprising how many people have an element of "6th sense" without always realizing it.

Finally and predictably we finish up with condition red, which means things are definitely serious and some action needs taken, the first choice being whenever possible of course 'get out of Dodge'. The action, whatever that may be and if inevitable, has to be geared ideally to finding cover and maintaining distance if faced with an armed assailant.

"Condition white" can be literally dangerous, in particular if someone is perhaps walking in a less than desirable area and radiating a strong signal which can say to thugs "I am a victim, choose me". Those who pray on others are very good at spotting potential victims but are usually less interested when an individual seems alert and confident. The "condition yellow" is not difficult to achieve and is highly recommended as a complete way of life.

Point of interest -- almost everyone must have noticed when in a large store, just how many people seem totally unaware and are just fixated on their own leisurely wanderings. These are the folks who stop on a dime with no warning when you are following, generally hog the space in the aisles and seem to live entirely in their own world. "Total White". Similar thing often walking on a busy sidewalk - it's almost frightening how few people actually seem alert and aware. Don't be one of those, stay sharp!

Those of us fortunate to have all senses intact just need to learn to use them better - the prime ones of course are vision and hearing. One thing important to mention straight away is what can be called "task fixation" - this could be anything from tying a shoelace to texting on or using a smart phone -- attention is focused to the exclusion of the local environment - not good at all as it presents a good opportunity for any bad guys just waiting for opportunities.

Let us look first at the visual aspect . Most folks with reasonable visual
acuity have good peripheral vision and this extends to all but 90° to both sides. It is an invaluable and much underused faculty because with minimal practice, it is possible to be looking ahead and yet be processing the image information from both sides in quite some detail, (despite definition obviously not being as good), but there is more to be registered than is often realized.
Peripheral vision is best at detecting movement (something animals depend on to avoid predators) but again, only if we allow ourselves to fully interpret and consciously process the input. Thus, while going about our every day lives, it is possible to be aware with minimal effort of what is around us, and this way be able to spot something that may seem out of place without making it too obvious.
When it comes to not being a potential victim it can be important to not necessarily look directly towards a perceived threat at first, because that gives away one's awareness of said threat while applying thinking time, and on occasions can actually spark confrontation with certain types of individual who think you are being 'disrespectful' by looking at them! That said, the situation can arise when a direct look - casual in nature and brief - can actually signal to a possible attacker that they have been seen - enough perhaps to make them less interested in closing in.

Apart from the peripheral vision there are some ploys worth using, in particular in an urban environment. One classic is use of reflection. Imagine being suspicious of people in the area or a general situation, and you are able to stop and ostensibly do some 'window shopping' - the ideal time to assess what the reflection shows behind you. Even car windows can be useful as well. I know of one case where someone used their Zippo lighter as a mirror to look behind without seeming obvious.

Now, hearing and using that to good effect. One thing we have which is a valuable asset, is the ability to use 'selective hearing' but, not everyone develops their potential to the full. Most if not all people have been in a crowd - public transportation, or a drinks party just to mention two examples, and realized that they can switch attention between different sound inputs. Most often this is employed when trying to hear someone talking when background noise is heavy - other speech, music etc. We may take this for granted but, with only a little practice it is possible to consciously switch between inputs at will more efficiently, selecting just the sound information desired and so pick out something out of place.

MP3 players - use with caution! Someone listening to loud music while walking, running, cycling - in fact any activity - is immediately to some degree 'insulated' from the environmental sounds around them. Quite enough to make hearing something like footsteps for example all but unlikely. All senses sharp all the time is the desirable way to go even when in a seemingly safe environment.

In conclusion, and to reiterate, avoidance of situations is by far the most desirable approach to keeping safe and to this end, good awareness of the environment is essential, without much effort. No amount of skill with martial arts or a firearm is worth having to put into play when there is a chance to escape. Stay alert and stay safe.

© Copyright Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership 2014.

Original material on JPFO is copyright, and so it cannot be used or plagiarized as the work of another. JPFO does however encourage article reproduction and sharing, providing full attribution is given and a link back to the original page on JPFO is included.


armedlaughing said...

PAY ATTENTION! has become my mantra, largely by NOT paying enough attention, and getting a 'lesson' as a consequence!
Right on the money, Rev. Paul!


Rev. Paul said...

You know what they say, Guffaw: "good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment." That's one lesson we all must learn.

Cathy said...

Truly. You are preaching to the choir with me.
I'm almost paranoid when alone anymore.
However . . this comment did amuse me . .. sorta made me think of my special hubby and his domestic survival skills:
"One thing we have which is a valuable asset, is the ability to use 'selective hearing'.. "

Rev. Paul said...

Cathy, let's just say that, as a minister, I've observed many MANY husbands are expect at that skill. Of course, so are some wives. :)

drjim said...

Always good advice.

As pilots say..."Keep Your Head On A Swivel"!

Rev. Paul said...

Thanks, drjim.

Old NFO said...

Condition Orange... sigh Live it, and live!!!

Teresa said...

When in the city we can always tell who are the suburbanites out for a day trip... from families to groups of kids. Instead of allowing space on the sidewalks, they walk abreast of each other and pay no attention to anyone else around but themselves. We've gotten to the point where we don't swerve out of their way. They are always "shocked" to find more than their sorry selves on the sidewalk. LOL. And yes, the distraction is a problem waiting to happen.

Rev. Paul said...

Absolutely, NFO. It's the best way to stay alive.

I hear you, Teresa. We refer to that as "Condition Opaque."

ProudHillbilly said...

Teresa made me smile, although the memory she evoked involved great frustration at the time. A brutally hot summer day in downtown Washington D.C. and a large family of tourists who seemed always to be exactly where I wanted to be, including completely blocking the doors to the Smithsonian while having a conversation. Their oblivious selves nearly got physically moved.

Rev. Paul said...

Understood, PH. We see the same syndrome at the airport, the supermarkets, Wally World ... just about any public place.