New Mexico Urban Homesteader

Hello, I am A 50 Something, Prepper ;-}; former 60's Flower Child, don't believe in taxpayer subsidized special interest groups (political parties), DO believe in the Constitution and Bill of Rights (1st 10). Long time Independent & Informed Voter. Lover of the outdoors and firm believer that History Teaches - if only we will listen!

(No longer Urban or in NM. Now Rural in the mountains of Maine.)

This blog was started at the request of some dear friends that wish to become Preppers.

“No man who is not willing to help himself has any right to apply to his friends, or to the gods.”

Demosthenes (384–322 BC, Greek statesman and orator of ancient Athens)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Situational Awareness and You

When one studies all the “I Survived” stories one quickly realizes that the survivors took control of the few determining factors that were within their realm of control. The key factors were:

  • Awareness of their situation and what needed to be done
  • Applying the Reality Check to the situation
  • Honesty of just what they could and could not do
  • The Will (tenacity) to strive to do what needed to be done to survive

I’ve lived in a few really large cities (Philadelphia, Chicago, San Diego, Fort Worth, Portland, OR) as well as in farm country and one self-defense tactic that proved the most consistent and valuable in both environments was AWARENESS.

Awareness is the first step to avoidance and many not so pleasant situations can be avoided if you are aware of what is going on around you – of your surroundings. Or as the military and law enforcement prefer to call it: Situational Awareness.

"In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity."
Albert Einstein

The term Situational Awareness is fairly recent (WWI) but the concept has its roots in military theory and is recognizable in Sun Tzu’s “Art of War”. The USAF used the term in air-to-air combat in the Korean and Vietnam wars and linked it to the "observe" and "orient" phases of the famous observe-orient-decide-act loop (OODA Loop) or Boyd Cycle (war theorist USAF Col. John Boyd). It also became widely adapted by Human Factor Behavior Scientists in the 1990’s.

Although numerous definitions of SA have been proposed, Endsley's definition, "the perception of elements in the environment within a volume of time and space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status in the near future," is firmly established and widely accepted. While some definitions are specific to the environment from which they were adapted, Endsley's definition is applicable across multiple task domains. Several other definitions of SA have been suggested, generally restating the same themes.

There is an excellent article by Scott Stewart called A Primer on Situational Awarenessthat I highly recommend that everyone read – Prepper, Survivalist or not! In it he states the importance of the “mindset” of situational awareness:

“People who practice situational awareness can often spot this planning process [of a dangerous act/crime] as it unfolds and then take appropriate steps to avoid the dangerous situation or prevent it from happening altogether. Because of this, situational awareness is one of the key building blocks of effective personal security — and when exercised by large numbers of people, it can also be an important facet of national security. Since situational awareness is so important, and because we discuss situational awareness so frequently in our analyses, we thought it would be helpful to discuss the subject in detail and provide a primer that can be used by people in all sorts of situations.

An important element of the proper mindset is to first recognize that threats exist. Ignorance or denial of a threat — or completely tuning out one’s surroundings while in a public place — makes a person’s chances of quickly recognizing the threat and avoiding it slim to none. This is why apathy, denial and complacency can be (and often are) deadly. A second important element is understanding the need to take responsibility for one’s own security. The resources of any government are finite and the authorities simply cannot be everywhere and cannot stop every criminal action. The same principle applies to private security at businesses or other institutions, like places of worship. Therefore, people need to look out for themselves and their neighbors.

Another important facet of this mindset is learning to trust your “gut” or intuition. Many times a person’s subconscious can notice subtle signs of danger that the conscious mind has difficulty quantifying or articulating. Many people who are victimized frequently experience such feelings of danger prior to an incident, but choose to ignore them. Even a potentially threatening person not making an immediate move — or even if the person wanders off quickly after a moment of eye contact — does not mean there was no threat. "

Situational Awareness is not just an individual thing; it is also a Team or Group concept too. Team SA is defined as "the degree to which every team member possesses the SA required for his or her responsibilities" (Endsley, 1995, & 1989).

“A man has got to know his terrain.”
Burt Gummer

(Survivalist – Tremors Movies and TV Series)

Overall the importance of being familiar with your surroundings and any dangers that may be present there is critical to good situational awareness. This includes your “gut feelings”, “the hairs on the back of your neck” and “6th senses”.

Because of all the backpacking I have done over the years, I can attest to the fact that one needs to know how animals (including us humans), weather and terrain behave in your area. Different terrains can give you inklings as to what has transpired there in recent history and are likely to occur again.

I can’t tell you how many times, birds stopped chirping or the sudden stillness and silence of the woods around me, has tipped me off to some kind of interloper into my area – 2 legged or 4 legged; knowing the habits of fish has led me to just the right spot to catch my diner; or watching the birds and insects “batten down” while tree leaves turn bottom side up, has alerted me that this pending storm has a good chance to spawn a tornado.

Think about it; if you avoid hazardous situations, you may never need to open the fancy kits (except to check expiration dates, of course). The techniques of situational awareness, as applied to civilian life, are simple to “learn”, easy to apply and can easily save your life.

"We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence then is not an act but a habit."


Yes this takes time and effort. The basics don’t cost more than that. So if you think your time is just too limited and you are just too busy – you better ask yourself and answer honestly, just what priority you give Preparedness.

“Practice makes perfect and repetition is the foundation to learning.”

Practice generates “Muscle Memory” or “Retention of Motor Skills (Motor Learning)”. No not your biceps, the other muscle, your brain. You know those memories stored in your brain that are much like a cache of frequently enacted tasks for your muscles. It's a form of procedural memory that can help you become very good at something through repetition. Of course if you repeatedly do something incorrectly you will have “bad muscle memory” and do no more than repeat your mistakes.

The bottom line is that you can’t really be
“taught” situational awareness – you have to DO IT to LEARN IT and you have to do it – over and over and over, again and again. Until you don’t have to think about it anymore – it becomes a habit and not a chore.

“Failing to learn something new, is failing to be alive.”

To learn how to increase your Situational Awareness get the Tips & Tricks @

Keep on Preppin ;-}


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