While I could spend majority of the time explaining how to use self-defense (I do strongly recommend training in both firearms and martial arts/unarmed combat), I’m going to focus more on situational awareness instead. The reason being that, by being aware of our surroundings, we can avoid potential unnecessary situations.
Allow me to begin by covering the Color Codes of Awareness, which was originally developed by the US Marines during WWII and then later modified by Colonel Jeff Cooper for use in educating civilians.
- Condition White (Unaware): You may fail to recognize emotions or aggressiveness in others or you might enter into arguments without realizing that you’ve moved beyond what’s safe. The only time you should be in this condition is while you’re asleep.
- i.e.: Focused on your phone, wearing ear buds/headphones, thinking that nothing bad will happen or that violent crime only happens to “other people”, no eye contact and/or scanning your area, slouching and walking slowly.
- Condition Yellow (Aware): Your eyes are up, you’re alert, and you’re observing your surroundings. This is where you should be at all times while outside and inside the home, especially when armed.
- i.e.: You’re aware of what’s happening in the immediate vicinity by scanning the area around you, making momentary eye contact and proceeding with caution, you’re not paranoid or overreactive but you keep an eye out for potential threats and their sources, you’re walking upright and faster than the crowd.
- Condition Orange (Heightened Awareness): You have identified a possible threat or threats. Your handgun may remain holstered but you should be prepared to access it.
- i.e.: You prepare a plan of action by identifying cover, barriers or an exit strategy, take preemptive action such as turning around, changing direction, increasing your distance and making simple, direct verbal commands such as “Stay back!” or “Don’t come any closer!”, and decide on a mental “trigger” in case the individual(s) are refusing your verbal commands and moving closer into your “bubble.”
- Condition Red (Action): Action is immediate.
- i.e.: Your mental trigger has been tripped and you execute your plan, trust your instincts, adrenaline will cause involuntary reactions, expect your fine hands to tremble and fine motor skills to degrade, operate within the rules governing the use of force if you engage the threat including obligation to retreat if possible and to use something less than deadly force if it will suffice.
Areas to Avoid
- Blind spots: Corners of buildings, trees, tall bushes, concrete pillars or vehicles.
- Tips: Create space between you and the blind spots, and turn to observe the hidden area as you approach, including the corners of shopping aisles. Use the reflection in windows and mirrors (ex: ATM) to see who may be behind you.
- Low-light areas
- Tips: Plan routes through well-lit areas rather than routes with little or no light.
- Away from the crowds: Alleyways or another shortcut.
- Tips: Take the long route as long as it’s with the crowd.
- Identify items that could be used as barriers, concealment and cover (Cover = stops ballistics; concealment = only hides but can’t stop ballistics). Have an exit strategy.
- Be careful of the information that you place on and/or in your vehicle (see photo and video below).
- Don’t create patterns (ex: walking your dog at 2 pm every Tuesday, same route to and from work or school, etc). If you notice that someone may be following you, don’t go straight to your destination; instead, drive around the block, find a well-lit (if it’s dark out) and crowded area, park and dial 911.
- Identify others that might be carrying (ex: slight bulge on the hip or outline of pistol grip under the shirt, wearing pants and sweatshirt/hoodie when it’s sunny and 80 degrees, etc).
- Watch hands and eyes and pay extra close attention to anyone approaching your “danger zone”.
- Don’t wear clothing that makes you stand out. Dress accordingly to your environment.
- Notify those closest to you (ex: family and friends) of your location(s) (ex: vacation itinerary).
- Be aware of vehicles with tinted windows as it’s difficult to see if someone is in the vehicle with a weapon. Also, be cautious around vehicles where the owner is intentionally covering the license plate (with a bike rack, for example) as that tends to be one strategy that’s used by human traffickers.
- If you have children with you, take a second person with you – either friend, spouse, or parent – while you shop or are going for a walk so that they can help keep a close eye on them. If you have an infant, wear a baby carrier in front of you as opposed to behind. If you have small children (particularly multiple), I recommend using a harness and leash so that you know where they are (DO NOT be aggressive when using it). As someone that grew up in a decent size family, my parents used a harness and leash so I’m recommending it because of my experience.