What I discussed in Part I of this two-part article can be summed up with the following bullet points.
The Five levels of situational awareness:
• Tuned out: Not paying attention; vegging on the couch at home.
• Relaxed Awareness: Everyday life observing activity but looking for clues.
• Focused Awareness: Found a clue and now paying much more attention.
• High Alert: An event is about to happen and we are preparing to react.
• Comatose: You have shut down and do not react to an event.
The following describes an actual event from my life. I am a traveler, adventurer, and seeker of knowledge, among other things. I was looking for some tactical pistol training and found a school in Tennessee that offered a “Fighting Pistol Class.” I did my homework, checked out the class and the instructor, and signed up to attend. This particular class was structured around 50 percent classroom time and 50 percent range time (range time is actually shooting at targets). I liked the idea of classroom time simply because there is much to learn about being an armed citizen. Note that this was a two-day class.
The first half of the first day consisted of instruction on how not to get shot in a gunfight. The really simple concept: don’t participate in a gunfight. Avoid it. The instructor was teaching situational awareness as one method to employ to avoid a confrontation of any kind. The situational awareness segment was a big part of the morning. I had actually been doing a lot of this naturally and it was great having it put in a nice, neat, understandable package for future use.
Just one addition to that lesson that I thought was interesting. If someone says, “We are going to the Bucket of Blood Saloon and it is a nasty place. Make sure to bring your gun,” here is how you react to that statement: don’t go to the Bucket of Blood. It is not the act of taking a gun that is the problem, it is willingly going to a place which you already know might necessitate packing a firearm. Avoidance is the name of the game.
Next morning I wake up ready to go. As you may be suspecting, I leave my accommodations carrying a firearm. It is around 6 a.m., just getting light out. I stop at a convenience store that also has a Subway sandwich shop. I walk in and there is one woman running the store section and the Subway; we are the only two people in the store. I place my order and she starts making my sub. I see a car pull into the parking lot. I start to use my newly acquired situational awareness skills, getting some practice with the state of relaxed awareness. I observe a man exit his car and enter the store. He is shabbily dressed, has his hood up, and does not make eye contact as he enters. As I watch him the little voice in my head says, watch him, something is not right here. So I watch as he quickly moves up the first aisle out of sight and stops where I can’t quite see what he is doing. I’ve shifted into a mode of focused awareness.
Now, the woman preparing my sub is nervously looking in the man’s direction. I ask her if everything is okay and she says, “No,” as her situational awareness is now also active. I ask why and she says she doesn’t like the way that man is acting. I turn my body 90 degrees towards the man’s position so I can see him if he approaches. I also put my hand in my pockets. He mills around for a few moments, looking up occasionally, checking to see if we are watching him. As I am standing there he makes his way back down the aisle, comes out into the open and stops, then turns and faces me directly. I am now on high alert. Even my dog, who is blind and has only three good legs, would recognize this as a challenge.
The little voice is now saying, uh-oh, this is not looking good. I knock the holster off of my pistol and get a good grip on it. Carrying smaller pistols, I use what is called a pocket holster. It holds the gun securely in your pocket, oriented up for quick retrieval. Keep in mind that I am not exposing my firearm, but merely readying it in my pocket.
I turn to face him head-on . . . we are about seven paces apart. Knowing about weapons, I’m aware that one can easily be killed by a knife attack inside of 21 feet. The theory is it takes time for you to recognize what someone is up to and then it takes time to react to that threat. Twenty-one feet can be covered quickly by an assailant in under two seconds. Okay, now I am in a bad place, he is staring at me, his hands at his sides. I have no idea if he has a weapon on him or if he is just going to attack me with his hands. We stand there for a moment and I notice he is visually scanning my body; I assume he is looking to see if I have a weapon. I can say this is an eerie experience. I return the favor and do the same thing. He stands there for what seems like 10 minutes, which, in all actuality, is three seconds or so. Just that quick he makes an about-face and walks out the door. I am now utilizing focused awareness. You would think that was it, right? My first thought is, I hope he is not going to his car for a gun. I move into a position from which I could see what he is doing. I watch him walk to his car, open the door, get in and drive off . . . and I revert to a relaxed awareness state. PHEW! Never think a threat is gone until you confirm it is gone. Always follow up to be absolutely sure you are clear of the threat. I stand watch for a few moments.
I turn to the woman behind the counter and ask if she is okay. She laughs and says,”Yes.” Then she asks, “Are you a cop?” I respond, “No.” She replies, “You look and act like a cop.” Gee, I really try not to do that. At that point I realize I am wearing 5.11 Tactical cargo pants and black boots. Ha ha! I guess I might have looked like a cop, but not a regular one. Profile — your appearance in public — can work for or against you in certain situations. In this case, appearing armed helped my cause. In other situations, such as a robbery, it would be better to look unarmed. It would be better if you were perceived to be no threat so you could decide if you want to take action or not. If you appear as a threat you can sometimes be drawn into action before you want to.
In the end I may have never been in any danger — but maybe I was. Perhaps the suspicious guy was just shoplifting and I ruined his day by paying attention to him. Maybe he realized I had a gun and didn’t feel like getting shot that early in the morning. No matter, it was a lesson learned. Pay attention to your surroundings, and be proactive in your security.
There is potential danger everywhere. Driving a car, riding a bicycle, getting a sub at Subway. Be aware of your surroundings and try to head off any encounter. Always have an escape plan. For God’s sake stop texting and doing ANYTHING else!