Why is situational awareness important to gun owners? For me, it is to prevent getting into a situation where I have to pull the trigger.
It is so easy to fall into a regular routine. So much so, that many of us go through life with blinders on. It becomes normal to “just not notice” out of the ordinary things. To master situational awareness, you need to learn how to observe, interpret, and remember specific things about the environment you are in. All of the time, every day. You need to learn to become intentional about your senses.
Situational Awareness: Trust Your Gut Feelings
Have you ever been somewhere and felt that something is just not right? It probably isn’t! Always trust your instincts! We are born with a built in radar system called intuition. The sole purpose of intuition is to alert you to people and places that could cause you harm. We get sent physical signals, such as hairs rising, extreme concern, stomach dropping, and lack of comfort when something isn’t right. Intuition is our primal emotion for staying alive. It is often referred to as our sixth sense.
Situational Awareness: Scan Your Surroundings
I grew up in a family where my father had to sit with his back against the wall wherever we went. He also had to be facing the door. Then, I married a man who does the exactly same thing. Imagine that! I also do not like sitting with my back to any door, and prefer to be near an exit when in a restaurant or theater. It is quite the show when we all go out together. My family will wait for a table that fits our criteria. For the record, my brother thinks we are all crazy.
Are we crazy? I don’t think so. I like to think of us as proactive. We scan the room and make note of all exits, and also check out all of the other patrons. All of us carry all of the time, so we feel pretty safe. But just because you carry a gun doesn’t mean you should just pull it out and start shooting. The purpose of the room scans are to not only notice who comes in, but also how to get yourself out. Fast. I would much rather get out of dodge than have to face a perpetrator and pull the trigger.
The same goes for parking lots and jogging trails. Constantly scan your surroundings and take notice of anything out of the ordinary. If you think something is wrong, stop. Go back into the store, or call a friend. If a person is making you nervous, try and take in as much information about him as you can. Age, race, clothing, license plate number, everything.
If you can’t get away and have to fight, shoot to kill. Remember that you are the victim. Tell law enforcement officers that you were in fear for your life.
Situational Awareness: Make it a Game!
So how can you learn to keep your wits about you in a life threatening situation? You must train for it! Every time you go out make a game out of identifying your surroundings. Include your kids too! When you go into a restaurant, take note of how many exits there are and where they are. How many people are behind the bar? What are they wearing? Describe the people sitting next to you in detail. The trick is to study everything about where you are, and then have someone else ask you questions about it.
Wait until you are in the car and leaving to ask your questions. Kids absolutely love this game! Let them quiz you too!
Take a look around the next time you are in a restaurant. Most people have their faces in their phones, and are not even talking to each other. Most probably couldn’t remember the name of their waitress, let alone what she looks like. This game gets the entire table involved, even small children. Why is this important?
What if you had to shoot someone to defend your life, or the lives of people you loved? Do you think you could accurately describe in detail what occurred beforehand that caused you to pull the trigger? Could you describe the perpetrator? Could your kids?
All of these examples rely on sight and memory, but what about our other senses?
Situational Awareness: Hearing Games
While our sight is what we most rely on, our hearing is the most in tuned sense we have. We hear up to 100 times faster than we see, and sound molds our vision. Try games involving guessing sounds, and don’t make them easy! Stand behind a wall and strike a match, or break a stick, or rack a slide. There are endless odd sounds in our environment. And kids come up with some real doozies!
To be tuned in to your senses, you have to take them off of auto pilot. Sit quietly and intentionally listen. Even while at work, if you take the time to do this, you will be surprised at what you hear!
Situational Awareness: Taste, Smell, and Touch
While the remaining senses won’t play as important of a part in protecting you from an attack, they are still very important. Taste could alert you to poisons and rancid food, smell could alert you to smoke or a fire, and touch, especially in the pitch dark, could save you from too many dangers to list. You should learn to tune into all 5 of your senses!
Situational Awareness: Games You Can Play Alone
Not a day goes by that I don’t do this at least once: pull into a parking lot, study someone and their vehicle, and meticulously focus on what they look like, what they are wearing, what kind of car they are driving, and said car’s license plate. Then, throughout the day, I will try and recall each detail. It is hard at first, but gets much easier with practice! I started doing this years ago when I saw a suspicious guy at a gas station at 3 am. Now it has become a daily game.
You can also study people, and try to guess their profession. With some, like painters, it will be easy. But how about the lady in the business suit? Is she a teacher, or a lawyer? Or maybe former military? We let our minds wander aimlessly all day long. When you give your mind something to focus on, it becomes sharper. Memory games also fine tune your senses.
Situational Awareness: Why This is So Important
Eyewitness accounts are notoriously unreliable, as people have gotten used to looking at things without really seeing them, or what is beyond them. Take this awareness test and see how you do!
Ditch the tunnel vision and pay attention to your surroundings! Whether you are grocery shopping, out to eat, or out for a walk, play the game! There is so much in life you are missing. Focusing on your surroundings does not just mean focusing on the bad. Take the time to watch the sunset and that home run your just son hit. That beautiful deer and her fawn drinking from the creek are a joy that most miss.
Situational Awareness: Final Words
By no means do you need to become so paranoid looking for evil that you end up living in constant fear. Living in fear does not make you safer; it actually makes you less so. But, by becoming acutely aware of your senses and surroundings, you will improve not only your quality of life but also avoid potentially life threatening situations. Stay safe my friends.