Situational Awareness: the Right Way, Part II.
Situational Awareness Matters
Last week, I covered Situational Awareness - what it is and what it isn't. More importantly, I laid out the basic framework for how to develop good situational awareness practices. In case you missed it or want a quick review, just click here.
Recall, situational awareness in it's most basic form requires you to do 3 things:
1. Establish an environmental baseline,
2. Monitor for disruptive patterns, and
3. Take action (if necessary)
I covered steps one and two in my last post, so let's move on to step three - Taking Action.
If you observe disruptive patterns in the environment, which raise your suspicions, you must do something. You must take action. The action you take will depend on the circumstances, like whether you're an officer on duty or a concerned citizen just out on the town. Regardless of the kind of action you take, the objective is always the same - to confirm or deny your suspicions.
Suspicious activity is not a threat per se. There may be a reasonable explanation for the disruption. For instance, I was walking through the airport on trip when I heard a loud voice booming from across the way. Airports are exactly quiet places, so you can imagine how loud this person was. As I looked over, I saw a man pacing back and forth aggressively. He was yelling at no one in particular and kept throwing his hands in the air in as he spoke. He was so animated, it looked like he could go violent. For a moment, I thought he was having a conversation out loud with the voices in his head. As it turned out, he was just engaged in a lively conversation with someone on his cell phone while using a hands free device. Mystery solved.
Generally speaking, when you encounter a disruption to the baseline, your options are:
a.) Continue observing. If your suspicions are mild, you may need to gather more information and assess the situation. This may require moving to a better vantage point or to a position of cover if things get serious. You get the point.
b.) Confront the suspicious activity. When passive observation is insufficient to confirm or deny your suspicions, contact may be required. This doesn't mean you go hostile. Again, we're dealing with suspicion, not a threat. If you're in a crowded space and someone walks away from their backpack, you may say, "Excuse me, Ms. You seem to have left your backpack." If she laughs and returns for the pack, it was probably just an absent-minded moment. If she shoots you a frantic look and takes off running in the opposite direction, you may have bigger problems. Or, say you're working security at a special event when you spot a disheveled individual profusely sweating and mumbling to themselves as they head towards the building you're protecting. You don't know if this person is a threat, but your window to find out is quickly narrowing. So, you politely intercept them, introduce yourself and say, "You look like you could use some help." There's no reason to be rude at this point. You're just trying to engage in conversation to gather more information. Many attacks have been thwarted by police and security professionals through the simple use of conversation.
c.) Do nothing: for most of us, this is never an option. Doing nothing in response to suspicious activity is the action that many in the public are being conditioned to take. A person's failure to act could be done out of fear for being called a racist or bigot. For others, it could be the person didn't want to "overreact." Worst of all, are those who didn't speak up or take action because the "didn't want to get involved." Or, it could be the person noticed something wasn't quite right, but they simply didn't know what to do.
As military, law enforcement, and security-minded individuals, our job is not only to be aware of the environment around us, it's to educate and pass on what we know to others as well. The more people we have incorporated and plugged into the security apparatus, the greater our chances to intercept and thwart hostile attacks before they occur. We all need each other to do that.
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P.S. We're booking the 2018 calendar and will publish on our website soon. We have events scheduled in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, just to name a few. If you would like to host an event for your agency or private group, contact us today.