An In depth Look at Situational Awareness
As outlined before, the kicking and screaming part of combat are actually the culmination of a long and predictable process. This means that at every step before that happens you will have the opportunity to stop the conflict.
But in order to do this, you need to be aware of the situation and take the correct decision and this is where situational awareness comes in. Situational awareness is every person’s capacity of understanding a specific situation and making the best decision about it. We use soft versions of this skill in everyday life: crossing the street, buying the right type of cheese, choosing the best route to work and so on. However, situational awareness can help you make it out alive out of very dangerous, life-threatening situations. Situational awareness is a skill that soldiers, secret agents and police officers all have and it’s something you will need too.
Situational awareness has five levels of intensity, ranging from complete ignorance to your surroundings to obsessive fear and panic that will render one unable to act. Of course, as with many things in life, it’s better to be somewhere in the high-middle echelons. Here are the five levels:
Level 1: you’re completely “tuned out”, meaning you have no awareness of what’s around you. As far as you’re concerned, an armed guy might attack you there and then.
Level 2: this is the lowest level of active awareness, but it won’t give you much of an advantage except noticing clear dangers coming your way.
Level 3: At this point, you’re a bit more aware of what’s happening around you. You are focused, but if you’re not properly trained, you will tire quickly. This is where you need to start working on your situational awareness “stamina”.
Level 4: This is a level of high alert. You are paying attention to each and every detail and nothing could surprise you. The adrenaline rush will keep you on your toes and will give you the edge.
Level 5: This is the burnout phase. You are so shocked and afraid that you’re blocked. In this case you’re even more of a sitting duck than at Level 1.
Goes without saying that you should be always at Level 2 and ready to switch gear to 3 and 4. The most important thing is to be able to maintain a level of awareness, not simply achieve it.
In order to easily circulate between Levels 2, 3 and 4, you need to train. Training requires a bit of a paranoid attitude on your behalf at start, until your brain and your body gets used to it. This means looking at everything critically, even at the most basic things you run into on the street: building, people, roads. This doesn’t mean you have to attack people, but always be ready to react and don’t take anything for granted. In other words, fight your embedded assumption that everything is normal.