Situational Awareness - Cooper's Colors Jun 28,2017

Fundamentals ( Basics )

Situational Awareness: A Preppers Best Friend

Awareness correlates with a warrior mindset; a decidedly important piece of overall preparation to improve your protective bubble. Situational awareness is exactly what it states, you must be aware of your situation and that environment determines your posture and state of readiness. 

I have always been a fan of Jeff Coopers color code that assigns a color to a state of mind. White, Yellow, Orange and Red. The image to the left was found on the Internet, and I find it’s important to observe heart rate levels as this comes to play in follow on articles.

  • White indicates you are unaware of anything and is not a condition you should seek in your waking hours of the day. White should be reserved for your rest and sleep time (even when you are in your home you should be in condition yellow).
  • Yellow is a state of awareness, there is no perceived threat; however, you are always scanning and surveilling the environment.
  • Orange is a heightened state of awareness of readiness. You have noticed something has your attention and is possibly a threat to you or to your loved ones. This is also a preparation phase where you assess the situation and continue to scan the environment. Further, you are in a decision-making process and quickly determine what actions to take next. It also offers an opportunity to take action (fight or flight)…. yes, it is okay to run away. In fact, you should attempt to get away whenever possible.
  • Red is the highest condition and means you have a threat and are likely in a position where flight is no longer an option; although, you should continue to attempt to escape the situation when possible but you also need to take action to stop the threat from hurting you or your loved ones.

An understanding of the colors assists you to approach situational awareness of any given circumstance. In the next few articles entitled, “Stress and Combat Mindset” and “Stress Inoculation” I will discuss an enhanced version of the color code that takes in to consideration the stress factors your body experiences as the levels of perception increase. What is important to understand for the situational awareness tool is that it’s likely the most critical area of a warrior mindset to build upon. If you speak with me, I try to look you always in the eye and make that personal connection; however, if you continued to watch my actions (especially my eyes) you may think I’m not really interested in what you’re saying. This is not the case; I am watching my environment and always scanning for out-of-place actions. I am listening to what you are saying; however, I’m also aware of what is around. For most women sitting with me, they may think I am checking out other women in the room or it may appear that my attention span is that of a three-year-old; my wife can testify to all this (especially to the three-year-old attention span). However, now she has grown accustomed to my wandering eyes when we’re sitting in a restaurant as I occasionally scan the room, especially when someone new walks in or to a flash of any random movement. She has picked up on my traits and too scans areas I may not be able to see, she notices things that are out of place and has become a part of me. Together, we can work as a team in any environment. Situational awareness is all part of this, where you sit in a room, how you observe the environment around you, and continue to notice what is out of place.

This posture is not only for when you’re out in public venues, it applies to your home, in the car, and even in the workspace. Heck, it even applies when you’re on vacation and, yes… even on the golf course. In these environments, I continue to maintain situational awareness. As your circumstances change, you adjust to higher states of situational awareness. It must be applied in a manner you can live in all the time (State of Yellow). You do not have to over-react to situations, just use critical thinking skills and always believe in your gut. If intuition tells you something is amiss, then something is likely wrong. And, this may be an opportune time to depart the area. No one has sufficiently explained to me that 6th sense (you know, the hair standing up on the back of your neck) the feeling in your stomach that something is wrong. Whatever it is and however it manifests, always go with it, within reason. I mean there have been times when I felt it but due to other concerns I had to continue with the actions putting me in this place. The last time I got hit with an IED in Iraq both my teammate and I felt it was going to happen. Of course, there were many telltale signs but that feeling was there when we got the mission. We even called it, exactly where we would be hit. And, BOOM!... we were correct. An argument can be made that having a 6th sense is also situational awareness and how you manage it may be the difference between success and failure.

Environment awareness coincides with situational awareness and is explained as follows. Knowing your environment and reading people, objects, and sounds are an important part of growing. As little children, we observe naturally better than most adults. Adults become complacent and forget the little things that provide clues to any given situation. An angry person in a fight at a restaurant is bad but an angry person at a restaurant in a fight and carrying a concealed weapon is another thing that changes how to best GET AWAY! from this situation. You can adjust this to any scenario but the point I’m making is to notice what is around you. Look for the signs that are there, bulging areas or loose fitting clothing on a sketchy character, are likely places to conceal weapons. Unattended bags, cars, or people that do not belong in an area are part of situational awareness through your perception of the environmental factors around you.

As mentioned in other articles on the warrior mindset, we arrive with different levels of what we know, also called cognitive knowledge. So, start where you are and assess your current level of situational awareness. If you’re not in the habit of paying attention to what’s around, that’s great, consider yourself lucky.  Now change and reverse this before your luck runs out. There is a saying in the military (surely, in law enforcement community as well), “stay alert, stay alive” Words to live by that assist you in the initial stages or in the continuation of situational awareness.


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