Video: WTF Is Situational Awareness?
Take a look at this video produced by Alex Fox from the Capable Civilian website about situational awareness. After being introduced to Alex, I’ve been able to do a podcast with him and get to know him, but after he took our online class, he went to the next level and summarized many of the main concepts about developing your situational awareness in this video. It is well worth the watch because getting #LeftOfBang and getting into Condition Orange are the same thing.
If you’re looking for other articles about Cooper’s Color Code and the role it plays with situational awareness, here are a few more articles and videos that we’ve written about the topic.
Transcript of the video:
Alexander: You’ve probably heard the term situational awareness, but if you’ve ever wondered to yourself, “What the hell is situation awareness, really? And how do I do it?” well, you’re watching the right video. Like most conversations about situation awareness, we’re gonna start with Jeff Cooper’s color code. If you’ve never heard of Jeff Cooper, let me put it this way: if Chuck Norris had been a Marine, he would have been Jeff Cooper.
In his system, the colors don’t represent the amount of danger that’s around you, they represent the amount of attention you’re paying to what’s around you.
Jeff: The hyenas of the world attack from behind, whether they have four legs or two, and if they have any chance at all, they’re gonna hit you when you’re looking the other way. So don’t be looking the other way.
Alexander: The lowest level is Condition White, or, as we might call it today, Phone-Drone Mode. In Condition White, a person is completely oblivious to everything around them.
Jeff: On White, you are not prepared for the problem, and you are not going to be able to handle it.
Alexander: A better idea is Condition Yellow, relaxed alert. Not paranoid, just paying attention to who’s around you. Colonel Cooper compared this to a continual radar sweep.
Jeff: Now, if you are on a relaxed alert, and you pick up a target, let’s just say this hypothetical radar which is going around and around, going bup, bup, there, something out there. Then you move from Yellow to Orange.
Alexander: Condition Orange is specific alert. While you still keep your radar sweeping, so that nobody else sneaks up behind you, you need to concentrate on the potential threat you’ve identified. If you can get away, now’s the time to do it. If you can’t, you need to be ready to set your boundaries and let the bad guy know you’re aware of him.
Jeff: If you go to Orange and then he declares himself, in other words, he hoists the jolly roger, the black flag with the skull and crossbones, branch out and Red.
Alexander: Condition Red is your battle station. If you can verbally deescalate, great. But you need to be ready to physically defend yourself.
Jeff: “I have a target, I know it’s a target. I’m going to use my force and violence if he does a certain thing. Now, what would that thing be? Well, it can be a whole lot of different things, we call it the mental trigger. A trigger is, quite often, a gun pointed at you. Sometimes it’s just a gun, sometimes it’s an enemy uniform. I can’t give you an example of what your mental trigger is going to be in every case, but you must have it ready.
Alexander: So the goal of situational awareness is to spot danger before it gets to you, giving you time to get away or get ready. As an added bonus, just being alert is going to make you a less attractive target to criminals who are looking for easy prey in Condition White.
Jeff: The fact that you know what’s going on discourages a certain kind of human predator.
Alexander: Now, Condition Yellow sounds complicated, but you probably already know what it feels like. Assuming you’re a decent driver, you’re probably in Condition Yellow anytime you climb behind the wheel. You see what’s going on all around you, and if something catches your attention, you respond to it. The challenge is that most of us are more familiar with road hazards than we are with human hazards. You hear advice like always sit facing the door, or look at reflections to see who’s behind you, and that’s fine, but if all you’re watching for is somebody committing a criminal act you’re going to be stuck going from Condition Yellow to Condition Red.
What you want to watch for are called Pre-event Indicators. That will give you time to switch to Condition Orange before an attack. The best advice I’ve found on identifying bad guys before they act comes from this book, “Left of Bang.” It’s based on the Marine Corps Combat Hunter program, which was developed to help Marines on patrol in Iraq and Afghanistan to identify people planning attacks.
Notice I said planning attacks. The whole point of “Left of Bang” is to identify and either avoid or neutralize violent intentions before they become violent actions. When you see brake lights ahead, you don’t wait until you hit the car in front of you to respond, you slow down or stop to avoid problems. That’s staying “Left of Bang.” The “Left of Bang” authors offer a whole online class in tactical analysis. I’ve taken it, and it’s great.
If you’re interested in this subject, I definitely recommend it. And, just to clarify, I have no business affiliation with those guys, nor have they evaluated or approved this video. But right now, here are three things you should be scanning for on your Condition Yellow radar. If you see somebody doing any of these things, especially if they’re approaching you, it doesn’t mean necessarily that they’re a bad guy, but you definitely need to go to Condition Orange and figure out their intentions.
Number one, Smuggling Behavior. We’re not talking about hiding drugs and money. We’re talking about somebody carrying a knife, gun, or bomb on their body. And they keep touching it to make sure it’s there, and/or it’s hidden. It’s that weird touching behavior, especially around the waistband, that you want to watch out for. Number two, Mission Focus. Remember that old song, “I’m a Girl Watcher?” Kind of creepy, right? When somebody’s paying a lot of attention to something or someone, and there’s no obvious good reason for them to be doing it, that should register on your radar. Especially if what they’re paying attention to is you or someone you’re with.
Number three, looking behind them, Checking Their Six. The fact is most people live in Condition White. If somebody’s looking around, looking behind them, they’re probably either a good guy keeping an eye out for bad guys who might be up to something, or a bad guy keeping an eye out for good guys who might stop them. Now, most of the time you’re not gonna see bad guys being as obvious as all that, but the big ID here is what the “Left of Bang” folks call Anomalous Behavior. That means people who are acting in a way that doesn’t fit the situation, whatever that may be.
Now, that takes a lot of practice. So here’s one critical tip. When you’re walking around when you’re in places, look at people’s hands before you look at their faces. Not only do the hands betray emotion, but also the hands are probably what they’re gonna use to hurt you with. You’d be amazed how many crimes are committed by people who walk into crowded areas carrying weapons that nobody even notices.
So to recap, what the hell is situational awareness? It’s a personal radar, a relaxed informed awareness of your surroundings just like you have when you’re driving. Watch for people with Smuggling Behavior, Mission Focus, or Checking Their Six, and look at people’s hands wherever you go. If you enjoyed this video, check out capablecivilian.com. Until next time, don’t be helpless.