While chatting with my mother-in-law recently, we got to talking about The CP Journal and the work that we do.  She is a great supporter of us and is always interested in what we are working on. In our conversation, she said that our content is very interesting but she sometimes has trouble taking our writing and using it herself because she is a civilian and doesn’t work in security or law enforcement.  Because we spend a significant amount of time training professionals that are already well versed in the basics of observation and threat recognition, we tend to gloss over how everyday people can put these same skills to work for themselves.  Based on themes we’ve noticed in student questions through our online training platform, we are spending the month of February digging into a particular step in our observational process called the “hasty search”.  The purpose of this post will be to frame what the hasty search is for civilians and put some simple steps into your hands to be able to conduct a hasty search everywhere you go.

The hasty search does not have to be complicated.  In plain English, the hasty search is the first thing people do when they walk into any environment. Everyone already does it, they just might not realize it. Everyday civilians probably spend about one to two seconds subconsciously conducting their own hasty search when they step foot into a new environment. The first step is to ask yourself when you walk in to a place, in terms of your personal safety and security, are you happy or are you nervous? Those are the only two options.  More often than not, you are quickly determining that the area is generally positive and you are good to go, or happy. There are many things that actually could lead you to feel happy. They could be the faces of the other people in the room, the noise level, the cleanliness, the way people are interacting with each other, and the ease of accomplishing whatever it is you are there to accomplish in the first place.

Occasionally, you may walk into a place and feel nervous as soon as you arrive. You could be nervous for a number of reasons, including if the noise level is loud when you don’t want it to be, it’s eerily quiet, or it’s not what you expected. The place is a mess and there’s trash everywhere. People are arguing or even fighting with each other. Some examples of places that might make you feel this way are a crowded store on Christmas Eve, a family member’s house around the holidays that just started talking politics, or a bank that’s in the process of being robbed.

So what does this mean, the feeling of either happiness or nervousness? These feelings are your body’s way of telling you what the indicators of the collective mood you are walking into are saying to you. Everyone gets these feelings whenever they enter any place, ever. When you go to the grocery store, gas station, coffee shop, or bakery, the first few seconds when you arrive you are conducting a hasty search to give yourself the comfort of continuing.

Now, here’s where it gets a little tricky.  Most of the time the baseline, or what is normal, is positive and you are happy.  However, sometimes the baseline for the collective mood of an area can be negative and will cause you to feel nervous.  In that instance, negative is what is normal.  Let’s take the bank being robbed as an example. If you walk into a bank right now while it is in the process of being robbed, your body will tell you, pretty early on, that something is off. You might notice that it’s unusually quiet or very loud with people yelling. You might see people lying on the ground or men in ski masks with guns. These first few indicators are telling your body to stand guard and use caution to accomplish your task. A negative mood in this case is normal for a bank that’s being robbed.

By quickly assessing whether the mood is positive or negative you are taking the first step towards setting the baseline for what you should be able to expect for the rest of the time that you are planning to spend at any given place.

So you’ve walked in and determined that the mood is either happy or nervous. What’s next? The next step is to look at the individual people and confirm your happy or nervous feeling. Do other people look happy or nervous? If you said that you were initially happy and everyone else looks happy, then you’re probably right. The mood is positive and the people are comfortable. You can now be proud of yourself for being aware of your surroundings and confirming that you are safe. However, if you are happy (comfortable), but everyone else is nervous, your body might be lying to you. You should probably listen to what everyone else is telling you with their bodies by observing the universal signs of human behavior, accept that the mood is in fact negative, or nerve-racking, and make that your baseline instead.=

And that’s it. That’s the hasty search. Most people can conduct their hasty search in less time than it took you to read this post, and that’s the point. The hasty search is important for everyone to do quickly in order to determine the baseline. Once you know what’s going on in the place you are in, you can be on alert for people that aren’t acting like everyone else. Those are the anomalies to watch out for because they have different intentions than you and everyone else that is acting just like you. You should also be aware that everyone is starting to do this everywhere they go now, even my mother-in-law. By conducting your own hasty search, everywhere you go, you are taking the best first step towards ensuring your own safety in any situation. Throughout the month we will continue to talk more about the hasty search, so please continue to let us know how the hasty search plays into your own processes by sharing your experiences via e-mail at training@cp-journal.com.