Essentially, Cooper broke down alertness levels into four colors: White, Yellow, Orange and Red.
In condition white, you are relaxed and unaware of what is going on around you.
Ideally, you will only be in condition white when asleep, but realistically we often drop our guard when we are at home or in some other environment we assume to be safe.
In condition yellow, you remain relaxed, but are aware of who and what is around you.
This merely means that you are paying attention to the sights and sounds that surround you whether you are at home or moving in society. In comparison to condition white, you simply have moved your alertness to a level of attention that will prevent you from being totally surprised by the actions of another person.
You are not anticipating a threat, but rather keeping your awareness on your surroundings and the other people around you.
In condition orange, you have identified something of interest that may or may not prove to be a threat. Until you are satisfied that no threat exists, your “radar” will stay focused on that possible threat (but not to the point where you are oblivious to other possible threats).
If you are well trained, your subconscious mind will be visualizing “what if” situations as possible solutions should an attack take place.
If the focus of your attention in condition orange does something you find threatening, you will shift to condition red.
Notice here that condition Red IS NOT the firing stroke. Instead, condition red simply changes the focus of your attention from a potential threat to a potential target. You will draw your weapon, or move still further to sight acquisition, only if the potential target’s actions dictate such a response.
If you are attacked in red, you should be fully prepared to defend yourself. Whether or not you have a gun in hand or on target will depend on the circumstances, but mentally, you are already ahead of the game.
Cooper’s Awareness Color Code system has lasted so long because of it’s simplicity. Four colors allows just enough variety for all problems without being too complicated.
Well-adjusted individuals can run through the color code dozens of times every day and be no worse for it. Actually, most police officers and security professionals who learn the color code realize they have been taking these steps on their own all along.
In closing, we must be ready for whatever comes our way, be it an armed attacker, an intruder in your home, or simply refusing to be a victim, the central theme to this is preparing your skills physically, but most importantly, mentally.
Stay safe and keep your mind sharp!