“I never saw them coming.”
“They came out of nowhere.”
“I had no idea they were there.”
These are phrases voiced by those who end up in bad situations because they did not see the danger or threat before it became a serious problem.
Situational awareness is defined as “the ability to scan the environment and sense danger, challenges and opportunities, while maintaining the ability to conduct normal activities.” But, it’s just as much a lifestyle as it is a skill.
The applications of situational awareness are infinite and there have been numerous experts who have commented on the need for this awareness. One of the most respected was Colonel Jeff Cooper. Originally meant for military applications, the principles he shared quickly spread to those concerned about their self-defense.
4 Levels of Situational Awareness
Colonel Cooper designed a color code chart that associates levels of awareness to specific colors. By understanding how we process danger, we can formulate a method to train ourselves to be more aware.
The first color is white. Condition White represents a state of complete unawareness and unpreparedness. In this state you are oblivious to things going on around you and are exceedingly vulnerable to attack.
The next level is yellow. Condition Yellow represents a state of relaxed alert. There is no specific, obvious threat present, but you are aware that danger is always a possibility. You are aware of people around you as well as the environment in general.
Next in line is Condition Orange. This is a heightened state of awareness in which you observe or are aware of a specific threat. In this condition, you are beginning to formulate possible responses to deal with the danger. An example of this is when you realize that a threat is indeed following you or advancing toward you.
The final condition level is red. Condition Red is the stage associated with action. This is when things have escalated to the point where you are either engaging a threat or are in retreat. It is physically and mentally exhausting to be in Condition Red, as it demands that you be 100-percent dedicated to the danger at hand.
Everyday Situational Awareness
Our goal is to maintain a Condition Yellow in our daily lives. This is the base level of awareness and the springboard for any further escalations in conditions. Staying at Condition Yellow in everyday life allows us to be aware of our surroundings and better protect ourselves from threats.
The ability to stay in Condition Yellow takes conscious effort in the beginning, but it will shortly become second nature. You can even make them into everyday ‘games’. What color was the car you parked next to? How many people were sitting near the park benches? Small exercises like this can enhance your base level awareness skills.