mall department store with people walking back and forth, unaware of being watched

What Is Situational Awareness and Why Is It Important?

Tip of the Week

You may have heard the term “situational awareness” before.

People unaware they're being watched from above at a mall while they eat.Usually, it’s used in the context of a spy or military film.  Simply put though, situational awareness is just the practice of knowing what is going on around you.  You show examples of situational awareness on a daily basis and probably don’t even know it.

The easiest example to give of using situational awareness is when you are changing lanes in a car.  You generally check your mirrors and your blind spots to make sure there is no danger, you assess the amount of time and distance it will take to change lanes, and you prepare yourself and the vehicle to move from one lane to the other before executing the maneuver.   Having a firm grasp of situational awareness can save you from a myriad of hazards ranging from the more serious like theft, kidnapping, and murder to accidents, trips and falls, and even something as simple as spilling a glass.

Generally, there are three facets to situational awareness and how our brain takes on the information about our surroundings.

These are:

  1. Information Gathering – What is going on around us, what are the environmental factors, and who is involved.
  2. Understanding and Processing – This is generally when our brain starts to form a threat assessment. There is a big difference in reaction for someone pulling a weapon on you to someone just brushing up against you in a crowded room.
  3. Anticipation – This is when our body tenses up and our brain goes into fight or flight mode. If you’ve assessed your threat properly, the next few moments should allow you to give yourself enough time to get to some relative safety.

Can I improve my current practice of situational awareness?

an eye peeking out from behind torn paperOf course, anything skill can be honed with enough practice.  The most important thing to remember is to be consistent and mindful.  Be “in the moment” more without your head being stuck to your phone screen and cognizant of your surroundings.  You need to be able to trust your feelings.  Many of our former and off-duty officers at Eagle Protective Group are professionally trained in situational awareness, and a big part of that training is trusting your feelings and instincts.  If something feels off or wrong, it probably is.

You need to get into the habit of watching people (not staring like a creepy person).  Watching people’s behaviors regularly will help you pick out times when they are acting oddly or suspiciously.  Look for their nonverbal cues, like reaching into their pockets or looking at a woman’s purse as they increase their walking pace.  Practicing this can be difficult in busy areas like shopping malls, but it is important to limit your distractions without making yourself a target in the process.  Be strategic about how you go about watching people.  Put yourself in a place with your back against a wall so nobody can sneak up on you.  Identify potential exits in the room or area you are in if you need them.

It can be difficult and exhausting to be on such a high alert all the time.  That is why having a Dallas security officer from Eagle Protective Group can alleviate some of the burden on your business and in your immediate vicinity.  If you have a business that incurs heavy foot traffic, let us concentrate on watching the floor while you attend to making your business grow and flourish. Contact us or Call us today: 972-241-3881

Learn more about Situational Awareness

Definition (Wikipedia)

5 Ways to Improve Your Situational Awareness