In the minds of many, surviving a disaster will depend on how well they are prepared. Did they buy enough emergency food? Is there enough water? Is the emergency kit up to the task? While these are the physical items needed for survival, there is a deeper skill that must be developed if we are to make it through a long, tough time—situational awareness.
In day-to-day life, you are encouraged to have good situational awareness. Situational awareness is as simple as it sounds. It is being aware of not only your surroundings, but also the potential dangers they can present. It is not enough to know that a large dog is nearby, it is equally important to know that it can bite you.
The late Colonel Jeff Cooper developed a four-stage color code system to teach awareness. While not originally designed for a tactical situation, the applications are seamless. Col. Cooper was a proponent of a prepared mind. The color codes were a way for people to develop the right mindset to deal with danger. It ranges from unaware to “ready for battle.” The optimal day-to-day state is what he labeled “Yellow.” This is a state where you are aware of everything around you. While not paranoid, you are simply plugged into what is going on around you and living in Condition Yellow.
Always be aware of your surroundings and who is nearby. This skill will allow you a better opportunity to escape or fight if you face trouble. This skill can take some practice, however, in order to not seem paranoid. Small, smooth moves with your head and eyes will allow you to scan a wide area without seeming to be looking around. Another skill to practice is storing relevant items in your mind. This can be especially helpful with people you may see. One trick of the trade is to give them a fictitious name. Comparing them to a similar-looking celebrity is a good way as well.
Situations where extra awareness is warranted occur in our everyday lives. The reason is that we get so accustomed to these locations that we tune things out. This is demonstrated by the fact that most auto collisions occur closer to people’s homes, as many people just go into cruise-control mode as they get closer to home.
Use your environment as a tool. The reflective surfaces and natural barricades we encounter each day can be valuable assets. Use reflections in shop windows to scan behind you as well as car mirrors you pass by on the street. These are natural tools that allow you to covertly watch behind you as you move though day-to-day life.
Avoid static groups on the street by walking behind cars or other blockers. Groups assembled for no apparent reason rarely have an upside. While they can be benign, it is always better to err on the side of caution. While we do not want to develop a sense of paranoia, we must respect the fact that spontaneous groups are generally reacting to something that we know nothing about. Steer clear and stay in Condition Yellow.
When you are inside, your sense of awareness must continue. Use more than your eyes. Is there a different smell or sound that catches your attention? Use all of your senses, including the most important one—your intuition. If a little internal alarm goes off and gives you the feeling that something isn’t right, you should listen to that voice in your head. The best plan is to move away from your current location. Once again, we do not want to panic or seem paranoid. Just calmly and directly walk away from the situation via the closest exit.
Living in Condition Yellow is a lifestyle more than anything else. It takes some practice to master, but in short order you will instinctively be plugged into what is going on around you. You will notice people you may have missed before. You will see the stranger sitting in a car down the street, and you will be better at keeping yourself at a safe distance from anything that might be a threat. Awareness provides us opportunities. It allows options in tough situations, and that can make all the difference in the world.
Being in Condition Yellow requires that you have the means to respond to danger. There may be times when escape is not an option and you may be forced to defend yourself. The tools of that realm are easy to carry and can easily become a part of your everyday life.
The first suggested item is a multi-tasker and an essential part of any kit: a flashlight. A good choice for this is the Streamlight ProTac HL. It is small, bright and includes a scalloped bezel that can double as a weapon. Another multi-use tool is a tactical pen such as the Tuff Writer Frontline. This pen doubles as a writing instrument as well as a great self-defense tool. One last item is designed purely for self-defense. Pepper spray is carried by police officers for a reason: It is effective. A good option in this area is the Kimber PepperBlaster. It is an easy-to-use and accurate weapon that mixes the ergonomics of a gun with the less-lethal option of pepper spray.
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All of these items fit easily in your pocket or purse and should be a part of your everyday carry loadout. All of these weapons gain effectiveness with some simple training. A scalloped-bezel flashlight becomes even more effective if you know how and where to strike. The same holds true for our tactical pen.
Basic martial arts training goes a long way and does not require decades in a dojo to master. The primary lesson we learn from the martial arts is to strike soft areas with hard objects. For example, striking the neck or eyes with your flashlight can produce much better results than trying to hit your attacker in the head.
While the physical lessons are important, the mental training that you receive will be equally empowering. The first thing you will learn is that you are responsible for your own safety and defense. The news is littered with stories of women that yelled “rape” or simply screamed for help, only to be ignored. You must prepare your mind with the fact that you will more than likely be fighting by yourself. While not an optimal situation, it is not as dire as it may seem. With professional training, you can accomplish things you may have never thought possible.
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More powerful weapons to consider include knives and firearms. With these selections, we have now entered the lethal-force zone and care must be taken to respect that. While you should never hesitate to use lethal force if your life is in jeopardy, it is essential that you weigh the situation carefully. Keep a cool head and quickly evaluate what is going on. Once again, the survival benefits of situational awareness arise.
For personal protection the Glock 17 is tough to beat. Lightweight, easy to use and reliable, it has been a standard in the law enforcement community for decades. In the knife category, the Hogue EX folder is a prime candidate. Strong, sharp and lightweight, it is a great knife for personal protection. Professional training cannot be emphasized enough when it comes to guns and knives. There are many factors involved in the use of these weapons, and your chances of success improve with serious defensive training.
Tragic and stressful events have a way of changing people’s behaviors. While short-term events with a foreseeable end do not affect people much, long-term situations with no clear solution can dramatically change behavior. During a disaster, people will always panic. Their lack of preparedness and disbelief that something could actually happen are the driving forces behind this. As an event draws out, though, their panic will oftentimes turn to desperation. That resulting shift moves them into the potential threat category.
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Someone who is rational and calm in day-to-day life can transform under great pressure. Their desire to survive or provide basics for their family can make them do things they would have never thought possible. These people have the potential to be dangerous if they see you and your supplies as an answer to their problems. I have long suggested that people not make public the specifics of their emergency preparedness plans or supplies. You are simply advertising to those who failed to prepare where they can potentially get what they need. Beyond the individual threats, civil unrest can become a major threat as well. New Orleans experienced this during Hurricane Katrina. Looting was rampant, and chaos ruled for some time.
In a disaster, your situational awareness must be “on” at all times. This awareness, coupled with carrying personal protection gear, can make all the difference in the world. Your everyday-carry gear in a disaster situation should include four primary items: a handgun, extra ammunition, a knife and a flashlight. Less-lethal options can also be useful. Pepper spray can be useful against animals and allow you to preserve ammunition. Once again, part of any serious disaster preparedness must also include training with these weapons. Simply owning a gun or occasionally plinking with it will not provide you sufficient skills. This also holds true for your knife. You must know how to use them and use them well.
There are many triggers that force us from one color code to another. It could be something as obvious as an attacker with a knife or as subtle as a gut feeling. The framework around elevation of our color codes is all based around threats and potential threats. In short, the more dangerous it becomes, the higher we move up our scale. With practice, the transition will be smooth, but it can be challenging in the beginning. It is because of this challenge that you are encouraged to teach your children about situational awareness and the color codes as early as possible.
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The method you choose, however, should be less about the lethal dangers around us and more about awareness. Simple games like challenging them to remember the color of a passing car or to count how many people are on a corner create lifelong skills. If they begin when they are young, the skills become second nature and awareness is just part of their everyday lives.
Living in Condition Yellow is a lifestyle above all things. The phrase of “ignorance is bliss” is true. It can also be lethal, however, if you are caught unprepared. Awareness of problems allows us time to create solutions. From everyday events like seeing an accident down the freeway and taking an early exit to avoid traffic, to seeing a mugger before he can get close to you, Condition Yellow is where we should be. We live in a dangerous world, and the best way to deal with it is to stay in Condition Yellow and enjoy the options it provides.
For More Information
Glock: http://us.glock.com; 770-432 1202
Hogue: http://www.hogueinc.com; 800-438-4747
Kimber: http://www.kimberamerica.com; 888-243-4522
Streamlight: http://www.streamlight.com; 610-631-0600
Tuff Writer: http://www.tuffwriter.com; 480-329-6105