Learning how to be more situationally aware is not about learning a new life skill, it’s about using life skills you already possess, from the perspective of personal safety.
“Having awareness means using your senses and intuition to notice something is off in your environment. Then, understanding what that means to you and your safety. Lastly, taking action to preserve your safety.”
Last week, there was a bank robbery and hostage situation in Central MN. It started in the middle of a weekday afternoon. There are not a lot of details being shared yet, but two points I felt compelled to write about for this week’s blog.
First, the suspect displayed erratic behavior in the bank lobby before the situation escalated.
During presentations, I stress the importance of noticing anomalies in your environment. A person displaying behaviors that do not match the baseline. Behaviors you would not normally expect to see in the environment. Anomalies can also be objects you would not normally expect to see in an area, but for the purposes of this post, I’m going to focus on behaviors.
Think about what type of behaviors you would normally expect to see while visiting your bank. People are generally quiet, almost in a library-type way. Due to the private nature of personal finances and the importance of security, bank employees and patrons tend to speak in hushed tones. The amount of distance for personal space is also increased, even pre-pandemic. No one wants someone looking over their shoulder at personal identification information or bank account numbers.
Behaviors that would be considered anomalies would be the opposite of what I described above. Someone being loud, getting too close to other patrons of the bank, pacing around instead of patiently waiting to meet with a bank employee.
No matter what type of environment you’re in, if someone’s behavior is an anomaly from the baseline, pay attention. If any of your intuition alarms start going off, leave the area immediately. There is absolutely no reason to stick around to see IF something bad is going to happen. None.
Stay calm and get to safety (leave the environment). Even if you read the behaviors wrong, you’re still safe. If you stay in the environment because you aren’t quite sure the person’s behaviors are threatening, it can get worse real fast. There’s nothing cool or fancy about getting to safety. Hollywood doesn’t make money off showing people avoiding dangerous situations. But real life isn’t Hollywood.
“You don’t have to be right, but I’d hate for you to be wrong.”
Second, when there is an active situation where lives are in danger, do not GO TO the scene to spectate.
In today’s world, real-time information and updates are shared immediately and broadcast all over the world via the internet. As someone who spends a good chunk of time studying violence and pre-threat indicators, I understand the curiosity when a situation is happening. I talk about the importance of being curious about your environment in order to stay present and notice anomalies. But that’s when you’re already in the environment. Being curious does not mean you should stop what you’re doing, get closer to the scene, and take a seat on the grass. (Yes, there literally were gawkers at the bank situation).
As I mentioned above, when a situation is happening in real-time, it can get much worse real fast. Law enforcement should not have to worry about keeping “spectators” safe. Victims of a situation don’t want to feel like people are watching events unfold, while eating popcorn and drinking a soda, when they’re having one of the worst days of their life. And, the suspect or suspects, may actually feel motivated to cause more damage to increase the perception that they are a “badass”.
Situational awareness is being present, staying curious about your environment, and taking action to get to safety the moment your intuition tells you it’s time to leave.
You already have the life skills needed to keep yourself and loved ones safe. Don’t fight your intuition because you want front row seats to the action. You may end up being a victim to that action.
“This life’s hard, but it’s harder if you’re stupid.”
-George V. Higgins