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The Importance of Situational Awareness

The Importance of Situational Awareness

Some years ago, one of our patrolmen was sitting in his squad, in a dark alley between two buildings, just watching the traffic on the busy street in front of him. Across the street was a convenience store.  Our officer’s attention was drawn to a man standing in front of the store who seemed extremely nervous. He was turning this way and that, watching the cars that passed by on the busy street.

Our officer later said that the guy just looked out of place. Besides that, our officer said that he figured that a guy who was that nervous was either expecting trouble or was up to something. Accordingly, our officer made a few preparations and was ready when the nervous guy’s two buddies came out from robbing the store. Having been observant, the officer took the time to get his shotgun out and call for some backup. The three crooks were arrested without a shot being fired.

If we work at improving our observation skills, we often see things that are out of place, or just don’t seem to fit. We really don’t need to know the reason why, in most cases, it is just enough to know that something doesn’t fit. When that happens, we take the opportunity to either get away from the potential problem, or, not being able to leave, we get ready to deal with a worst-case scenario.

Being observant and beginning to take some sort of defensive action doesn’t mean that we are going to be rude to anyone. Nor does it mean that we are going to pull our defensive firearm. But we are going to be ready to do either, or both, should the need arise. 

In the past, I’ve talked about the fact that our society pretty much allows the bad guy to make the first move and then the good guy has to play catch-up if he expects to survive the encounter. Working at improving our observation skills gives us an early-warning system that somewhat evens the odds in our favor.

Whether walking or driving, we make an effort to observe what is going on around us. The quicker we spot questionable action, the quicker we can take steps to avoid it — and that should be our first choice of action. Obviously, we won’t do a very good job of this if we go around with our nose stuck in our cell phone. 

Be alert and observe. It saves lives.

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