5 Factors of Situational Awareness


Situational awareness is one of the most important skills a person can possess in today’s turbulent world. From work to home and everything in between, situational awareness should be a core foundation for the personal-defense minded. The following are 5 basic factors of situational awareness – the more we comprehend, the better our foundation will be.

1. What is Situational Awareness? 

It is impossible to implement a skill without fully understanding what it is. Although the term “situational awareness” seems self-explanatory, many people lack full understanding. Situational awareness is the perception of environmental elements and events with respect to time or space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their future status. Basically, fully understanding what is going on around you and the effects that could come from it. This is not something we possess naturally, but it is a skill that we can strengthen. In many accident cases or situations that require self-defense there is one commonality – the parties involved missed something and were caught off-guard. From the driver that pulls out in front of you because they were not paying attention, to the victim who was attacked while distracted, situational awareness was missing. We must learn to be aware of our surroundings—always using critical thinking skills. The more effort we give to achieving this, the more it will become second nature. (Source: Mica Endsley)

2. Utilize Your Senses

Unless otherwise impaired, we have five basic senses. Sight, sound, hearing, touch and smell. These senses are constantly working without having to even think about it. We assume we are taking in the entire picture of our surroundings, but this is a sort of illusion. Most of us are typically only paying attention to specific things instead of everything. Strengthening our situational awareness requires becoming intentional about it. We must purposely begin to utilize our senses to a greater degree and train for observation. A great way to do this is by incorporating games. One example would be to spend a few minutes observing and then proceed with a Q&A session. Take an example a restaurant. Take a few minutes to survey the space—after observation proceed with the Q&A. Some ideal questions would be:

  • Where are the exits?
  • What color was our server’s hair and what is their name?
  • How many people were seated around us?
  • Who looks dangerous?

This is just one example, there are many gaming ideas available online that are fun and beneficial in heightening your senses and observational skills.

3. Trust Your Instincts

“I thought I was being paranoid or overreacting!”  We have all heard this timeless phrase and even said it ourselves. Your gut instinct is your intuition and is considered a sixth sense. In many cases where hindsight is 20/20, people often live with regret wishing they had heeded the sense of warning that came over them prior to an accident or incident. As the old adage goes, it is better to be safe than sorry. If you feel something is not quite right, or suddenly have a sense of urgency to unforeseen danger, always listen to that. This should be understood as living prepared—instead of thinking you are paranoid.

4. Have the Right Tools

Avoidance should always be the key to any dangerous situation or emergency. In a self-defense situation the main objective is to never have to draw your firearm or utilize your defensive weapon of choice. With good situational awareness this can be achieved. Even with impeccable situational awareness skills a person could still find themselves in a threat or emergency situation. This is where EDC, (everyday carry) gear comes into play. It is important to have the right tools, training and education that goes with them to fully understand how and when they should be utilized. Firearms and self-defense weapons, pocketknives, tourniquets, first-aid kits, etc., are all part of the EDC spectrum and vary for each individual. Finding what works best for you is the first step in being prepared with the right tools.

5. Know How to React

This last factor is a sum of the preceding four. When a situation arises, whether it be a self-defense situation or some other type of emergency, your reaction is what everything comes down to. Typically, in these instances your reaction needs to be determined within seconds. Deciding how an incident should be handled can often times be delayed due to shock, stress and most commonly just trying to catch up or process what in the world is going on. Through training, education, and incorporating good situational awareness an individual has the ability to react quickly, efficiently and effectively.

In conclusion, you must grasp what situational awareness is. When you’re out and about—continually observe your surroundings and trust your instincts. Make sure to have the right tools available and know how to react if needed. Proper and consistent training will empower you to live a safer life.



Karen Hunter

By Karen Hunter
Karen is a firearms instructor, industry consultant and contributor to GetZone, Athlon Outdoors and BRCC. Follow Karen on Instagram and Facebook or visit her website at thekarenhunter.com




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