Situational Awareness

Greg BSA . . . Huh? What Did You Say?

Situational Awareness: The ability to maintain a constant, clear mental picture of relevant information and the tactical situation including knowledge of friendly and threat situations and relevant terrain (FM 17-96, 2000).

So There We Were

. . . sitting in front of a coffee shop, chatting with some friends and just enjoying a “winter” evening in So-Cal. For those that know me well, I am anything but average when it comes to situational awareness.  Since I was a kid, I have always had a knack for attention to small details and an uncanny, heightened sense of awareness.  I don’t know why. I just do.  The problem is that if I am not careful, it can annoy the crap out of friends and family around me. Sometimes I verbalize what I am observing and thinking.  I take the conversation off topic for something that seems completely meaningless to everyone but me.

The Meat of the Story

I am sitting outside the shop, coffee in hand, chatting with a group of friends.  It was just after dusk and a dark colored, nineteen-ninety-something Honda Civic pulled up.  My attention turned from the conversation for a few seconds to observe.  I notice a 5′-9″ tall, white male that weighed about 220 lbs. He is wearing a tan ball cap with an American flag patch on the front, khaki cargo pants and a black, polar fleece jacket.  I notice he is wearing desert-tan, military style “spec-ops” boots, and . . . he has an empty “serpa” pistol holster on his belt. This all happened within less than 5 seconds and I hardly missed a beat.

Proud Moment

As he lumbered back to his vehicle after getting a venti ice-coffee with cream, I nudged my wife who was sitting next to me. I asked her, “Did you see that goof-ball?”  To her credit, she immediately replied that he had a folding knife clipped on his pocket and that he probably had a gun in his vehicle (remember the empty holster?)!  Talk about silly, little moments to be proud of your significant other! What this told me is that she was practicing situational awareness in her daily life!

Situational Awareness Will Save Your AssSituational Awareness

Being aware of your surroundings provides you with valuable information that could end up saving your ass in an emergency.  Now, I am not suggesting that we all walk around gripping our cans of mace or stun guns lying in wait for the little old lady in the grocery store that might jump us for our pocket change.  The important thing to remember here is that we take notice when the environment around us changes. We make an assessment of the potential impacts given the current circumstances.  We stay in tune with all of our senses and assess the ever-changing situation around us.

7 Situational Awareness Habits

“So, now what?”, you ask.  Here are some simple survival tactics that can be used to improve the chances that you will find yourself still breathing air in the aftermath of a disaster scenario.

  1. Take notice of your surroundings
  2. Identify your primary and secondary escape routes.
  3. Keep a clear path to an exit (when indoors)
  4. Watch your “six” (back)
  5. Plan hasty rendezvous points
  6. Maintain clear visibility of the area around you
  7. Avoid people and/or objects that seem out of place

I am sure you noticed the italicized words throughout this piece . . . if you didn’t, you might want to work on your own situational awareness!

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About the Author

Greg B. is the president of Survival Tactics NOW! providing professional consultation in survival planning and emergency preparedness. He is an ardent outdoorsman and wilderness survival enthusiast.


  1. Aaron says:

    The most important aspect of SA to me is step 2. Knowing the escape routes can help you avoid most situations. Since I have young kids, my driving thought is how to keep them safe. I can’t do that in a “gun fight”. My best chance of keeping them safe is to get out quick after the threat is identified.

    • Thanks for the comment! That is a great point and I completely agree. A gunfight or any other kind of altercation should be avoided at all costs; however, you should be prepared if there is no other alternative to do what is necessary to protect the lives of your family.