Situational Awareness is the KEY to Self-Defense

I might be rehashing some things you have already heard me say, but recent events compel me to speak out again.

When I am asked, “What can I do to stay safe?” the best answer contains just two words: pay attention!

The first thing you can do is put your smartphone in your pocket and start looking at what’s happening around you. For all you people reading this right now on a smartphone, I expect you to be behind a locked door or to have a lookout you trust with your life within arm’s reach. If one of those elements does not describe your current situation, YOU ARE AT RISK.

Why am I saying this now? Two reasons:

Before the live on-air shooting of three people, the gunman approached, pulled out his gun, said the word “bitch,” and then stood by with his gun out for more than 20 seconds…and none of the victims noticed anything until he fired the first shot.

I’m not saying the outcome would have been any different, but there is a chance that something could have changed. People would have had the chance to fight back if only they had paid attention to someone walking in on them while they worked.

The next thing that really set me off was an incident in Omaha where a woman was attacked while standing in the lobby of a church. Her purse was stolen and she was punched in the head and knocked to the ground.

It angers me—but does not surprise me—that criminals would violate the sanctuary of the church. But looking at the video, there are some things the woman could have done differently to stay—if not safe—safer.

First up, she had her back to an unlocked door and she was not paying attention to anything but the pamphlets on the table. Granted, she was in a church. It is likely her safe place. The criminals not only took her purse, but they took her sense of security as well.

Situational awareness is not just looking around; it also involves actively changing things to make your surroundings safer.

In the case of the news crew that was shot, when someone walks onto the set or near the workspace, that person should be addressed immediately. Ask questions. Get answers. If you don’t immediately get the response you like, be moving and looking for an escape route or an improvised weapon.

At the church, the woman should have remembered my cardinal rule of being inside a building: if at all possible, be where you can see the door. A double bonus: if she would have had the small table between the attackers and her, she would have had more time to respond or maybe move or access a weapon if she had one. This incident is also a good reason why we tell people not to carry guns in purses.

I understand that she is 76 years old and there might not have been much she could have done against two attackers, but that does not mean she should do nothing. If you are an older person, or if you know an older person, situational awareness becomes all the more important in order to gain every advantage.

A pistol is a fine tool for self-defense, but it is not the only element of effective self-defense. If you don’t even see the attack coming, your gun won’t do much good.