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Situational Awareness: Using the O.O.D.A. Loop

I was recently made aware of some unsettling occurrences that took place at a local Target, a store where my own mother and probably a good number of my friends like to go.

Multiple women reported that a strange man followed them while they shopped.

Unfortunately, I hear stories all the time about women feeling uncomfortable about someone who is getting too close to them…or even too close to their children.

People were posting about this particular incident on a community Facebook site:

“He continued to appear almost everywhere I went in the store,” one woman stated.

“As I walked, he walked. He got a little too close for comfort,” another poster said.

Apparently this guy made a good number of women feel pretty uneasy, and they reported his odd behavior to the management. Some ladies mentioned that the manager didn’t really seem to care or do anything about the situation. All I know is that a lot of people were bothered by this and were looking for answers, especially since just the week before, a woman was abducted outside of another local Target and held at gunpoint for at least two hours while she was forced to withdraw money from various ATM machines.

Of course, things like this don’t have to happen to you or to your family—or even in your own neighborhood—in order to talk about situational awareness. Nowadays, we all have to be extra cautious, no matter where we are. Just remember: This is not about feeling scared or being paranoid. It’s about looking around and being aware of who is in your space. It’s about planning ahead, paying attention, and making good choices. And if something doesn’t seem right, listen to your instincts.

At the Fashion & Firearms Concealed Carry Extravaganza in Indianapolis, Indiana, Jonathan Wallace II of Native Executive Security shared some great tips for planning ahead, paying attention, and making good choices. He talked about using the O.O.D.A. Loop, which is a simple tool for us to employ to be more prepared and cautious as we go about our daily lives.

The O.O.D.A. Loop (coined by Colonel John Boyd in the 1950s) stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. This basically is an ongoing process that likely happens hundreds of time in a single day. But if we are more aware of the process and how it works, and if we have some management and control over it, I think we can train ourselves to be more aware, alert, and ready.

First we Observe. Even though we process approximately 80 percent of the information we receive with our sense of sight, we can (and do) make observations with our other senses, as well. So this is a great way to remember to pay attention. Look. Listen. Be aware of what’s happening all around you. It’s at this stage of the process that you just might spot that creepy guy in Target.

Once you observe, you are now in the Orient phase. In this stage, you are getting your bearings, and you are focusing your attention on what you have just observed. Maybe that creepy guy’s gaze is lingering, or he might be popping up in all the same places you are. You’ve consciously made a mental note of that.

The next step is the Decide step, in which you have to make a decision about what to do with what you have just observed and learned. Should you continue your shopping and see if the odd patterns and behaviors continue? Should you go to a store employee to report the issue? Should you leave everything and walk out?

Finally, in the last step, you have made your decision and you will Act upon it. So, maybe you leave Target with your children and call the store manager from the safety of your vehicle as you drive away.

Then the O.O.D.A. Loop begins again.

It’s good advice. And it’s a very simple adjustment that all of us can make to be more aware of our surroundings…and to possibly avoid some bad situations.

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