Vigilance: Your First Defensive Weapon

As permit holders, we are expected to be a little more aware of our surroundings than the average person. The Boston Marathon bombing serves as a chilling reminder that threats often occur with little or no warning. It also underscores the harsh reality that being armed is no guarantee that we will not be victims. Having a gun on one’s hip is of little use if we are unwittingly standing next to a garbage can hiding an IED.

But we should still take whatever steps we can to protect ourselves as much as possible. And this starts with basic awareness, of both the physical characteristics of our environment, as well as who is sharing it.

It is surprising how often that otherwise intelligent people put themselves into what could only be called physical “traps” – an elevator, for example, or walking down a narrow, dark alley because it is a shortcut to where they parked their car. Instead, take the route that is open, well lit, and more likely to have other people around.

When you walk into a restaurant, where do you usually sit? Do you simply look for an empty table, or follow the host/hostess to whatever section they take you? Whenever entering any eating establishment, first check the layout before deciding where to sit. I normally pick a spot that is close to an exit – in the event of a problem (whether violence or something like a fire) I want to be able to get out…fast.

Not only do I sit where I can get out quickly, but also where I have a clear view of everyone who comes in the front door. And when I walk in, I always scan the entire facility, just to see who else is there. We should endeavor to be constantly aware of who else is in our space, and what they are doing.

To be clear, I’m not talking about paranoia. Worry is a useless emotion. What I do recommend is that we should always be alert, both consciously and unconsciously. As discussed above, we consciously note everything, and everyone, around us.

But we should also listen to that internal “threat alarm” that we all have – that little voice inside that suddenly tells us “something isn’t quite right.” It may be a chill down our spine or the hairs on our neck suddenly standing up, or just a vague “uh-oh” feeling.  Either way, listen to it. Your intuition exists as nature’s warning system.

In my carry classes, we use a simple system of just three alert levels. Imagine a traffic light: Green, Yellow, Red. We avoid condition “White” (i.e. virtually unaware) which describes most people today ¾ Listening to I-pods, talking on mobile phones, and of course, texting. It is said that a sexual predator’s “dream date” is a woman walking alone, music buds in her ears, thumbs clacking away in relentless texting.

Green is not “stressed out” or anxious. It is relaxed, but alert and aware ¾ watching, listening, and paying attention to our “threat alarm” at all times. All permit holders should be at Green, all the time.

Yellow is any time that something in our environment might be a threat. Whether it is unruly guys in a restaurant who suddenly start arguing loudly, or a woman walking around a park who suddenly notices that two guys seem to be following her.

Red is at the instant a threat becomes immediate. It could be someone overtly threatening or actually attacking you, or you could get caught in the middle of a gang-fight in a restaurant. Worst of all is something like the Colorado movie theater shooting – dark, chaotic, and a crowd of people.

No one can foresee or anticipate every threat – the scenarios are endless. But by always being at “Green” in the first place, we can at least give ourselves a fighting chance.

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