By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2014, All Rights Reserved
Anyone that has any training in any self-protection discipline knows that when it comes to survival awareness is king. Some people take this further than others; I know several people who have developed a great relaxed attitude and their mantra is “keep your head on a swivel” and as they go through life they just calmly keep looking around and keep track of what is around them. I know others that have gotten paranoid.
I have a couple friends that can only sit certain places. If they walk into a restaurant they look around and find a table, never a booth, where they have a wall to their back, a clear view of the main entrance, and are fairly close to an emergency exit. They will go as far as to stop the hostess and tell them, “I’m sitting here” and then mess up their flow on a busy Friday night and piss off the staff.
I understand this mindset perfectly although I don’t advocate it. If the restaurant is empty I’ll politely ask if I can sit in a table (always a table) in a certain area but I’m never pushy and I try to never inconvenience the staff. Having an armed robbery or an active shooter situation at the restaurant while you’re there is fairly unlikely while the hostess letting the kitchen staff know it is ok to mess with your food because you’re a “problem customer” happens all the time. Never piss off someone who handles your food.
Anyway, awareness skills are great and it is a mindset that can save your life. The important thing is to embrace awareness training while not making family and friends feel uncomfortable or paranoid around you. To that end I have four simple awareness exercises that will give you great awareness skills and you can do them without freaking anyone out.
The first is a great exercise that is practiced by everyone from police officers and security personnel to special operations forces, it is called the “what would you do game.” The great thing about this game is that you can play with yourself or with another person. I play this game occasionally with my wife while in the car and I’ve also played it with some younger family members to start getting them to think about their own safety.
The game is simple, as you go about your life you come up with a scenario and ask yourself, or someone else, what would you do? A great thing about this game is that while there are some answers that are better than others there really are no wrong answers. For example, you’re sitting at a stop light waiting patiently and you say to yourself, “ok, the guy in front of me gets out of his car with a crowbar and walks over to me to kill me. What do I do?” Then you think through what you would do right then. There are a lot of situations:
While driving down the road a car tries to run you off the road, what do you do?
While walking down the street you notice someone following you, what do you do?
While in a restaurant a fight breaks out, what do you do?
While on your couch watching TV the front door smashes open and two men enter your house, what do you do?
While sitting in your office you hear a scream and then gunshots, what do you do?
After a while you’ll see that it can be a lot of fun because really it is a mental exercise sort of like a crossword puzzle. You’ll also notice you’ll start to be more aware of your surroundings naturally without having to try and you’ll think about your safety more. Due to this game these are some of the small changes I have naturally made in my life:
I noticed my ice scraper looks like a bad ass escrima stick with an edge so I keep in by the passenger seat year round so I can grab it if I need it.
When stopping in behind a car I always make sure I can see the road behind their rear tires, that way I know that if something happens I have room to drive around them.
I have a couple cans of pepper spray hidden throughout my house in key areas so I can grab them if I need them.
I’ve taken up running because quite often you’ll see that is a real solution to a lot of problems.
The second awareness skill you can practice is simply finding one secondary exit from any room or building you walk into. If you enter a restaurant while you are being seated take notice of where at least one of the emergency exits are. If the kitchen is closest that is fine because they will have a back door. Now if something happens and you need to leave and the main entrance is blocked you will immediately know how to get out. If you enter an office building take a quick look at the fire exits. If you’re in room with only one door is there another way for you to get out? Find one alternate exit in any location you go into. You can even make this into a game with kids, whoever can tell you where the closest fire exit is gets to pick the radio station on the way home.
The third awareness skill is called the “Two Second Rule.” Simply, anytime you go from one area to another you stop and observe the area for two seconds looking for anything out of place. When you walk out of your front door in the morning stop and look at your driveway and take two quick seconds and then before you get into your car stop and take another two quick seconds (anyone/anything around your car or in the back seat?). When you get to work take two seconds to look around before you get out, before you walk around the parking lot, before entering the building, before entering the deserted stairway, etc. This is a great lifesaving skill and you can do it without anyone really knowing you’re doing anything. Basically all you’re doing is instead of just walking into an area and finding out what is there by being there, you stop and look BEFORE you enter and then ask yourself, “is there anything out of place?”
Any place that is an ancillary area where crimes happen you should just stop and look before you go; parking lots/garages, bathrooms, elevators, stairwells, and always before you get to your car and before you get out.
The last awareness skill isn’t really a skill, I guess it is more of a technique. The technique is: keep your body at an angle. How many times have you been in line for an ATM and the guy at the ATM has his body pressed against it like he’s making love to it? That guy is totally unaware of what is behind him. If he just stood at a 45 degree angle to the ATM he could still interact with the machine (and hide his pin number) while being able to simply turn his head and look around him. If he wanted to look the other way he simple adopts the opposite 45 degree angle by facing the other way and now he can see that way.
How about at the urinal? Crimes happen in public bathrooms. By standing at a 45 degree angle you can use the urinal while being able to see the room. At a restaurant one reason why I always want a table is because not only can I move freely if I want but I can turn my chain 45 degrees and still eat and be social but also see the rest of the room.
If you’re standing at a counter at a convenience store paying for gas you could again be at a 45 degree angle and interact with the clerk while seeing behind you. How about while you use the gas pump?
If you’re standing in line at a movie theatre with your spouse are you standing facing the front of the line oblivious to what is behind you? Stand at a 45 and you can still see the front of the line, interact with your spouse, and be aware of what is behind you.