Hey Professor, I’m doing a security gig at [a large function] for an event involving [a number of people]. [Some dignitaries] will probably be there. The night before they want me to give a quick security briefing on awareness and what to do if Big Sarge needs to handle the threat. U got any bullet points or words of wisdom I could share that they will remember?
–A retired Army buddy of mine who now works high end security details
Use the same skills as in any social setting (looking for contacts) with an additional focus. Does someone or something seem out of place? “What’s wrong in my right world?” Have some faith in your intuition.
Practice surveillance detection, especially when leaving. Remember that ordinary crime occurs around events, as well. Identify safe areas along your route in advance. Ask for security assistance if you’re uncomfortable with the situation. Have some faith in your intuition.
Watch for targeting indicators; paralleling, hard focus, forces surrounding, etc.
Stay aware of exit locations. If you will be in a fixed position for a while, e.g., seated at dinner, identify the nearest exit to you, just as on an airliner. Note exits near restrooms immediately upon entering the venue. We tend to be distracted when we need to visit the restroom so it’s best to identify these in advance. Consider non-traditional exits, such as through kitchens or maintenance areas, if necessary.
Beware of the possibility of secondary devices; clear the area completely if there’s an incident. Go back to your hotel or residence immediately, don’t hang around the venue.
Discard unattended drinks. Once it’s been out of your control, get a new one.
If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t ignore it, explore it. Alert others, preferably security, about issues. Have some faith in your intuition.
Increase and decrease awareness as the situation requires. E.g., increase awareness when going to or leaving the venue since there will be less security presence outside. Don’t try to be on ‘red alert’ all the time. It’s neither possible nor mentally healthy.
Ditch high heels if you have to move quickly.
Fleeing is preferable to hiding under a table if an incident involving small arms occurs. Gunshot wounds from a distance tend to be survivable. Close range executions are usually fatal. Determine a nearby point that offers cover or concealment and move quickly to it. Assess the situation and then repeat the process to escape.
Note locations of fire extinguishers. They are useful in case someone is on fire following a bomb and also as an improvised weapon. If you are on fire, drop and roll to put it out before running.
Sidenote on using improvised weapons:
There is no need to challenge or warn an active killer! That is only for TV and the movies.
Get behind him [her], focus your attention on the back of the head and,
without warning, smash it as hard as you can with the fire extinguisher
or whatever you have. Continue to nail them until they stop moving.
Then run away to safety.
If there is an incident, accept being separated from your party. Leaving the area and finding shelter should be your primary emphasis, not looking for others, unless they are small children.
Look for things or people that you may enjoy, as well. The object of terrorism is to change our society for the worse. Don’t let it do that to us.
Here is a PDF of these comments for anyone who would like to use them. Situational Awareness in Social Settings handout
There’s a lot to being a grey man. Many worthwhile observations in this post.
Amidst all the media attention surrounding my Babywearing and Carrying class was a call from CBS’s show, “The Doctors.” They thought my class was interesting and wanted to fly me out to California to talk about it. It took me a few days to get to the place where I decided to take the trip. I said yes on Tuesday, had a travel itinerary on Wednesday night and was on a plane on Thursday.
This is the first solo trip I’ve taken in a very long time to a destination that doesn’t include rendezvousing with friends or family or a firearms class.
No lie, the idea of two days in Hollywood by myself was very appealing though the reminders to be careful started in earnest along with concerns of, “Aren’t you nervous to be traveling by yourself?”
I don’t subscribe to that kind of worry and fear. Lots of people…
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“made a list of ten factors that can make an incident traumatic. Eight of the ten happened [in their incident]:
1. In your home
2. In the presence of children
4. Death and rape threats
8. Shots fired
One week ago our family went through a harrowing, life-changing experience. This is how my husband described last Tuesday evening in a prayer update:
Last night at about 9:45 pm at our house, Caleb announced to Amy and I as we worked on a paint job in the children’s room that three men had just entered our back door. When I got to the door, I saw two guns brandished among the three criminals. Though we offered all our money and goods to them they beat me and hit Amy twice.
We are praising the Lord that after about 15 minutes wherein they tore the house apart, we were able to chase them away. They took some material possessions, but our lives and honor were spared because of the good hand of our God who placed a wall between our lives and their weapons.
Tomorrow, we are taking a…
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There are so many times in a day when you have to let people into your space. I think we have to accept it. My tolerance changes radically when I’m in transitional areas like parking lots etc.
It’s important to take context into account when speaking about SAP. There’s been some commentary about my post that I must not live in a big city or ever take the subway. Since I grew up in Chicargo and live in Atlanta, that’s not true. I ride public transportation quite often, even when I don’t have to.
The comment about transitional areas is on point. Rarely are we concerned about being robbed or beaten up in line at Starbucks. The video of the dude getting mugged in NOLA recently is more our concern and representative of the positioning I’m getting at.
While public places, e.g., the coffee shop in Lakewood WA, and crowds are not totally risk free, I think my colleague William Aprill would say our risk profile for violent crime is lower there than in transitional areas or when we are alone. The criminal incidents that I personally have had to deal with all fell in those two categories. Either positioning or awareness, along with will, allowed me to control those situations. Controlling the situations allowed them to conclude without anyone getting shot or stabbed, which is my desired outcome.
In fact, one of my encounters took place at a MARTA train station in Atlanta at 9 a.m. I was alone and midway through the station on my way to work, so both criteria (alone and in transition) were met. It was what I call an “opportunistic meeting engagement.” Three individuals coming from another direction apparently liked the fact I was on crutches and in a boot from a recent surgery. It was the first time in my life I experienced Clint Smith’s saying “Predators look at you like you’re food.” But I saw their look, change of demeanor, and change of direction from the full width of the upper platform while they were still about 15 yards away. That immediately put me into Condition Orange and I initiated my reaction. Because I had seen them so far away, I had time to react on my terms, rather than theirs. There was no escape for me since I could barely hobble on my crutches. So I faced them, put my hand in my overcoat pocket on my snub revolver and said to myself “Guys, this isn’t going to turn out the way you think it is.” I don’t believe I said it out loud and no words were exchanged between us. At the moment I thought it though, the Marine Corps Drill Team could not have done a better Right Flank, March than those guys did, in unison. Clearly, this was not their first rodeo.
What happened was that they targeted me in an obvious fashion. When a sketchy character, or three of them, changes direction and begins to close with you, it’s an indicator that an incident is developing. As a police officer friend says “Nothing good is coming of that.” However, I failed to act in the way I was supposed to. In John Farnam’s vernacular, I ‘failed the interview.’ Most criminal predations on the street begin with an evaluation by the predator as to whether it has the potential for being a successful victimization, as opposed to turning into a fight. Economic predators are not generally interested in a fight. They know all too well that there is an element of chance in every violent encounter. That is not to say they won’t fight, but rather given the choice between a victimization and a fight, they will pick the victimization.
So our object is to see them early enough and understand what is happening such that we can set ourselves up to fail the interview. The criminal then moves on to find another victim. I would prefer that they pick an undercover police officer and then get dealt with.
However, what happens afterward is not my problem. I am not a police officer; my weapons and tactics are for protecting me and mine, not society at large. That’s the way our legal system is structured; I understand it and abide by it.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Awareness – noun – Dictionary.com
“The state or condition of being aware; having knowledge; consciousness.”
One of the topics often stressed in the self-defense community is having ‘situational awareness.’ As my friend Craig Douglas says: “You can’t DO a noun.” Therein lies the core of the problem; we don’t teach people how to do it, so talking about it is mostly lip service.
When you want to learn to do something, you have to practice it. Once again, the dictionary defines practice as something done repeatedly or habitually. So if we want to learn to be aware, we need to work at it repeatedly. There are a number of ways that I practice my awareness and I do them every day, sometimes repeatedly.
In terms of awareness, one of my friends describes it as “what is wrong in my right world?” That’s one way of looking at it. A variant of that is “what is different or out of place?” That can be from the perspective of either what was before or what should be.
When I wake up, one of the first things I do is look out my front window. Is there anything different outside my home? Are there different cars there? Does the neighbor across the street have the porch light on, as it usually is? Is there anything different in my driveway or front yard? If not, then on with the day. If so, does it bear further investigation or do I just file that bit of information away? The essence of what I’m doing is checking for surveillance or an ambush. Having dealt with stalkers and possible attackers, both for clients and personally, I consider that very important in my daily routine.
I take a brisk walk around the neighborhood on a four day on, one day off schedule. The route I follow is the same so I can track my time to various checkpoints I’ve established. I don’t wear headphones, although occasionally I will have my phone playing John 00 Fleming Global Trance Grooves at a low level.
As I’m walking, I check out the houses, cars, and yards. I know them fairly well because I’ve been doing this regimen for almost two years. Which houses have been put up for sale and which have been taken off the market are obvious things that I look for. And there a lot of other things that I try to notice, such as cars, people, animals, etc.
Next post, I will list some of the things I observed and cataloged on today’s walk.