In my 25 years as a law enforcement officer in Tallahassee, I’ve seen a lot. I’ve interviewed a lot of bad guys, I’ve looked into the eyes of victims and their families and I’ve been in many homes, delivering mostly bad news. As a parent of four children from ages 3 to 19, I understand how parents feel, that fear of the unknown, of accidents, crimes and bad news delivered in the middle of the night. And I want to do something to change that.
As I’ve worked, I’ve learned, and my greatest desire is to be there for the victims… not after the fact, but before. My business partner and I have dedicated our business, Talon Training and Talon Range, and our energy to teaching people about personal safety and how to reduce the possibility of becoming a victim.
This is the first of a series of articles about personal protection and safety. I want to start with what I believe to be the most important – your mindset. When I train both law enforcement officers and civilians, the first task is to train their minds to be vigilant. A heightened level of awareness is critical to crime prevention. If you’re not paying attention to your surroundings, it’s obvious, especially to someone looking for a victim.
The first and simplest concept we teach at Talon is situational awareness. We use colors to define awareness levels – white, yellow, orange, red and black. Have you ever missed a turn or an exit? You were in condition white – oblivious.
Condition yellow is the state where you are aware of your surroundings. There’s no threat, but you’re paying attention. You might be driving and see a dog walking along the road. You notice it and you are aware of it, but it doesn’t present a real threat. Still, you begin to formulate a plan, just in case. Your hands are at 10 and 2 and you’ve checked the lanes next to you and what’s behind you. Now you’re in condition orange, a heightened state.
Suddenly, the dog darts in front of you. You steer slightly to avoid the dog, braking to stop and avoiding a collision. That last moment was condition red, or what you would be in should you find yourself in a fight or other confrontation. You managed to avoid condition black, which is panic.
Now take this concept and imagine you’re in a parking lot at night. You’re in condition white – maybe you’re texting or just trying to remember where you parked. Suddenly someone appears from the shadows and speaks in a sharp voice. You go from white to black – panic. Even if this person is not a threat, you experience a rush of adrenaline, your heart rate spikes and you lose control of the situation. Even if you were armed with some weapon, it is too late.
However, using situational awareness, this scenario could be completely different. You could walk out of the building, look around, and consider a few things that might happen. You could observe the layout and positioning of your vehicle that you strategically parked under a light, away from bushes. You confidently walk to your vehicle and go home. Whomever was lurking in the shadows saw someone who was clearly not a victim and left you alone.
In this scenario, even if you saw a potential threat, you had time to go back inside and call law enforcement to drive through the area. If you saw a person lurking, you did so because you were paying attention and you had time to react, to formulate a plan. Situational awareness just kept you from becoming a victim.
Keep in mind – plans come from thinking ahead. Playing “what if” games is the key to being prepared. What if your house caught on fire? What if you were at an ATM and someone got a little close? What if….. Think about it, and have a plan. This may sound silly, but I’ve played this game for 25 years on Patrol, SWAT, and everywhere I have been.
Through this series of articles, I want to teach you to change your habits, your mindset and your life. In the next article, I’ll talk about posturing and how to deal with people who make you uncomfortable. If you have other questions about personal safety or training, please feel free to contact me.