Situational Awareness


This has to be ONE OF THE BEST, IF NOT THE BEST article on the subject of being aware of your surroundings AT ALL TIMES.    I KNOW YOU KNOW IT, BUT EVERYONE ELSE NEEDS TO TAKE THIS TO HEART.

This guy covers almost everything.  I saw it and I KNEW you would want a copy.  This IS one of the better explanations I’ve seen in a LONG time.



Freedom From Fear: Spotting Trouble Before it Happens

By Kelly McCann aka “Jim Grover”
From Guns and Ammo

One of the most-asked questions during my street survival training is, “What am I going to see right before an attack?” That’s a good question. It tells me the student is concerned about avoiding the situation altogether, and wants as much time as possible to maximize his chances of survival.

Those things you are most likely to see before an attack are called “pre-incident indicators.” They are peculiar things you will recognize if you know what to look for. Any one of them alone is probably not enough to call out the cavalry, but when two or more appear, there is need for concern. If you pick up two or more of these indicators, take immediate steps to get out of the situation, place or activity in which you’re involved.

The first indicator is unnatural impediment to your movement. It doesn’t matter whether this is while you are walking, in your car or on a bicycle. When something stops you or causes you to go well out of your line of travel…beware.

Next is correlation of someone’s movement to your own. When you first notice someone is keeping pace with you, it should alarm you. You stop, they stop. You speed up but the distance doesn’t increase between you. The slim chance of two strangers regulating their pace so precisely is minuscule. Cross the street or go into a store. If the person stays with you, there may be something wrong.

Any sudden changes in status of a person(s) near you should make you think twice. For example, if you are walking along a city street and pass by two young adults who are leaning against a wall and they suddenly stop loitering and become pedestrians behind you, ask yourself why. What was it that made them decide to fall into step behind you? Regulate your pace differently and see if they are correlating to your movement. If they are, that’s two indicators and a strong possibility exists that they have something much more dubious in store for you.

If you have been stopped unnaturally in your movement, or if you are standing somewhere and you notice predatory movements, immediately take some kind of action to extricate yourself. Predatory movements include circling, two people moving in opposite directions around you, or one or more people moving around or away from you and another moving at you.

A verbal exchange initiated by a stranger is unique enough today to make you take pause. People are much less apt to ask a stranger anything anymore. Attacks can sometimes be predicated on things such as, “Got a dollar?,” “Do you know where. . .” or “What time is it?” Obviously, don’t be ready to launch into the offensive when this occurs. Simply take a step back away from the person addressing you and look to the sides quickly. It is doubtful the person talking is the attacker; usually the attack is coming from the side.

Target glancing or avenue-of-escape glancing is a fairly reliable indicator that something is about to happen. This furtive glancing indicates the criminal is sizing you up, identifying escape routes, confirming there are no police in the area and so forth. This is noticeable when you see a person glancing in your direction several times, then glancing away.

If a person is approaching on an oblique path that will intersect with your own, you should beware. This is commonly used as an access route to the target because it keeps the attacker in a blind spot the longest.

Whenever an approaching person has his hand hidden, causing unnatural movement, keep an eye on him until either the hand comes clear of the cover or the person passes. Felons typically have their gun, knife or club already out when they approach their victim. To conceal it as long as possible on their approach, they hold it discreetly behind their arm or leg or inside their coat.

Any bump, shove or push should alarm you. It may be a pick-pocket attempt, it may be a setup, it may be just an impatient person. Whatever the case, if this occurs you need to be alert.

The relative absence of other people and authorities provides the criminal an excellent time to attack. Singularly, this indicator is not necessarily a big deal. When coupled with one or two other indicators it has enormous implications. Remember, an attacker strikes when it is least advantageous for you.

As you walk along there is another indicator of which you should be aware. Since the advent of drive-by shootings, most people notice cars that pull alongside them in traffic. As you’re walking along, any automobile stopping alongside, slightly to the front or to the rear of you serves as ample warning to keep your eyes open. Any second pass of the same vehicle should likewise cause some concern.

You should also be wary of any obviously intoxicated person or group.

Have you ever noticed glances between strangers as they approach, impede, hail or otherwise interact with you? This occurs when criminals are just shy of launching their attack. They’re looking at each other to ensure each is ready, taking one last quick look for cops, and glancing at the escape route to make sure it is clear. If the criminal is alone, it will look the same.

Any time you are confronted by more than one person and the first is in your face, keep your eyes not only on him but on the calmest appearing individual in a verbal altercation. Keep looking at the whole picture until you have to strike, then pick one target and strike.

Obvious attempts at baiting you are conducted only to cause a confrontation. Don’t take the bait. Stay calm, keep your hands up and ready to strike or block, and keep moving. If there are other people in the area, move toward them and gain their attention.

Well, there you have it–some views of that picture seconds before something bad happens. As I said, any one of these things alone is probably not cause for concern; two or three of them should make you twinge with anticipation. If you wait any longer to act you’ll be down to split seconds, and the chances of avoiding or surviving are exponentially decreased.


Unnatural impediment to your movement

Correlation of someone’s movement to your own.

Any sudden change in a person’s status as you get near or pass them.

Predatory movements (circling, two or more people moving in opposite directions, etc.)

Any verbal exchange initiated by a stranger

Target glancing

Persons closing on you from an oblique angle that intersects with your path.

A hand hidden that causes unnatural movement by someone as they walk toward you.

Bumps, shoves, pushes or grabs

Relative absence of other people or authorities

Automobiles stopping alongside you or slightly to the front or rear as you walk along

Any obvious intoxicated person

Any second pass of a vehicle

Obvious attempts at baiting you

Glances between strangers as they approach, impede, hail or otherwise interact with you

The calmest-appearing individual in a verbal altercation; not always the guy in your face

(Kelly McCann has a series of DVDs called “Combatives for Street Survival” )
Combatives for Street Survival V.1: Index Positions, The Guard and Combative Strikes


Situational Awareness — 19 Comments

  1. The article gives good advice about situational awareness but there are many moving parts to keep track off. Too complex for me I'm afraid.

    Something far simpler in my experience is to quickly scan peoples faces for people looking back at you. The bad guys are looking for marks and thus you can spot them very quickly and easily. This is because 99.9% of the rest of the population is preoccupied or zoned out or texting. Maybe the odd person is looking for a friend or a taxi but those cases are easy to figure out.

    I can't remember where I first heard about this method — think it is how Secret Service scans large crowds on presidential detail. But it any case, I tried it and it works great!

  2. Excellent article, however the auther left out one of the most.obvious indictors of whether a suspicous person will be a probable threat to you, and that is how they are dressed.

    Yes. I know there are all kinds of execptions to this rule, and we're not supposed to form opinions on a persons appearance, etc,etc, but I can't remember the the last time I've read a story where someone was mugged by a well groomed guy who was wearing a three-piece suit and tie.

    I'm not sure why this wasn't covered in the article – trying to be a little PC maybe, but speaking for myself, I know I would feel a lot safer walking into a dark alley ( if I had to ) and finding myself in the middle of a group of guys wearing polo shirts and dockers rather than with one that's sporting piercings and tattoos and wearing shabby clothes.

    Like it or not, more often it's the truth of the matter.

  3. When I walk down the street I keep my head level and on a swivel, observing and watching for ambush points, also I look everyone in the face, not in a challenging way but in a more-or-less acknowledging and assessing manner while also observing them in case I need to describe them. Whenever someone that might even remotely pose a threat passes me on the sidewalk or street I observe their shadow on the sidewalk or reflection in a store window as we pass, so that I can counter-act a strike if they turn to attack me as we pass each other. I also maintain a readiness to side-step in order to gain distance if there's two or more trying to do a pincher movement. I also watch for the person to transmit attack signals, i.e., clenching fists, straining neck muscles, things like that.

    To anon @ 10:38pm, it sounds more complicated than it actually is, after a while it becomes habit or 2nd nature.

    In all honesty I am not as razor-sharp or as strong as I was in my 20's back in Flint, but here in small-town USA I'm more about awareness, vigilance and avoidance. A nice peaceful boring life!
    Eric in Michigan

  4. Anonymous 10:38PM has it right, just look for the non-zombies.

    Are you going to be a survivalism consultant when you move to the US? Wish I lived in Texas, I'd come see ya.

  5. Another thing to keep an eye out for is an unusual composition of the area. If it’s in the middle of the day and you se some “dumped” childrens bikes but no kids in the nearbye area than the kids are probably aware of something you SHOULD be aware of…

  6. ive worked security for most of my adult life,and while im not an expert i know some things.
    1. watch for groups of people or solo that are out of place
    2. look for weapons even the not so obvious kinds, hence the odd way of holding hands and arms to conceal
    3. this is obvious but watch for open hostility
    4. use all your sense even that gut feeling that somethings not right, it is just your subconcious picking up something that your not
    5. one key thing is to avoid looking like a victim, if you aware of whats around you without appearing aggressive, both are just asking for trouble
    theres alot i didnt put in here because they have been covered fairly decent in other posts

  7. The best thing you can do when walking with your kids is talk to them about what you are looking for. I have found by doing this over and over with my two girls, that they now hear the voice’s in there heads and are more alert then there friends. its simple training that keeps them safe and lets me sleep at night.

  8. I have a question, why is it more important to look out for “the calmest-appearing individual in a verbal altercation; not always the guy in your face”? What is the psychology behind this?

    • Because the quiet one is likely the more physically capable, and/or is not talking or interacting, because he’s thinking of exactly how to take you out as fast as possible, running scenario’s through his head, etc.

      I’ve never been one to start fights, but I have been with groups of friends when some group of people we don’t know has come up to start something because we tend to have odd hair colors, wear a fair amount of black, and have piercings, some of them not “usual”. (By the way, guys in Polo shirts scare me far more.), and I was always the quiet one for those reasons. I had to think of what to do if that group decided they wanted to “take it to the next level” or whatever you care to call it.

      • Sorry for the add on. I kind of mistyped a bit x.x

        I meant to say that I was always the quiet, calm one. The calm part for me was me trying to keep my jitter reflex under control so I wasn’t vibrating or fist clenching nearly as much, allowing me to focus on things far better, just.. analyzing, rather than reacting with emotions, or doing my best to. It would be a lie to say I always succeeded of course. >.>

        Just my experience though, so I know I could be completely wrong about why the author considers that individual to be the most dangerous.

        But I was always the armed one, too, so that kind of put me in a position I didn’t necessarily want in the first place. The group I hung out with like I said weren’t big on violence, but I never went anywhere without at least a knife, while they carried nothing. I just figured “Better safe than sorry.”, and I bring the polo shirts up because typically the ones who started fights, or arguments over.. nothing were wearing them, and decided we were good targets due to our “strange” appearance. But everyone has different experiences.

  9. One thing that works for me, is i go out of my way to be aware of my position relative to other people… so as not to appear as a threat to THEM. Varying my pace to keep my distance, altering my route even if its not the most direct, etc.

    This makes me hyper sensitive to someone trying to position themselves as a threat to ME.

  10. Great article, overall. It’s something that has always been part of my lifestyle as a young twenty-something female who tends to walk alone in rougher parts of town. I used to have a f@#k-off dog (pitbull/German Shepard mix) that I could count on to give people pause, but since my dog passed I’ve had to be much more aware of the people around me, and I’ve found myself being a lot more cautious.

  11. Great article Fernando! You state some tactics that I will definitely use in high-risk situations (such as walking around Mexico City next time I go on business or visit family there). The funny thing is I’ve always been sort of naturally “situationally aware.” Having grown up in New York City I had to – my mother and father taught me to, and it was the way you had to be living in the big city. I remember landing in the airport in Mexico City and I suddenly noticed a guy tracking my movements while pretending to window shop. I pointed him out to a friend I was with and he agreed. Great skills to have!

  12. I lived in the “Murder Triangle” near San Leandro in the 90’s during the Rodney King riots. I worked until 1am and had to walk about a mile through that place every night (even during the riots, but not in the midst of them). I did some of the things that the article talks about as if I were the “situation” to be aware of, not pursuing potential attackers but whatever i could do while making my way home (keeping only 1 hand in a pocket, looking around, behind the people who confronted me). For me, doing that while making strict progress toward my home was enough to ward off a few criminal-types.

  13. A coworker some years ago described an incident he encountered in the Detroit metro area…

    He stopped at a local convenience store to pick something up, and some guys were “playing football” in the parking lot in front. On the way out, the ball “accidentally” hit him. The guys came by, helped him pick up his bag of items he dropped, and were very apologetic. He thought they were “very nice”. When he got to his hotel, he discovered his wallet was missing.

    He is a very affable and intelligent man, but was naively situationally “unaware”. This was a lesson learned by him (and, through him, by us).

    On another occasion (before GPS), again in Detroit metro, the section of highway I normally took to the hotel was closed one particular night (after midnight). There was a detour route, but it was poorly marked. The last couple detour signs might have been tampered with, I don’t know, but the signs soon ran out. Turns out it took me through a rather rough neighborhood. Key indicator was the groups of people at major intersections “hanging out” in front of local strip malls along that route. At red lights I kept a good distance from the car in front, in case I needed to “make a getaway”. I was happy to have a Mustang that particular time for a rental. Nothing happened, but it did get burned in my memory the possibility of finding oneself inadvertently in a risky situation.

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