Whether at a protest or political rally, or just shopping for groceries or running errands, the key to safety is situational awareness and maintaining a nonchalant, less than obvious combat mentality. Don’t stand out from the crowd as being ready for trouble, but be ready for trouble, at all times.

Situational awareness is being aware of one’s surroundings and identifying potential threats and dangerous situations.
Situational awareness is more of a mindset than a tangible hands-on skill.

Situational awareness can be applied by anyone with the resolve to do so.

To help you practice, we’ll give you five exercises to improve your mindset.

First though, to establish a mindset of situational awareness one must first recognize that threats do exist. If someone is in denial of the potential for a threat, that person’s chances of recognizing an emerging threat quickly enough – and avoiding it – will be highly unlikely. Bad things do happen.

One must also be of the mindset to take responsibility for one’s own security. The ‘authorities’ cannot be everywhere (and we don’t want them everywhere) and cannot stop every potential criminal action. People need to look out for themselves.

The situational awareness mindset also includes trusting your “gut” or instinct. Often a person’s subconscious can notice subtle signs of danger that the conscious mind has difficulty quantifying or articulating. Have you ever suddenly had that feeling of danger without being able to put your finger on it – so to speak? Ignoring such feelings can lead to serious trouble.

Practicing situational awareness requires discipline and is the conscious effort required to pay attention to your surroundings and gut feelings to surrounding events even while you are busy and distracted – because when you are distracted even obvious eminent danger or hostility can go unnoticed. Individuals need to learn to be observant even while doing other things.

Here are a few drills you can run through to improve your situational awareness skills:

1. Identify all the exits when you enter a building.

2. Count the number of people in a restaurant, subway or train car.

3. Note which cars take the same turns in traffic.

4. Take a look at the people around you and attempt to figure out their stories. Imagine what they do for a living, their mood, what they are focused on and what it appears they are preparing to do, based merely on observation.

5. Next time you’re in a parking lot, look for – and count – the number of cars with people sitting in them, whether you’re walking to the storefront, or coming back to your car, or even driving through.

Engaging in such simple situational-awareness drills will train a person’s mind to be aware of these things almost subconsciously when the person is in a relaxed state of awareness.

paraphrased from Derek Paulson