I read a news article recently about a girl who was able to avoid a man following her in a car as she was walking in her neighborhood. The story started out with, “A young girl noticed she was being followed . . .” She noticed. NOTICED. That was her key to safety. That is the key to safety for all of us. We just have to make sure we are using the key.
Situational awareness helps you identify, process, and comprehend what’s happening around you. It takes focus, and that can be a little too much to ask of someone who simply wants to take a walk. I can understand that. But if you can learn to focus on your surroundings, it might help you avoid scary situations before they are upon you. Here are some tips to help build consistency into your situational awareness.
Prediction. I’m not asking you to be a mind reader, but what you can do is think to yourself, “What would I do if something happens? Where would I go? How would I get safe?” That’s it. Just a thought process of “what if”.
Identification. What is around you? Is someone sitting in a car in a parking lot staring at you? Is someone consistently in the same place as you throughout your entire shopping trip at the mall? Notice them. Make eye contact. Let them know you see them. Make mental notes of what they are wearing or other defining features like tattoos or piercings. (If someone intends to harm you, it’s possible that just simply noticing them and making eye contact could thwart their plan).
Trust your gut. If you feel it’s wrong, it probably is. Get somewhere safe immediately. I can’t tell you how important it is to trust your gut. It doesn’t matter how you make others feel. What matters is that YOU feel safe.
Don’t be complacent. It’s hard not to want to feel “at home” at the places you frequent. But most people who want to harm you aren’t local; they’ve come from the outside into your bubble of safety. Although you feel may safe, don’t assume everyone around you is also safe and have good intentions.
Know where to go NOW. If you are presented with an unsafe situation, it’s critical to know how you can escape immediately rather than figuring it out along the way. Know where exits are at places you patronize (restaurants, grocery stores, shopping malls). Make it your first priority to find exits. Know where you can hide. Know where you can take cover.
Work on your home safety plan. Make safety plans for home, and involve your children. Practice home invasion and fire escape drills at home. Meet your neighbors so you can have a safe place near home if needed. Be aware of suspicious people or vehicles. Join a neighborhood watch.
If you see something, say something. This is so important. Law enforcement WANTS you to say something. If a situation turns out not to be critical or harmful, they’ve been given that opportunity to use to their advantage to train. Never forget that.