|It's not always this easy|
I'll start this article off with an experience I had.
When I was 18 years old; I was driving to North Carolina and stopped by a somewhat desolate gas station to get a soda. It was around 11pm and I was getting tired of driving and needed the caffeine to stay awake. As I was pulling in I noticed there were two cars in the parking lot. The first car was parked in a space in front of the store. The second car was parked on the side of the store, where it was dark. I noticed 3 men standing at the trunk of the car and one of them kneeling down at the license plate. I didn't pay this much attention as I walked in the store. The gentleman parked in the front of the store held the door as I walked in the gas station on his way out. I proceeded to walk to get a soda from the refrigerated section at the back of the store. At this point the Clerk and I were the only ones in the store. Once I grabbed my soda, 3 men with mask came bursting in the store. They were robbing the gas station! I immediately ducked down behind one of the aisles. The crooks got the money and ran out of the store. Once the coast was clear, I jumped up and ran to the front of the store. As I watched the men drive off, I noticed it was the same car parked on the side of the building. Except the license plate had been removed.
I was 18 and had the slightest clue what situational awareness was. Luckily I didn't get robbed or harmed. But that situation could have turned very bad. It was also my first lesson in situational awareness and the importance of it in my own survival. Since that day I began paying attention to all the detail's of my surroundings and what people are doing around me. Not to the point of paranoia, but identifying potential threats.
So how do you develop your situational awareness?
Start off by paying attention to the details of your surroundings. What people are doing, just watch as you walk from the parking lot while entering a store. Glance out of the corner of your eye to the car that pulls up next to you at a stop light. Good practice is checking out people's left hand to see if they are married, look at how many out of state license tags are in a parking lot, identify how many couples and how many single individuals are in the movie theater as your entering a movie, take note of all the exits that are in restaurant's store's/buildings, pay attention to the name of street signs as your driving. By no means is this the end all of situational awareness, however it will get you to start opening your eyes to whats going on around you.
In the Marines we used a saying to junior Marines "Your in My Kill Zone"; when they get too close. Basically when someone approaches in a 5 foot radius they are in my "kill zone". Your receptors should fire off when someone that you don't know enters this area. When they do you need to be prepared to react, and I'll cover that later in the article.
No matter how situationally aware you are, bad situations can still happen. How you react to them is as important or if not more impotant as being aware. The second part of this is reacting to the situation. In my story above, I react by hiding behind an aisle. I could have stayed exposed and have gotten robbed. I could have tried to be a hero and have been killed. Luckily I reacted and was able to survive that situation unscathed.
Can you react? How do you prepare to react?
Always have an exit strategy wherever you may be. Study a combat art to the point you feel you can defend yourself if your confronted. Get in shape, you may have to run for your life or go hand-to-hand (check out Adam Ticknor's article Survival Fitness). If your a concealed carry holder, practice drawing and firing with your concealed carry firearm. Practice shooting with your non-dominate hand in case you become injured.
Again this article isn't going to give you a sixth sense, this is the basic's.
Let me know your guys thoughts and any tips you may have that I may have missed.