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Situational Awareness And Personal Safety Tips

Updated on July 9, 2015
situation awareness in crowds
situation awareness in crowds | Source

Situational Awareness Conditions - Color Code

There are a few different conditions that you can be in regarding your awareness of your surroundings. They are organized with a color code that corresponds to each state of awareness. This color code (minus black) is explained by Jeff Cooper in his book, Principles of Personal Defense. If you want to purchase the book, you can use my affiliate link here, but I will be giving a basic rundown of the color code as well as some other personal safety tips in this article.

Condition White

In condition white, you are oblivious to your surroundings. You may be looking at your phone, have your head down, or simply be distracted and not paying attention to the world around you.

Condition Yellow

In condition yellow, you are aware of your surroundings, but you are relaxed and not expecting anything to go wrong. You are watching people out of the corner of your eye and are aware of anything that may help you if a situation should arise.

If you have a concealed handgun license, and you plan to carry, you must be in at least condition yellow at all times.

Condition Orange

In condition orange, a potential threat has caught your attention. Be it a sudden noise, yelling, or suspicious behavior, you are now aware of a possible danger, and you should begin to put yourself in a position that would work to your advantage in the event that something should happen.

Condition Red

In condition red, someone has confronted you or someone near you, and you are taking action. You may move to a better position, or try to deescalate the situation.

Condition Black

In condition black, you or someone near you is being attacked. You run away or fight back. Your intent is to stop the threat, either by using force or getting away.

What Not To Do
What Not To Do | Source

What Not To Do

When it comes to situational awareness and personal safety, there are a few things that you want to avoid doing. Keep these in mind when we talk about what you want to do, as they are closely related.

Condition White

You should never let yourself be in condition white. Ever. In this condition, you have absolutely no clue as to what is going on around you. You will never be able to effectively respond to anything in this state. If you look around you in a busy public place, you will undoubtedly see at least one person with their nose to the ground and staring at their cell phone, oblivious to their surroundings. These people are in condition white.


If a situation does arise, never panic. Your natural response will be to stay in shock and do nothing, or to do something stupid in a futile attempt to resolve the situation.

Be Too Nice

Never be too nice. It is perfectly fine to be respectful to everyone, but as soon as someone becomes a threat, you don't have to be nice to them. Being nice to them is not going to stop them from trying to harm you or take advantage of you.

Jump To Conclusions

If you are not sure about a situation, leave. You do not want to become involved in a situation where it is not immediately obvious that something is wrong, especially if you are not already involved. You could end up misinterpreting the situation, further escalating it, or putting yourself in unnecessary danger. Making the wrong move based on an assumption will get you into serious legal trouble that you do not want to deal with.


Never try to intimidate an attacker or a potential threat, either by drawing your weapon or by any other means. This behavior may seem like the right thing to do, but it may only make the person angry, and it will make you the aggressor instead of them.

Never draw your weapon unless your life is being threatened, and don't try to be tough. This will help your case to stand as what it is in court, and you will avoid unnecessary confrontations.

What to do to be aware of your surroundings
What to do to be aware of your surroundings | Source

Be Aware, Trust Your Gut

What To Do

We talked about what not to do, so now we will focus on what you should do in any situation, be it every day or during an aggressive confrontation.

Be Aware - Be In Condition Yellow

At all times, you should be aware of your surroundings. You don't have to be paranoid about looking around you, but never neglect it. Being aware of the world around you, even when you are focused on a certain task, will give you clues as to what kind of situation you are in at all times.

Trust Your Gut Instinct

In today's society, so many things go on around us that it is often difficult to make decisions or come to the right conclusions. It is also easy to ignore your gut when you feel that something is wrong because we tend to fear being wrong.

If something doesn't feel right, don't ignore that feeling! Start looking around for clues, piecing the situation together. If you can, as a precaution, get away from the area or any potential threat. But don't just sit there and let everything unfold before your eyes as if you had no idea what was happening.

One of the guys that I watch on YouTube, TheOl1911, has a series called "Be Aware, Trust Your Gut," in which he talks about these kinds of situations that he or his viewers were involved in. I recommend this series to you, and also the rest of his videos. He makes all sorts of videos regarding personal defense and concealed carry, and I love them. Above is one of TheOl1911's videos from the series "Be Aware, Trust Your Gut."

Know The Law

(Keep in mind that I am not a lawyer and that I am in no position to give actual legal advice, these are just tips to try to help you.)

When it comes to personal protection and the law, you cannot claim ignorance. It is your responsibility to abide by the law in any personal defense situation, whether you use your weapon or not. Part of being aware is being aware of the laws that you have to follow.

Different states have different laws regarding concealed carry and firearms. Some states, unfortunately, do not allow you to protect yourself from an intruder, even in your own home. Laws like these only prevent law abiding citizens from protecting themselves, but you must still obey them while they are in effect.

I will use Texas as an example, because I live in Texas. In Texas, anyone 21 or over who is not a convicted felon can obtain a concealed handgun license with the proper training and fees. you can carry your weapon for personal defense as long as your life is in immanent danger and you have no other option.

Also in Texas, the Castle Doctrine allows you to shoot an intruder in your home or your car. I will not go into specifics because I am not qualified, but if you read up on it, you should get a better idea of how the Castle Doctrine works.

In any case, your intent should only be to stop the threat. You never want to say that you wanted to kill the attacker or intruder, because your intent should only be to stop the immanent danger to your life.

Be aware of the law, and don't let your adrenaline control you. If you keep a cool head and know what you can and cannot do legally, the law should be on your side should a situation arise.

Be Alert At All Times

No matter what situation you are in, you must remain alert. Don't let your current task distract you from knowing what is going on around you. Never put yourself in condition white. Always be in at least condition yellow so that you can respond effectively if you find yourself in a potentially dangerous situation.

As you become aware of your surroundings, you will start to see more and more people who are walking around in condition white. Keeping yourself alert may also alert any potential aggressors and cause them to reject you as a target.

Keep A Low Profile

When you are out in public, crowds are usually a good thing. If you are aware of your surroundings, you make yourself a more difficult target, and criminals such as pickpockets are less likely to target you. Crowds give you the ability to blend in and avoid confrontations. Criminals do not like to commit crimes with so many witnesses present.

Don't make yourself stand out if you can help it. This includes walking alone or in a dark alley. Don't do anything that would distinguish you from the crowd and make you a potential target. You want to be part of the crowd so that no one will notice you in particular and pick you out as a target.

Take Preventative Measures

There are lots of things that you can do that will help prevent you from becoming a target in the first place. Listed below are a few examples, but preventative measures are not limited to these.

To start off, keep your personal information away from prying eyes. Criminals are looking for easy targets, and if you leave your information available, they may pick you as a target. Be aware of who can see your personal information at all times.

Another thing you can do to prevent yourself from being targeted is to keep your valuables out of sight. Keep your money in your pocket, your GPS at home, your jewelry in a safe, and electronics away from windows. Being aware of the visibility of your valuables discourages criminals because they cannot determine whether you are a worthwhile target.

One option you may consider for yourself is to have a decoy wallet. Find a used wallet and put some cash in it, however much you wouldn't mind losing. If you were to ever get mugged, instead of trying to fight back to protect your money, credit cards, driver's license, and personal information, hand the mugger the decoy wallet. They will probably be satisfied that they got your wallet and whatever cash you had in it, and you can get away without compromising your personal information or getting hurt in most cases. This is a simple way to avoid the dilemma of giving up either your personal safety or your personal information in exchange for the other.

Do not wear expensive clothing if you can help it. This gives criminals the impression that you may have valuables on you, and they could try to target you. Avoid this by choosing clothing that does not appear to be expensive, or clothing that is reasonably priced that still serves the same purpose.

If you know of any places where crime is prevalent, avoid those areas if you can. If you cannot avoid them, be more diligent with situational awareness than you would normally be. Avoid secluded places, such as back alleys. There may be other places, depending on where you live, but it's always best to be safe than sorry.

Be Aware, Trust Your Gut


When it comes to situational awareness and your personal safety, never be distracted. Always be alert and looking for any potential threat and possible plans of action.

Never do anything without thinking it through first, or you will end up with disastrous consequences.

Make sure you are always aware, trust your gut feelings, and know the law. If you can, take preventative safety measures that will help you to avoid a situation or to get out of a situation.

Be safe, and make sure that you always know what is going on around you so that you can take the appropriate action!

© 2013 Ryan Askew


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