8 Ways to Achieve Higher Levels of Situational Awareness

Inge Holzträger

Inge Holzträger

About the Author: Inge Holzträger is a GBV activist who is passionate about making small changes where she can. She believes that something positive can come out of a horrible situation if you look for it.

8 Ways to Achieve Higher Levels of Situational Awareness

"Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness." - James Thurber

So let’s talk about situational awareness. It can be as simple as being aware of what is happening around you in terms of where you are, where you are supposed to be, and if anyone or anything around you is a threat to you in terms of your health and safety. We have all heard the phrase “be safe” when heading out into public spaces, most likely from a friend or family member. Knowing what it means versus actually incorporating certain habits into your daily activities are two different approaches – so how do we use what we know to determine whether a situation is safe or not?

Situational awareness is individual and different to each person and is, therefore, only as accurate as our perception or reading of the situation. How we read our environment is influenced by many factors such as the type of information we have been given, our own experience as well as current distractions diverting our attention.

So, why is situational awareness important? In a potentially threatening situation, you are the first responder, so the most critical benefit of practising these habits is that you win over time. It is essential to scan your surroundings, anticipate the behaviour of others, and predict what could happen so that your brain can work out a plan to keep you safe. Therefore, it is not just crucial for your personal security but is also a fundamental building block for collective security.

Now, you might be thinking that is great information but what can I do to improve my situational awareness? Make a conscious decision to implement these 8 simple tips every day to enhance your situational awareness

  1. Be mindfulPractice being “in the moment”. When you are aware of your surroundings, your senses are all engaged. Therefore, you can hear, smell and see everything to react a lot quicker. If you feel like your mind is very busy and you are having a hard time focusing, a quick way to be more present is to take 3 deep breaths.
  2. Identify exits when entering any public space – A public space can be a shopping mall, restaurant, school, gym, etc. When entering such locations, it’s best to allocate the exits. For example, if you can’t see a door, scan for windows. Anything can be an exit. This could prove useful in an emergency.
  3. Watch people without staring – Be present by observing people around you, and how they react and express themselves. This is a great way to understand what’s going on around you.
  4. Notice nonverbal cues – Nonverbal communication can tell you a lot about how people are feeling. Does their body language line up with what they’re saying? Most people have a giveaway that tells you they’re perhaps lying, nervous or angry.
  5. Limit distractions – While distractions can’t always be eliminated, you can also reduce your distractions. Not being present makes you more vulnerable. If you enjoy listening to music while walking, why not try using one earphone and reducing the sound? When walking alone try not to be glued to your phone so you can scan your environment. Most “trips” are short and temporary, you can always engage in these activities when you are in a safe space.
  6. Trust your gut feeling – Listen to your instincts. If you feel uneasy about someone or a specific place, rather remove yourself from that situation by listening to your intuition, even if there’s no visible danger. This way you train your body to trust your instinct, which in return boosts your level of confidence to always want to put your safety first.
  7. Be strategic – Ask yourself regularly if you feel safe in the space that you are in. This will give you an indication of how alert and present you need to be to make proactive decisions for your safety.
  8. Carry a self-defence toolin the event that someone threatens your personal safety and invades your personal space, it is best to have some type of reinforcing self-defence tool with you, such as The Woke Self-Defense Alarm Keychain, which can distract and scare off a potential attacker. 
          Remember: It is important to know that in a situation where you are feeling unsafe, it is not your fault. You have the right to feel safe and to take precautionary measures. See situational awareness as a tool to help you become more conscious of what is happening around you. It’s a great way to stay alert, practice staying calm, and train your brain to develop a plan of action in case of an emergency. When you train your ability to be situationally aware, you reduce the risk of freezing up. This enables you to focus on your safety, embrace your power, and feel more comfortable in your ability to protect yourself.

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