Archive for June, 2013

bigstock-walking-business-people-rushin-20335925 After last week’s wake-up call, I am now paying attention when I walk down the block or when I go for a jog, but what about that quick little walk from the grocery store to my car? Or as I leave work and head home? How aware am I in these danger zones? How aware are you? As you walk out the grocery sliding doors are you stressed over all that you still have to get done? When you call out your farewells to your coworkers and step outside are you zoned out after a long day’s work? Is your head down as you check text messages on your phone? Are you fumbling in your purse or pocket to find your keys? How many times have I pushed open Autrey’s front door and stepped out, thinking of the phone call I need to make or the dinner waiting on me and not on my surroundings? Countless. Thankfully, nobody has ever been waiting for me in the parking lot (I imagine gun store employees are probably not the most ideal targets for criminals) but past inactivity does not preclude future activity. Simply because it never has happened does not mean it never will.

In our suburban, commuter life one of the prime target areas for criminals to attack us is parking lots and parking garages. As we head to our cars, we are normally preoccupied with mental To-Do Lists, the ever-increasing cost of items, or any other  myriad topic. We also frequently have bags or items in hand or are pushing a shopping cart. This also makes us very vulnerable. Our response to any threat is highly limited physically due to these items and also the mental block of dropping all those groceries unto the ground in order to fight back. We just paid all this money for them and, as silly as it is in comparison to the value of our lives, we just don’t want to let them go. Please, just drop them. They are not worth it. Parking lots are also vulnerable areas due to the high level of concealment offered to criminals, the low number of witnesses, and the availability of a quick get-away.

GABlog_hands_060311Ok, so now what? What do I do to stay safe? After talking it over with Security Officers, LEOs, coworkers and extensive internet searching I have developed a list of action items.

  1. Lock your doors!!! Sounds simple, but apparently some people still don’t lock their doors. If you are this person, please, for your sake, lock your doors!
  2. Walk with confidence and assertiveness. (If you have ever seen The Dog Whisperer, you know the walk I’m talking about.)
  3. Keep your head on swivel. Remember the world is 360°. Look up, down, and all around.
  4. Park your vehicle farther from the store entrance. Not only is this a great way to get in some exercise, but it also decreases the number of vehicles parked next to you.
  5. Notice the vehicles that park next to you. If a van or other large vehicle (especially with tinted windows) is parked on your driver’s side, get in on your passenger side. Or if you are not able to do that, go back and get somebody to come out with you. A van is a perfect vehicle for a criminal to open the door, grab you, and drive off, all without the security cameras capturing a thing.
  6. As you approach your vehicle, look under your car as well as checking out the vehicles next to it. Criminals may hide under cars and pull your legs out from under you. If you forget to look underneath until you are close to the car, casually drop your keys or something and look under your vehicle when you pick them up.
  7. Before you get in your car, check it out. Make sure nobody is in the backseat or on the floorboards. Check out this video and this news story to see why this step is so important.
  8. Carry your bags, purse, keys, etc… in your weak hand so that your strong hand is free to access your firearm or other defense weapon.
  9. Have your keys in hand!! Do not get distracted by fumbling for them as you approach your car.
  10. Look in the surrounding vehicles to see if anyone is watching you. The natural response of an innocent person is to quickly look away when eye contact is made. Be wary of those who keep eye contact. As you continue your scan of the environment, repeatedly return your eye contact to them. But do so without showing fear. Maintain your confident attitude and walk.
  11. If, as you are leaving work, you recognize you are tired beyond the ability of maintaining awareness, ask a coworker or security personnel to walk out with you. Criminals make a living reading body language and will target the easier victims who are zoned out.
  12. Look for things that are out-of-place. The guy wearing a hoodie in the middle of July. The banged up, beat up old vehicle in a parking lot full of new Lexus’, BMW’s, and Mercedes’. It could be completely innocuous or it could be your first warning sign.
  13. Listen to your gut!! The subconscious is often better at picking up on cues and clues of impending danger than our conscious mind. If something makes you uncomfortable, get out!! It may also be that God is warning you. Listen!!

I also looked into one other situation: what if somebody is following you? This blog article succinctly sums up what everybody said. I do disagree with the article on one point; I won’t eliminate the option of driving recklessly if I need to and I have no other options. A few additional tips I picked up: 1. Use your side mirrors more than your rearview mirror so that it is less obvious you spotted the tail. 2. When you come to an intersection turn your blinker on to indicate you will turn left but make a quick turn to the right. If they exactly mimic your actions, you know they are following you. 3. Program your county sheriff’s number or local police station number into your phone. Call them if you are being followed. Also, simply to emphasize the point already stated in the above article, NEVER DRIVE HOME! Drive to a police station or another public place, but do NOT lead them home.

MuggerPractice these things. Not only physically but also practice them mentally. Run scenarios through your mind. Make them as realistic as possible. Get your emotions involved. What if your child is with you when you see somebody in your back seat? What will you do then? Run through probable situations in as much detail as possible. Train your mind. When you hear of a self-defense story on the news, mentally put yourself in the shoes of the victim. Walk through the situation. And don’t judge and assume you wouldn’t make their “stupid” mistake. Remember, hindsight is 20-20. Their decision made sense to them at the time. Try to understand why so you can avoid doing similar.  Our brains record these vividly imagined scenarios as if they were real. Having these “memories” will help us react instead of think in that initial moment of attack. That extra second or two that reacting gave you could be what saves your life.

But most importantly, do not give in to fear or panic. This not only fuels the predators, but  also impedes your thinking and reaction time and, longterm, is a very unhealthy way to live. Choosing to live life aware is not about living in a state of paranoia or panic. It is choosing to utilize the tools God has given each of us to the fullest extent possible. As the Amplified Bible says, God has not given us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control. 2 Tim 1:7. Choosing to be aware of our surroundings and environment is choosing to live with a calm, well-balanced mind while maintaining discipline and self-control. As society breaks down around us and violence increases, may we all keep a spirit of love and our sound minds.iStock_000000233138Small


For further research I recommend: (while this blog is directed to first responders, it is a great resource for understanding the cognitive processes behind situational awareness.)

The Well Armed Woman sells a Level of Awareness Key Ring or Zipper Pull. This is a great way to be reminded to stay aware!


Woman Being Attacked. Models Released

If you own a gun for self-defense you have probably heard the term “Situational Awareness.” I’ve heard the term for years and considered myself to be fairly aware, yet over the last week I miserably failed two tests of this supposed awareness. Thankfully, both were completely harmless but they highlighted my apparent Whiteness. (I use the term “Whiteness” referring to Jeff Cooper’s color coded awareness system. Condition White is unaware, out of touch, and unable to respond. Ouch.) I had been blissfully cruising along, deceiving myself into thinking I was aware and capable of any reaction needed, when in reality I could have been blindsided. These two interactions have prompted me to reinvestigate Situational Awareness and truly apply it to my life. As I have discovered, this is a very large, complex topic and I will spend the next few weeks covering various aspects of it. Since both of my failed tests occurred while I was standing, I decided to focus, this week, on detecting threats and maintaining awareness while on foot.

walkingandtexting-copyFirst of all, what is Situational Awareness? I define it as being cognizant of and able to describe the environment around you. Here’s a quick test: as I am writing this on Sunday night in the Bible Belt, I imagine a lot of you went to church this morning. You likely spent an hour or more looking at your pastor or song leader. Can you specifically describe what they were wearing? What color shirt was he (or she) wearing? What type of shoes did they have on? Was your pastor wearing a watch? Did they have a ring on, if so what finger? If, like I did, you suddenly realize you can’t describe in detail somebody you looked at for an hour or more, how will you be able to describe your attacker (who you’ll probably only see for seconds or a few minutes) to the police? How will you accurately size up potential threats if you are not noticing details about their clothes, jewelry, stance, and eyes? Being aware of our environment not only helps us document the facts after an incident, but also can help us avoid these incidents to begin. You are more likely to notice suspicious behavior when you are paying attention to common behavior.

So let’s get down to specifics, what do you do to maintain your awareness while shopping, getting gas, leaving work or any other pedestrian activity?

Screen Shot 2013-06-16 at 11.24.37 PM

1. Actively monitor your zones. Purposefully analyze activities from beyond 21 feet inward into your intimate zone. Do not get tunnel vision and focus solely on activities occurring up close and personal. As you identify a threat it is very easy to focus on them and thus ignore the rest of your environment. To do this is potentially detrimental to your health. You must continue monitoring the environment at large to keep from getting surprised by accomplices or other negative situations. This is the second test I failed. A well dressed lady approached me at a gas station and I focused so intently on observing and assessing her that I lost awareness of the rest of the station. I got tunnel vision and would have been blindsided if somebody had come up behind me. Thankfully, she was with Jehovah’s Witness and nothing nefarious was intended, but about halfway through our brief conversation I realized I had lost all awareness of everything but her. It was unnerving. It was similar to the feeling I got after watching Awareness Test videos on YouTube. Check out the links below. I hope you do better than I did.

n_1park2. If you need to focus in on a task, such as texting or calling, try to find an area where you can stand in a corner or at least against a wall. This minimizes your areas of vulnerability. If you must do these activities while walking, do not do them in fringe areas. Fringe areas are zones in between areas of high activity and deserted areas; such as parking garages, behind amusement park rides, or the long hallway at the back of the mall. In fact, I go through these areas with great caution. And ladies, please, please do not jog down the road with earbuds in and music blasting. I cringe every time I see that.

3. As you are walking or shopping, pay attention to the traits of the people around you. Look for signs of aggression or anxiety. Analyze people you have labeled a “non-threat” to monitor for signs of nervousness or anxiety as well. If they seem “out-of-sorts” try to figure out why. It could be they have picked up a threat you can’t see yet.

4. Listen to the sounds of the environment and be familiar with what is making the sounds. This way you will alert when something sounds wrong.

Maintaining a constant state of awareness is a lifestyle not an attitude. While it is challenging to implement, most instructors and trainers say, and I believe, it is possible for each of us to live in Condition Yellow (alert, aware and relaxed). If you have any tips, advice or suggestions on how you maintain your awareness please share them in the comments. We can all learn from each other and I need all the help I can get.

Next Week: Situational Awareness and Cars.

Other Sources: (Listen with loud speakers or headphones, audio is very quiet)

Awareness Tests:



In the past, when I thought of pepper spray, I relegated it to a second or third class position as a defensive weapon. I always considered it as a back-up to a back-up or a bare minimum defense when a firearm is prohibited. However, I recently did some research into pepper spray, technically named OC Spray, and discovered it’s actually a highly effective defensive weapon. In fact, many security firms, such as Personal Protection Consulting and the Professional Bodyguard Association, recommend  OC spray over firearms. Turns out, there are a lot of advantages to OC spray.

  1. It is non-lethal
  2. It can be carried places that firearms are not allowed
  3. The results are immediate without long-lasting permanent affects
  4. There are immediate results with low doses
  5. With proper use, it is effective on drunks, people under the influence of drugs, emotionally disturbed, highly irritated or violent persons and most animals.
What is OC Spray?

OC or Oleoresin Capsicum is a mixture of resin and an essential oil occurring in the pepper family (Cayenne, Chili, etc…). Capsaicin, which is the stuff that makes peppers HOT, is extracted from capsicum plants. While one would think manufacturers would use the hottest peppers known to man to create the OC spray, such as the Ghost Pepper or other insanely hot peppers, the active ingredient in OC is actually derived from Cayenne peppers. CN and CS are man-made products and have different effects than OC spray.

How Does It Work?

If you have ever eaten spicy ethnic food you are probably already familiar with the effects of Capsaicin. Capsaicin is what produces that burning sensation in your mouth, causes your eyes to water, nose to run and depending on the heat level it may even produce perspiration. When used in a spray and applied to the face it will cause a great deal of pain to the eyes (it has been described as “being hit in the eyes with hundreds of needles”) and will likely cause a fair-skinned face to turn red. If it is inhaled, the respiratory tract will become inflamed and will produce coughing, gagging and gasping for breath, and a burning sensation of the of the throat and lungs may persist. These reactions indirectly address two of man’s most basic fears: blindness and suffocation.

How Effective Is It?

The heat of the spray is part of what determines how effective a particular brand of OC spray is. Heat of Capsaicin is measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHU’s). The range for SHU’s is 0 to 15 million, but most of the sprays on the market today range from .5 to 2 million SHU’s. However, heat is only one aspect used to determine how effective a spray will be.

The concentration level of Capsaicin is also highly important. Most OC aerosols range from 5 to 10%. The concentration level does not change how quickly a person is affected by the spray but does change how quickly a person recovers from being sprayed. At a low level of concentration, if a person splashes themselves off with cool water, they may recover in as little as ten minutes. However, with higher levels of concentration recovery may take as long as two hours. Many instructors recommend people carry at units that have at least 10% concentration and 2 million SHU’s.

The delivery method and type of spray also affect the outcome. For distance and accuracy, stream sprays are best. The most recommended delivery method is to aim directly at the face and use short bursts of spray.

All that said, the largest factor of effectiveness is the individual sensitivity of the person sprayed. Approximately, 3% of the US population is not affected.

How Do You Use It?

Remember the Four S’s:

SHAKE: shake the aerosol can periodically and before use to ensure it is functioning correctly and contains OC.

SHOUT: Loud verbal commands, such as “STOP”, “NO”, or “DOWN” act as a diversion to the mind and may cause the individual to hesitate, be confused or disorientated.

SHORT BURSTS: OC should always be sprayed directly at the face of your assailant. Use short bursts at close distances and in still air. Use slightly longer bursts in moving air, at greater distances or when spraying multiple subjects. Maximum desired effect occurs when the OC atomizes into a cloud of fine OC droplets and thus enters the nose, eyes and mouth more easily. To give the propellent/carrier time to dissipate, it is very important you use short bursts of spray. Continuous spraying delays or negates the effects of OC. Improper spraying of the subject is the main reason for failure of an OC product to work on a subject.

SHUFFLE: After spraying, immediately shuffle step aside. The attacker may continue toward you with their eyes closed. It is important you not be there when they get there. Do not SPRAY AND STAY!!

How Do You Get It Off Of You?

So you are practicing with your spray and you accidentally get it on you. Or you are one of those that feel they should be personally experienced with the items they carry (the logic of which I’ve never understood because they don’t shoot themselves before they carry a gun. Why do they spray themselves or taser themselves before they carry spray or a taser?) In any case, if you get OC spray on you the best thing you should do is wash in cold water. Do not rub. I repeat, do NOT rub. Splash with lots of cold water.

Where Do You Get It?

Autrey’s carries several great brands including: Sabre Red, and Kimber Pepper Blaster.

You may also order online:

and countless other online stores. Make sure to get at least 10% with 2 million SHU’s.

Other sources: