How To Detect A Threat While on Foot?

Posted: June 16, 2013 in Self Defense
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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:


  1. Reblogged this on Highlands Keep, LLC and commented:
    Here is a great post about the importance of situational awareness in every day life! This applies to all people.

  2. […] How To Detect A Threat While on Foot? […]

  3. […] How To Detect A Threat While on Foot? ( […]

  4. Nice. But whats another action? I wanna get out of this mentality!

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