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Sep 19

Situational Awareness and Situational Assessment

Posted on September 19, 2019 at 5:04 PM by Deputy Aaron Scheller

Mass Shootings

Every crime, from thefts to horrific massive shootings, has red flags-- warning signs that a potentially dangerous situation is developing. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to detect and prevent a planned attack from occurring particularly when the perpetrator is acting alone. However, we stand a better chance of surviving an attack by using situational awareness and situational assessment.

In their simplest form, situational awareness is viewed as "a state of knowledge" and situational assessment as "the processes" used to achieve that knowledge.

Woman Calling In Emergency inside Parking Lot

Let’s take something simple like being in a parking lot. Do we see what is happening around us to avoid being a victim of a theft? We can assess the situation by looking around to see if there is someone who appears to be in the area for the wrong reasons. Is someone peering into car windows or pulling on door handles? Is someone walking too close behind an individual who just accessed the ATM? This is conducting situational assessment and preparing for the possibility of a crime. What do we do with the information? Do we look down, walk the other way and pretend it’s not our problem or do we find a safe spot and immediately dial 9-1-1.
Basketball Game  Inside School Gym

Now consider this scenario: you walk into the high school gymnasium to watch a friendly basketball game between arch rivals. Normally you would go find a seat in the same section as your friends and family members to cheer your team to victory. Do you know what you would do if a situation developed while the game was underway? Did you take a moment before sitting down to look around and identity all the exists and which one you would take if you had to make a quick escape?

As a law enforcement officer, assessing each situation before committing to possible reactions is a normal part of my work routine. For my safety and that of others, I must always be aware of my surroundings and assess threats in advance.

Of course, I don’t shut off this mindset when I’m not in uniform. It’s very much a part of my nature. As a husband and father, I am continually paying attention to our surroundings no matter where I may be spending time with my family. I make it a point to become familiar with our surroundings – both people and objects, to identify exits and potential hiding places, and do never let my guard down so that I can be ready in the event I have to react quickly.That’s not to say I don’t relax. Being aware does not mean being rigid. Being observant does not mean being paranoid.

This topic should not incite feelings of fear or worry. It's meant to be empowering.The takeaway is simple – look at what goes on around you at all time. Continually assess your surroundings so you can detect what belongs and what is out of place. Plan to react – whether it’s hiding, running or fighting. When you beat the fear of the unknown, you stand a better chance of not becoming a victim.

As always, thank you for subscribing to Safety Speak.Leaflets with safety tips, including one about situational awareness, can be found on the City website. I encourage to download them, read them, and share them with family members and friends.

Also, if you have any public safety-related questions or concerns you want to share with the City or our local sheriff’s station, or if you have suggestions for topics to cover in this blog, be sure to let me know using the Ask a Deputy feature.