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Situational Awareness - What It Is and Why You Should Care

2 min read

Situational Awareness - What It Is and Why You Should Care

Situational Awareness:  What is it and Why Should You Care?

There’s a lot of talk these days about situational awareness.  Law enforcement talks about it, self-defense experts talk about it, shooters talk about it.  It seems like it’s the new buzzword.  But what is it, exactly?

Situational Awareness Defined

Some of the definitions for situational awareness can be quite complex.  But let’s just break it down:

Situational:  location or place with reference to the environment; your current status, place or position.

Awareness:  the state or condition of being aware; having knowledge; consciousness.

So to be situationally aware means that you are conscious and have knowledge about your current situation.  In other words, you know what is going on around YOU!

Conditions of Awareness

Colonel Jeff Cooper, former Marine and Founder of Gunsite Academy, developed the Cooper Color Code to describe possible mindsets with regards to situational awareness. 

                  Condition White: Unaware and unprepared

                  Condition Yellow:  Relaxed alert

                  Condition Orange:  Specific alert

                  Condition Red:  Fight

Why Should You Care?

There are so many things that compete for your attention constantly.  Technology, kids, noise or your own thoughts can keep you from paying close attention to what is happening around you.  It’s so easy to be distracted.  And it’s not just that you ARE distracted but how you look when you’re distracted.  A person who is distracted, not situationally aware, in Condition White, on their phone or whatever looks like a TARGET!  So not only are you not in a position to see danger, but you could be actually attracting it!

Situational Awareness is a Skill

Situational awareness is not just something that you are or are not.  You can learn to be more situationally aware, to have that kind of mindset.  The best way to start is to learn to be present in the present.  Put the phone down, turn off ambient noise and take the time to look around you.  My favorite place to practice situational awareness is a parking lot.  Keep your head up and look around you.  Count the people in the parking lot.  Pretend that you’re a witness to a crime and you have to describe one of the people in the parking lot to law enforcement.  The police are going to want to know height, weight, hair color, clothing and anything other identifying features.  If you were a witness, would you be able to give them that information. 


Having situational awareness or being aware of your situation can save your life; whether it’s because the bad guys/girls don’t want to mess with you because you look confident and alert or because you see danger before you become a part of it.  Make a point to practice your situational awareness and before you know it, it will become second nature to you.  And added benefit of situational awareness is that you experience so much more in your day to day life because you actually SEE so much more than you knew was happening!


Written for GunGoddess.com by Tracy Hughes. Tracy is a firearms instructor, competitive shooter, facilitator for A Girl and A Gun Women’s Shooting League and the owner of Brilliant Backstraps. 


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