We all see it everyday. On the streets, in restaurants even while driving. People are constantly on their phones with their heads down causing an accident or an injury to themselves. Viral videos are all around showing how people fall into fountains and hit walls because they were not paying attention to where they were going. Those may be funny and only injures that one person but look back on all those mass shootings. Was it ever reported that someone noticed and reported something suspicious before the first shot was fired?
Living in a developed country has its perks. The relative comfort and illusion of security have led us to put our guards down. Current mentality has shifted to putting the responsibility of Self Protection to government entities such as the police rather than ourselves. Forgetting that the current reported average response time of LAPD is 5.2 minutes. There is a lot a predator can do in a minute, let alone five.
Being situational aware is more of a mindset. Practicing sensible habits that may one day save your life.
Habit #1 – Keep your head on a Swivel
Besides the obvious reason of seeing where you are going, keeping your head up and looking around, alerts you to potential dangers. Predators usually look for easy targets. That applies for both animals and humans. Scanning your surroundings is your early warning system. If a commotion breaks out at a distance, you can stay clear and choose another path or grab your loved ones and head for the nearest exit. It also gives you the opportunity to observe irregularities in the environment that might be suspicious. The classic example of this is of a person in winter clothing on a hot day; perhaps those layers of clothing are there to conceal weapons with the person’s intent to harm.
You do not have to be like the bodyguards you see in movies, with their stern faces and sunglasses trying their best to look intimidating. You can smile and greet people. At best, it lets a predator know that you are aware of their presence and discourage them from their intent, at worst, you make new friends!
Habit #2 – Find the Exits
These days, parents use their phones to keep young ones entertained at restaurants while waiting for their orders and even while eating so the parents can dine in peace. For my child I took those lull moments and started simple games. One of those games was
“who can find the alternate exits first!”
The name of the game is corny as hell I know but now that she has grown a bit and goes out with her friends to the mall, I am confident that she has that mentality at the back of her head and in case of an emergency she can get out safely.
The first thing that should be done upon entering any establishment is to Find the Exits other than the one you used to enter. One of the worst stories I have heard regarding Exits was about a club which had a blocked secondary exit and an entrance door that opened inward. When a fire broke, the crowd ran to the entrance doors but it would not open. Instinct in a high stress environment was to push the doors open but since it opens inward, the first few that reached the door got stuck by the stampeding crowd behind and all of them suffocated and burned. Their faces pressed on the glass, trapped by the doors through which they came in. Fortunately Fire Codes in America always requires a unblocked secondary Exits and an Entrance door that can be pushed out in case of emergencies.
“By instinct, people will run towards the door they came in through, so always go for the alternate Exits to avoid the stampede.”
While driving to work I heard a breaking news on the radio.
“Police reports a shooting in downtown area, suspect fled to broadway and college. Police are looking for an Asian male in China Town”
Though I felt sorry for the victim, I could not help but laugh at the description. The next day I started another game with my child to keep her busy at lull moments when we are out. The Description Game. The describer picks a subject and starts the description with gender, height, skin color, hair color, body markings, body built, top clothing, bottom clothing, shoes then the guesser scans the area and tries to identify the described subject. We take turns and the one who identifies the subject fastest, wins. Of course we do this as discreetly as possible. This is both training in accurate description and scanning the surroundings.
The description goes something like
“Male, 5’9, Caucasian with black hair. Medium build, with black shirt, blue jeans, white sneakers wearing a silver watch on his left wrist”
Habit #4 – Walk around your Car
Walk around your car before climbing in and right after getting down. I have to give credit to my dad for this practice. My dad loved his cars so much that even flies are not allowed to land on them. He instilled in us this practice to walk around his car, to look for anything that we might hit or run over as we backed out from a parking spot. We also checked for pooling liquids on the ground, which might be an indication that our car was leaking fluids and needs the attention of a mechanic. He also minded the car parked next to us. If the car at the next slot did not park properly, chances are he doesn’t pay attention to cars around him and might scratch ours so we would go and find another parking slot.
That was back then and the concerns were cosmetic or general car maintenance. Now, there have been reports that people with intent to steal your car, put water bottles on the tires under the wheel wells or sticks it in way so that when the owner drives off, the water bottle pops. This serves as a distraction or bait so that the owner stops and opens the door to check it out. With the engine running and keys already in the ignition, car thieves simply jump in or at worst threatens the driver with a weapon as they come out of their vehicle.
Start at a distance. Before even coming close to your car, look around for suspicious characters that are in the vicinity. Before opening the door and climbing in, walk around, check for unusual objects around your car. Lock your doors the moment you climb in. Do the same routine in reverse sequence when you climb out. Lock the doors before you even walk away and do not trust your keyless remote. Walk around and check each door if it is actually locked. As you do this, pay attention to what surrounds your car, so you would have some reference of what is already there when you come back. Avoid parking next to windowless vans and as much as possible, park right under light fixtures or surveillance cameras.
There is not much you can do when a car thief is determined to steal your car but there is no reason to make it easier for them. For both home and work garage, always bring your garage door remote or access card with you.
Most car break ins are not to steal the car but to take whatever valuable they could find. So do not leave anything in your car. This includes your car registration which has your name and home address.
For other general safety tips the link below to LAPD’s crime prevention page.