Welcome to this week’s edition of the
Urban Survival Newsletter
This week’s newsletter is going to be a little shorter than usual…I’ve been letting the recent newsletters get too long for people to finish in one setting, so I’m tightening them up a little bit. Even so, it’s going to be full of tactics on a specific valuable skill that you can start using immediately. It’s situational awareness…and it’s a powerful tool that will help you interact with people more successfully, both before and after a disaster.
People tend to throw a lot of jargon around when they talk about situational awareness. One of the most common phrases is talking about always being in “condition yellow.” Condition yellow comes from famed firearms instructor, Jeff Cooper’s book, “Principles of Self Defense.” You can get it on Amazon by clicking here>> Principles of Personal Defense by Jeff Cooper <<You may know Cooper as the founder of the famous Gunsite Firearms Training Academy. Although quoted often, few people have actually read the book. It’s less than 30 pages, and dirt cheap at $10. I’ll warn you now, if you judge the value of a book by it’s weight, skip this one. If, on the other hand, you’re like me and appreciate quality over quantity and fluff, it’s one you should buy and read soon.
So let me briefly tell you about Cooper’s color codes. He maintained that people walk around in one of four states, or conditions:
Condition White: This is the baseline in America. Unaware. “Tuned out” listening to music, texting, talking on a cell phone, or just daydreaming. The belief in condition white is that everyone around you will look out for you and that nobody would have any reason to do you harm. People who walk into fixed objects like light poles, walls, etc. are generally in condition white. They don’t see danger coming and are surprised and confused when bad things happen.
Condition Yellow: This is the condition where you’re relaxed and aware of your surroundings. You observe people around you, look for exits, possible improvised weapons, and environmental threats (like icicles hanging from a roof or a young child playing by a railing with 1 foot gaps in the slats.) In this state, you’re also more likely to see opportunities, recognize friends, and identify situations where you can help with information or by taking action. Being in condition yellow allows you to be proactive and avoid problems or create favorable outcomes that other people don’t see as possibilities.
Condition yellow is NOT necessarily being on edge, irritable, having a hair trigger and thinking that everyone is out to get you. In fact, simply “people watching” is a form of condition yellow. It’s simply about proactively observing what is going on around you. If you observe good things, that’s great. If you observe bad things, you’ll usually do it early on and have more time to plan and execute your escape or reaction.
More often than not, once you’ve trained your mind to observe your surroundings, you’ll start picking up things without even consciously looking for them. Things like recognizing bulges, knowing knife brands when you’re only able to see the clip from across the room, and identifying someone who’s angry out of the corner of your eye by their clenched jaw, tense body, and the way they walk.
These observations will even pay every day as you’re just going about your life. You’ll see dog poop sooner, recognize doors that open out towards the sidewalk, see people getting ready to open their car door in your path, and the potential for well meaning people to come flying around blind corners.
Condition Orange is the next stage. It happens when something has made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
It could be something that you consciously identified or it could be something that your subconscious mind has picked up that your conscious mind hasn’t.
A radical example of this would be looking at a sociopath in the face who is showing a genuine smile, but who is also pulling their hand out of their pocket where there is the slight outline of a knife. Your conscious mind will want to focus on the genuine smile, and your unconscious mind will be screaming to focus on the knife.
In any case, when you’re in condition orange, it’s time to set concrete triggers for fighting, fleeing, or capitulating. “If he comes towards me and asks for my money, I’m going to throw my money on the ground. If he tells me to lay down, I’ll eliminate the threat.
A more ordinary example of condition orange would be spotting a concealed carry holder who’s firearm has become exposed. Probably nothing, but worth watching.
An everyday example is when you’re around young children in a new environment where you haven’t had a chance to look for dangers. Or when you are introducing dogs when one or more are sometimes aggressive. Or when you are approaching an aggressive panhandler or see someone who looks like they just got released from 10 years in the pen.
It’s important to set your triggers or have pre-decided triggers that you’ll use in condition Orange. With introducing dogs, it could be, “if my dog growls, I’ll pull sharply on the leash. If the other dog growls, I’ll pick up my dog and walk away.”
With the robber, it could be, “when he leans down to pick up the money, I’m going to kick his head with my shin.”
In a holdup situation, it could be, “if he turns his back to me, I’ll draw my firearm, drop to one knee so I’ve got a safe backstop, and order him to drop his weapon. If he points his firearm at me, I’ll shoot him to stop the threat.”
Most times, when you’re in condition orange, the stimulus will leave, you will downgrade your assessment, or you will remove yourself from the situation.
Condition Red: When something triggers condition orange and running or giving in are not an option, sometimes you will move into condition red, which is the fight.
This is simply the execution of the trigger that you decided on in condition orange. It’s actually running away. It’s actually giving in. It’s actually eliminating the threat because things have escalated to the point where the benefits of acting outweigh the risks.
How do you get better at seeing things around you?
Put simply it’s a skill. You’ll want to start simple and build on the basics. I’m going to give you some tips you can start using immediately to help you be more aware of the people around you. Simply put, it’s comparing people around you to yourself or someone you know well. When someone comes in a door, ask the following questions. They’re a fairly common set of questions that police detectives ask witnesses after a crime to help them to recall details:
– Male/female & skin color
– Older than me, the same age, or younger than me?
– Smaller, the same size, or larger than me?
– Thin, fit, fat, or obese?
– Taller, same height, or shorter than me?
– Less aware, as aware, or more aware than me?
– Dressed casually, formally, for a purpose?
You can add DOZENS of additional questions and observations, but this is a great place to start. As you’re answering these questions, you’ll naturally start to see other things that help you start to form a picture of the person.
One easy thing to identify is clothes. People usually don’t wear clothes to show people what they DON’T like…rather, they’ll wear clothes that show their favorite teams, activities, or causes.
Another is watches, sunglasses & jewelry. Sometimes they are just thrown on, but oftentimes, they help tell the story of the wearer.
Tattoos are another story teller. Are they a reminder? A tribute? A message to others?
Like I said, there are dozens of other questions you can ask and things you can observe. As you’re increasing the number of things that you observe about others, remember to add on slowly. If you go immediately from being un-observant to trying to observe 20 different factors and profile people like a Secret Service agent, you’ll just get frustrated.
On the other hand, if you start by observing a few things until it becomes natural, and then add on a few more, you’ll soon be able to make fairly accurate observations and threat/no-threat judgments quickly and almost subconsciously.
Since urban survival is as much about how well you are able to interact with others as it is about beans, bullets, and band-aids, it’s a vital skill to develop as quickly as possible. That’s why situational awarenss is one of the many topics that I cover in the SurviveInPlace.com Urban Survival Course. To learn more and get signed up, please go to www.SurviveInPlace.com.
If you have other tips, tricks, and shortcuts for being situationally aware, please share them by commenting below:
Until next week, God Bless and stay safe!