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Seniors and Security II: 6 Tips for Improving Situational Awareness


This is the second installment of a two-part series on seniors and security. Last week I shared seven tips for making one’s home more secure. Today I will be exploring ways we can all be safer in public places. My article on home security seemed to have touched a few nerves. I always post these articles on Facebook and LinkedIn. A few readers on Facebook though were a bit irate with me because, I believe, of the picture I chose. It showed a man picking the lock of a sliding glass door. Not sure why they were upset, but they were. My intent then, as it is now, was to merely highlight the issue and share a few suggestions and deterrents. I apologize if any feathers were ruffled. That was never my intent.


Situational awareness needs almost no introduction, especially when we recall the shootings at Columbine, Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, and other attacks. A mass shooting has no agreed upon definition. These violent public acts are only a small number of gun-related deaths accounted for each year. They get more press because of the numbers killed at one time. A recent Washington Post article in a study of 162 mass shootings, reported that 1,153 people were killed. Sadly, assaults like this are now a part of our daily lives. We don’t know when or where the next one will take place, but we know it will. However, what we can all do is take steps to be aware of our surroundings and be better prepared. Situational awareness is most often associated with public places, but it can (and should) be practiced in other areas as well, including home and work. “Simply put, situational awareness is being aware of your surroundings. More specifically, in the context of personal safety tips, it refers to a mindset that allows a person to notice potential threat scenarios in time to react accordingly.” Here are six ways we can at all times be more aware of our surroundings:


  • Body language – Be aware of the people around you, keeping in mind what is normal behavior for that particular time and place. Christopher Pendas, the founder of Staying Safe, espouses and teaches that individuals need a focused awareness so they can be proactive and not reactive. My take? If you sense a threat, leave. That’s the best mitigation.


  • Know where the exits areKen Jorgustin, writing in Modern Survival Blog, advises people to plan an exit ahead of time. Most often, people will panic and exit the same way they entered. This creates a dangerous bottleneck. Know that in a restaurant there is usually a back exit from the kitchen.


  • Sit facing the doorBryan Black, the founder of ITS Tactical, recommends that in public venues like a restaurant or theater you should sit facing the front door and a view of the entire establishment. From that vantage point, you can observe foot traffic from the front door which is the most likely place where something will happen. This command position allows you to assess where the exits are and where places for cover exist.


  • No electronic distractions – The music may be cool or your spouse has something to impart, but those headphones or cell phone will always diminish your situational awareness. John Caile, a staff writer for Concealed Carry, suggests people be more disciplined in using their cell phone or another device. We’ve all seen people so engrossed in their cell phone that they walk into a lamp post or off the curb into oncoming traffic.


  • Use ReflectionsLewis Miller, writing for Online Barracks, recommends using any and all reflective surfaces to enhance awareness of your environment. These surfaces include storefront windows, your watch, cell phone or glasses. Doing this will give you eyes in the back of your head and, more importantly, a higher degree of safety.


  • Parking lot AwarenessJeff Houston, an NRA instructor, and former green beret, recommends parking in well lit, high traffic areas. When walking to and from your vehicle be aware of people in cars, movement and corners where someone could be hiding. When returning to your car, have your keys already out. If necessary, they can be a weapon. If you’re unsure of the lot, ask the attendant to escort you to your car.


Safety is an issue for young and old alike. The six basics I shared are a good place for starting your awareness, not ending. Dozens of other tactics and suggestions are out there. For example, always be aware of your surroundings in the parking lot of places like a Wal Mart or local grocery store. There are too many stories of predators lurking behind cars or following someone to a vehicle. My dad heard an expert once who advised seniors to not have handicap license plates. He claimed it was an open invitation for an unwanted attack or robbery. I agree.


Seniors can be easy prey for thieves and assailants. It’s a good idea to practice caution at home and in public. No one wants to be a victim or a statistic. Be aware. Plan ahead.