One of the most important aspects of surviving emergencies is your ability to be aware of your surroundings. This is ubiquitously referred to as “Situational Awareness” and is often just referred to as “SA”. Situational awareness is a peculiarity amongst those who prepare – it is both a skill and experience. It has to be developed, like any skill, but the more often you find yourself in dicey scenarios, the more likely you are to pick up on subtleties that are out of place, or inconsistent with the surrounding environment.
As situational awareness applies to the environment, there is a simple way to test yourself, provided you have at least one friend. It’s a game called “KIMs”, also known as “keep in memory”. In order to be effective, you’ve got to play KIMs randomly and try and surprise your friend with an SA test.
The game itself goes something like this:
Have your friend stop what they’re doing, and present them with a series of questions.
- What color are the walls? Are there windows?
- How is the furniture organized? What is its color?
- Describe any art you saw.
- Describe any people you saw. What were they wearing? Their approximate ages, genders, races and such?
- Where were the exits? Entrances? Stairwells?
- Where were the resources? (First Aid Kits, AEDs, snack machines, refrigerators, fire axes – whatever)
- Was there security? How were they outfitted? Armed? With what? (and what type of what – if you can ID specific types of weapons or nuances about uniforms – more better)
KIMs is one of the first steps to developing situational awareness, and is a constant benefit to you. As you develop your sense of tactical thinking, you’ll find that the placement of dangerous areas is consistent throughout buildings and in various architectures’. Placement of resources is common, and you’ll find that most buildings have various entrances and exits that are not public, and can be thought as you move through a given environment. You’ll start seeing potential choke points, spots where secondary injuries will occur (and you might recognize where Type I emergencies will strike within a Type II). When you seat yourself, begin by find a spot that is tactically advantageous; if you don’t fully understand what that means yet – that’s ok – the idea is that you will.
Think of it this way – What position gives you the broadest set of advantages (visual, spatial, escape, avoidance of dangerous areas such as corridors and stairwells) and covers the broadest set of emergencies, such as fires, outages, earthquakes or active shooter situations?
Developing your situational awareness skill set will not only bring you better insights in the present moment, but will also help you assess resources and hazards in your everyday surroundings and community. With these insights you can take actions to improve the situation and increase your resilience in various scenarios.
So I invite you to begin developing SA and find a friend or group to start challenging each other to seeing the world around you in a whole new light. Share your insights and experiences in the comments below.