Situational awareness is the process of being observant to our surroundings. This isn't just what you can see, it is also what you can hear and smell. Situational awareness includes the understanding of intangible ideas, experiences, knowledge and intuition. Situational awareness is something we live and breath, it isn't just when we are “going out-on-the-town that we turn on and become situationally aware. Situational awareness is a lifestyle, we live it every day, all the time. We are observant of the news and current affairs at the local-regional-world level, we take into account events, meaningful dates or anniversaries, we look at all the influences in our surroundings and attempt to synthesize an initial risk assessment.
Situational awareness will give us the input to be analysed and overlayed with our own experiences, training, and even huntches. We analyse the perceived input and make decisions based on a logical analysis of the available data, this decision is often referred to as a plan. Once the decision is reached we carry out the plan through some type of action. We have just described how awareness applied to a decision making tool known as the OODA Loop cycle will help us make timely decisions under stress. OODA Loop is a cyclic tool, we are always reevaluating our input, analysing the situation which builds a plan that we act upon over and over in an effort to always better our situation. The difference between living and dying is the ability to have a plan(s) and act upon it faster than your adversary.
Observe (Input / Awareness)
Orient (process and analize)
Decide ( a plan)
Act ( do something)
Vehicle Situational Awareness
Don’t pull too close behind a vehicle stopped in front of you. Rule of thumb for distance is; as seated in the drivers seat you should be able to see the rear tires of the vehicle in front of you. If you have pulled in so close that all you can see is the vehicles trunk in front of you, you have severely limited the maneuvering room for your vehicle.
A few considerations for elevated awareness:
Scan your mirrors while stopped, this will give you more awareness of what is going on behind and out to the angles of your vehicle. Most drivers know of the “blind spot” on their particular vehicle. Not all vehicles have the same blind spots, the most common blind spots are the A, B, and C pillars on your vehicle. These pillars seem small but we’ve all “almost” pulled into a lane where a car has been driving in our blind spot, hiding behind that little pillar. Bad guys know of these blind spots as well. Approaching a stopped vehicle from a blind spot can conceal the criminal until he springs his attack. Action is always faster than reaction.
While driving observe your environment as far out as possible keep your eyes scanning the road near-too far, far-too-near. By scanning into the distance we are attempting to identify threats far enough away in order to take evasive action before we become affected by the obstruction or checkpoint. If the road block, obstacle, or unlawful checkpoint is set up by people any tactical knowledge, they will probably set up in such a manner as to capitalize on terrain masking, channelization and or other obscuring techniques as to not give approaching drivers sufficient awareness of the blockade until it is too late to react and escape the area.
If you observe obstacles, unlawful checkpoints or roadblock with enough distance to not be acted upon by those manning the roadblocks, you should quickly evaluate the situation, getting away from the possible threat is priority. Changing directions if possible and avoid the checkpoint all together. Often times blockades, traffic control points or checkpoints will also have tactical considerations in place to address those vehicles who are attempting to circumvent the checkpoint. Consider yourself under observation and more than likely covered by rifle fire. Weighing the situation utilizing OODA Loop decision making tool will help give the driver the ability to act quickly and decisively make the best decision available at that moment, given the limited information on hand. Don’t stop the vehicle.
If circumventing the blockade is not an option and changing direction or reversing is not an option, then you may have no other choice but to drive through the barricade. Attempt to strike with the front corner of your vehicle on a glancing blow to the objects blocking your path. Striking objects with a glancing blow using the corners of your vehicle will help prevent incapacitating damage to your vehicles engine when pushing through. In these situations movement is a form of security. We want to try and avoid incapacitating damage to our vehicle if possible.
Situational awareness in the city:
Being caught in a mob or riot while in your vehicle can be extremely dangerous. We have seen in recent riots and flash mobs, the criminal participants act with a sense of anonymity. The larger the number of people involved in a riot or flashmob gathering, the less likely the criminal participants are going to adhere to common moral guidelines or the laws of the land. The bystander effect plays heavily into this as most people are merely watching, and not actively participating. Those onlookers will often times lack the moral and intestinal fortitude to step in and attempt to help or render aid to those innocent citizens caught up in a riot or flash mob- in large part from as a physiological response termed the diffusion of responsibility. Diffusion of responsibility is the notion that no one else is helping therefore the general crowd mentality will be to not help at all.
Being vigilant is our first and often times most effective tool not only defensive but offensive as well. At all costs try to avoid being in a general area of unrest. If you find yourself caught up in an otherwise unavoidable situation, attempt to immediately flee the area. The number one priority is to escape by any means and survive. We are law abiding citizens and we often times will follow laws and regulations to our own detriment. During your escape you may infact need to break some vehicle codes or other laws or regulations. In my opinion, I would much rather pay for those tickets after I have successfully escaped a possible life threatening situation.
Don’t worry about your own vehicle damage, don’t worry about anything other than escaping the area with your life and the lives of anyone else in your vehicle. It is highly suggested that while attempting to escape you phone or have a passenger phone Police and advise them of your situation. Giving a loud verbal narrative will also help document all actions which occurred during your escape. Update Police with possible damages to property once you have escaped the danger area. You are not leaving the scene of a crime by damaging personal property if you feel your life is in danger, you do have an obligation to let authorities know once you are in a safe area.
If you were unable to avoid a riotous mob or a flash mob of criminals, and your vehicle is starting to be surrounded, immediately ensure all your doors are locked and windows are up fully. Ensure your seatbelt is fastened. Do not stop, do not attempt to communicate with the crowd. Hold down the horn, keep your vehicle moving at a steady pace but slow enough to allow the crowd to move from in front of your vehicle. If at anytime you feel the crowd is potentially going to incapacitate your vehicle thereby leaving you with no escape which would place you in extreme and imminent danger of great bodily harm or death and/or you fear for your life or the lives of those in your vehicle, then you must do what the circumstance requires for you to survive. Doing what is required to survive may very well mean you continuing to slowly drive through the assaulting crowd, not stopping, not allowing your vehicle to be incapacitated, regardless if the attacking criminals move or not.
Be aware that the riotous crowd will attempt to smash in your car windows and unlock your doors in attempts to remove you from the vehicle. Keeping all persons in the vehicles seat belted will help prevent you from being pulled from inside the car should the crowd breach one of your doors or windows. The crowd may also target your gear shifter and keys in an attempt to quickly disable the vehicle in order to allow the onslaught of rioters to overwhelm the vehicle and extricate all persons inside. If you have passengers attempt to have them assist in fending off the criminal rioters from gaining entry into the vehicle, have passengers wrap a towel or clothing around the ignition helping to prevent easy access to turning off the vehicles engine. Attempt to protect or conceal the vehicles gear shift mechanism. This may be challenging for vehicles with a standard transmission requiring unobstructed access in order to operated properly.
Once you have identified that you and your passengers are in a life or death situation all options must be quickly assessed. You are in a full on self-defense use of force scenario. The vehicle may in fact be used as a weapon to defend yourself. You must know that when using a vehicle as a weapon you are using deadly force, all of your rational and judgments will later be looked at to determine if you used appropriate force for the given circumstance. Prior preparation prevents piss poor planning, this should not be the first time you have ever thought about a situation like this, playing the “what-if” game or “war-gaming” scenarios are all part of the situational awareness lifestyle which you must live.
It is not out of the realm of possibility that in order to live you must use a weapon of opportunity or availability. If the vehicle is the only option available and you are in a life or death situation, you may have to use the vehicles a means to live and or protect the lives of others. Don’t second guess yourself, repeatedly honk your horn, don’t stop, keep going until you are away from the threat. Once you have some amount of distance between you and the previous threat, ensure that if you haven't already, that you immediately make contact with Police. You must ensure you document the non-malicious intent of what you had to do in order to protect your life and the lives of others in your vehicle.