'Threat awareness' is a state of being whereby an individual is maintaining the ability to perceive and cognitively react to an event or quality of their surroundings.
Common Issues with Threat Awareness
Threat awareness is one of the most problematic areas of self-protection for many people. Common issues include:
- Difficulty arising from not knowing or understanding what to focus their awareness on,
- Difficulty maintaining awareness at all,
- Difficulty maintaining awareness while also maintaining concentration on other things, and
- Difficulty maintaining awareness while not allowing it to descend into feelings of paranoia.
Methods of Maintaining Threat Awareness
There are many methods of maintaining threat awareness. Here are a few:
Threat Awareness Commentary:
One method of maintaining threat awareness is by employing a commentary. This concept, on old one taken from advanced driving education, is fairly simple and allows the user to maintain threat awareness with minimal training required. All the user of this method must do is commentate, aloud while initially practicing but mentally in actual usage, on threats they perceive.
Pros and Cons of Threat Awareness Commentary:
- + Easy and requires little teaching/training
- + Focuses attention on threats easily
- - Can be difficult to maintain concentration on anything else at the same time, such as conversation
Cooper Colour Codes:
Another method that is widely taught is an adaptation of the colour-coded system adapted from the United States Marine Corps system of differentiating readiness by John Dean ('Jeff') Cooper . While Cooper's system is geared more towards firearms, a generalised reading can be as follows:
- Condition White: Unaware and unprepared. If attacked in this state, the only chance you have of it ending well is complete inadequacy in your attacker. If someone could walk up casually and hit you without you seeing (and/or hearing) it coming, you're in Condition White. This is often referred to as a 'victim state'.
- Condition Yellow: Relaxed awareness. No specific threat perceived, but awareness maintained. If a threatening situation arose, in this state you'd have as good a chance as you can manage of perceiving it before your safety became seriously compromised. Readiness, not paranoia.
- Condition Orange: Specific alert. Something you noticed in Condition Yellow has caught your attention as a potential threat, so you evaluate it, set a trigger ('if he does x, I'll do y', etc) and attempt preliminary measures such as avoidance strategies or advantageous positioning. You prepare yourself for the possibility of having to run, de-escalate verbally or deploy force depending on situational requirements.
- Condition Red: Threat evasion or force deployment. This could be running as fast and evasively as you can, or it could be direct combat with that as the goal. Whatever the trigger was that you set in Condition Orange, it's been tripped.
This is either visualised by users as a mental heads-up display indicating a colour or merely by repeatedly asking themselves which colour they're in throughout the day.
Pros and Cons of Cooper Colour Codes:
- + Simple and easy to remember once learned, if trained well enough
- + Takes little concentration if trained well enough, as the system is simple. Allows for concentration on other things, such as conversation
- + Incorporates useful knowledge of force regulation and appropriate response
- + Encourages in-depth analysis of the situation to hand through a simple system
- + Can aid with decision-making hesitation (OODA loop ) if learned and trained well
- + Easy and enjoyable for children to learn, as the HUD is a concept often found in popular gaming
- - Can be forgotten easily if not trained well enough before use
- - Colours' meanings can be confused and lead to inefficient focus if not trained well enough before use (focussing more on the colours and remembering their meanings than on actual threat awareness)
Awareness and Preparedness vs Paranoia
For many, it can be difficult at first to differentiate between being prepared and aware and being paranoid. Simply put:
- Preparedness is the state of acceptance that one might have to protect oneself from harm. ('I might be attacked today. It's possible but not necessarily likely. I'll be ready for it if possible though, because I'll see it coming if I can and deal with it in the best way I can manage if it did happen.')
- Paranoia is the state of expecting that one will without reasonable cause for these thoughts. ('I'm going to be attacked today. I don't know why, but I feel like I will. I'll probably fail to deal with it well, too. An attacker would likely be bigger and stronger than me. I bet there'd be more than one of them too. I don't feel like going out now. I might just stay in. I'm scared.)