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Situational Awareness

It is, as simply as I can put it, being aware of everything around you while paying attention to what looks right and what doesn’t.

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Situational Awareness


Situational awareness is a term most often heard around military and law enforcement training centers.  It is, as simply as I can put it, being aware of everything around you while paying attention to what looks right and what doesn’t.  For the military this translates into being alert to places where an enemy might ambush the unit, or plant IEDs, as well as being vigilant when on guard.  For law enforcement this would be paying attention to people and activities that are abnormal or questionable, leading to investigation for possible criminal actions.

For Preppers the concept of situational awareness can be somewhat involved as we’ll have a limited frame of reference for our world in the midst of a crisis or disaster situation.  In other words it’s hard to define what’s abnormal about a situation when one has no idea what normal would look like in the first place.  But the unique nature of reality during a crisis or disaster is exactly why situational awareness is so very important to a Prepper.

Granted, some aspects of your situation will be fairly consistent in most situations.  Sunrise and Sunset, useful for making sure you don’t break light discipline, shouldn’t change.  Wind direction, other than its normal variations, should remain constant which is important as your smoke and cooking odors could lead an enemy to you so you’ll want to know when to avoid or mask them.

However, every other aspect of your surroundings is likely to change.  This is especially true when it comes to your interactions with people.  Consider the following:

  • Today – you see a family riding down the road toward you on bicycles. Even if they have backpacks and panniers you probably wouldn’t give them a second thought.  After TSHTF – You’ll watch them very closely to see if they have weapons, if they attempt to bring weapons to bear on you, and to ensure they continue on their way.
  • Today – You see a couple of people walking across the field on the back end of your property toward your home; you’ll probably walk toward them to see if you know them or if they need help. After TSHTF – You’ll be armed and you’ll take a defensive stance watching them closely until they are close enough to shout to.  At which point you’d demand to know why they are on your property, what they want, etc.
  • Today – You see a vehicle on the side of the road with the hood up. You might stop to see if they need help, depending on your situational awareness.  After TSHTF – You might suspect the “disabled vehicle” is a trap and stay a comfortable distance from it, or you might approach it with armed caution to see if anything can be scrounged from it.
  • Today – You hear or see an aircraft flying overhead. You might look at it to see what type of plane it is or what airline it belongs to.  After TSHTF – You won’t know if that aircraft is looking for you, carrying a threat to you, or anything else.

The point is, things will almost certainly be different during (and especially after) a SHTF (“Stuff” Hits The Fan) situation.  So a Preppers situational awareness will have to shift to accommodate the differences, possibly in ways that many will find disagreeable.  I say that because, as the examples above illustrate, situational awareness depends on the person’s interpretation of what they become aware of.  While many will try to hold on to the interpretations they were comfortable with during “normal” times, the true Prepper will be prepared to cast aside that comfort and face the cold truth of the new reality.

Humans find change difficult even in the best of situations.  So we should expect that having to change fundamental aspects of one’s world view, to say nothing of how the person sees the world, will be hard if not traumatic.  But to survive TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It) most of us will have to make such a change, to face a new reality, and to adjust our situational awareness to fit the new reality.

Let’s look at another comparison.  Today people can walk past your home, or drive past your home, all day long and you almost certainly pay no attention to them at all.  Why?  Because the rule of law is in effect and most people will adhere to it.  This means that your risk from all that traffic is so small that you give it no thought.  After TSHTF, I submit that your view of such traffic (and your situational awareness) will have to change.  Why?  Because I believe that the rule of law will almost certainly be an early casualty of a SHTF situation.  Without the protection of the rule of law every person you come into contact with could be a danger to you and yours, and each will have to be evaluated or vetted before you can afford to trust them or their intentions.

That heightened level of risk means a change in your situational awareness will need to occur.  Sadly, many Preppers seem to think they can maintain their current normalcy in the face of the extreme abnormality of TEOTWAWKI.   The question that should be foremost in the mind of all Preppers is not “how long can we continue in the way we’re accustomed to?” it should be “how different will things be and how quickly will things move beyond anything in our frame of reference?” because a crisis or disaster of the scale to be TEOTWAWKI will signal the end of “normalcy”.

All that said, to me situational awareness for the Prepper means that every encounter with outsiders will need to be viewed as an example of “Murphy’s Law”, slightly modified for these events as “what’s the worst possible situation that we could experience from this encounter?” and proceed from there.  If the encounter proves to be a good thing that’s wonderful, but if it proves to be a “Murphy Special” then at least you’ll be prepared to deal with it.  And that’s the important aspect of all of this, that you be ready to deal with the worst aspect of any encounter you face.  That means being both physically and emotionally ready for whatever happens.  You don’t have to assume that each encounter will be a “Murphy Special” but you do have to be ready to deal with those that are.

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