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On the Radar

Situational Awareness

Digital composite of back of security guard with walkie talkie against blurry shopping center
An article in a series on Unarmed Self-Defense featuring the training course Basic Use of Force Laws v4.[1]

From the Bible

They shall guard all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, and keep guard over the people of Israel as they minister at the tabernacle (Numbers 3:8).

Let everyone beware of his neighbor, and put no trust in any brother, for every brother is a deceiver, and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer (Jeremiah 9:4).

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions ... (Romans 16:17a).

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).


Knowing how to duck, hit, grab, or throw is not the first step in self-defense. It is being aware of everything around you so you won’t be blindsided.

No one wants to be blindsided, especially by a real threat of death or serious injury. According to Merriam-Webster, to blindside someone is to hit them unexpectedly from the blind side. For a person who is blind in one eye, the blind side is the side of the blind eye. It has come to mean the direction where a person is not looking.[2]

In the News

In most of these stories, the defenders might have fared better if they had been more alert before being attacked.

San Leandro, California, December 22, 2016 – About 12:30 in the morning, a man coming home from work was talking on his phone while walking from his car to his apartment. A person hiding in bushes and carrying a knife with a 10” blade jumped out and tried to take the man’s phone and wallet. The man resisted, and fought the robber. While wrestling for the knife, the robber was stabbed.

Neighbors reported the fight. Responding police found two men with serious knife wounds. The victim recovered, and the suspect died.[3]

Grand Rapids, Michigan, January 25, 2017 – Three robbers knocked on the door of a home about 4:30 am. When the occupant answered the door, they forced their way in and demanded cash. He grabbed a machete to defend himself, hitting one robber. Another knocked the machete away, and the defender pinned him to the wall, then one of the robbers shot him. The robbers left before police arrived.[4]

Seattle, Washington, March 5, 2017 – A woman runner stopped at the public restroom in a park. While washing her hands, she sensed something and turned to see a man in the restroom. He attacked her, and she fought back, using recently learned self-defense skills. She eventually escaped from the restroom and, with the help of a passer-by, locked the assailant inside to await responding police.[5]

Lynchburg, Virginia, August 16, 2017 – A man walking along a street about 1:30 am was attacked by three men. He had a knife, so he pulled it out after being knocked down and defended himself, wounding two of the assailants. The third fled. All three suspects were apprehended.[6]

Sterling Heights, Michigan, December 3, 2017 – A woman walking her dog late at night became suspicious when she noticed a man dressed in black exit a vehicle and start to follow her. She continued walking, and the man disappeared, only to pop up again from behind a trash can, this time closer with “something silvery” in his hand. When he reached for her and couldn’t grab her coat, she pulled out her concealed handgun, poked it into his belly, and said, “I don’t want to kill you.” That was enough for him. He turned and ran away.[7]

Free Downloadable Resource

Here is a really usable resource for a Church Safety Ministry, the Safety Member Training Record. It is an Excel file with three tabs:

  1. Instructions (Safety Member Training Record Instructions),
  2. Training Info (Training Descriptions and Links), and
  3. Record Template (Safety Member Training Record).

The template can be copied into added tabs, one for each Safety Member. Name each tab for the member whose record it is to make it easy to find. This way, you have the training record for each Safety Ministry member in one file.

To get this resource, click *HERE.* If not already subscribed, you be signed up for the weekly email update and the monthly newsletter, The Church Guardian.[8]

Safety in Knowing

There’s safety in knowing what is going on. And knowing comes from being aware of your surroundings. This is called “Situational Awareness.” Situational awareness or the lack of it counts in the news stories above:

Situational Awareness is taking notice of your surroundings, of who and what is there, of whether anything seems unusual or out-of-place, and of changes in your surroundings. Your perceptions may be informed by previous knowledge of individuals, of situations, of what is happening in your area, and of notifications concerning threats or persons at risk. Thus situational awareness consists of knowing what is around you (All-Around Awareness), your level of alertness (Levels of Awareness), and how your mind processes the situation (Dynamic Awareness).

All-Around Awareness

All-Around Awareness

When it comes to knowing our surroundings, this can be spherical or hemispherical awareness. Hemispherical awareness is knowing what is going on for 360º around you and what is over you for 180º from one side to the other (and front to back), 570º total.

If you are on an upper level, this is spherical awareness, adding the 180º below you for 720º total.

All-Around Awareness means not just staring at one spot, but moving your eyes, head and body and using peripheral vision. For safety/security work in a church, this also includes awareness extenders, such as the two-way radio, public address system, weather radio, public alert systems, and surveillance video monitoring.

Levels of Awareness

The level of awareness is how alert a person is and how ready to act. This is important, because no one can remain indefinitely at the highest level of alertness and readiness to act. They have to let down or burn out at some point. Therefore, our level of alertness and readiness to act depends on the situation we are in. Of course, when tornado sirens are blaring, the ground is shaking, or an armed intruder is shooting, we are at the highest level. Then in the evening we unwind, let the tension drain out, and relax enough so that we go to sleep when we get into bed.

Cooper’s Colors of Awareness

Maj. Jeff Cooper, USMC (Ret.) boiled down alertness (readiness for action) to four levels, named by color, from White to Red. The Marine Corps added a fifth level, Black.[9] They are as follows: