A few weeks ago, I was catching up with an out-of-town buddy of mine who recounted how he had recently gotten into a scuffle with an angry drunk in front of a bar. The man was spoiling for a fight and followed my friend down the street trying to provoke him.
In describing the encounter, my friend said to me, “At first, I didn’t even realize the guy was coming after me… I just thought he was mumbling to himself. It caught me off guard to suddenly have someone I don’t even know challenge me to a street fight.”
The conversation made me decide that I’d have to have to take time to discuss situational awareness with you. My friend’s lack of situational awareness nearly resulted in a violent confrontation. But situational awareness can impact us at anytime, whether we’re driving, jogging, flying or just about any circumstance you are in. So what about in survival situations?
Let’s say you’ve got your winter survival kit packed in the car, just in case you get stuck in the snow. You’ve got your flares, a blanket, some MRE, gloves, a little shovel, maybe some paracord, kitty litter – you name it. So you feel pretty good about yourself, right? But did you check the weather forecast or assess the worsening driving conditions before you head out?
Here’s another situation. You’re out on a wilderness hike, when your hiking partner slips on a rock and falls hard, sustaining injuries. Your camp site is a mile behind you or there is a ranger station two miles ahead. What do you do?
One last hypothetical situation and I’ll make my point. The weather forecast predicted a severe rain storm. Since you’re on high ground, you’re not initially concerned, but you suddenly realize that the only routes to safety are through low-lying areas that are completely submerged. Do you risk sinking your car or do you stay put? What could you have done differently?
As you read the situations above, you were probably wishing for more information, such as the nature of your hiking buddy’s injuries or what kind of terrain lay between you and the ranger station. I left that information to your imagination, because that’s where situational awareness is critical. You’ll need to make quick decisions, based on how badly your friend is injured, the risk of moving them and the dangers of proceeding by yourself over difficult terrain.
If your friend fell off a rock and is 20 feet below you, should you try to get to him? Rushing to do so may result in getting yourself injured, and you’ll both be stuck without a way of notifying rescuers. So before you even get to the point of looking for sticks to make a splint or charging off to get help, you need to assess what you’re up against, what your choices are and the relative risks of each choice. The same goes for piling your family into your car and setting out on flooded roads or trying to drive home from work during a blizzard.
So Lesson One of situational awareness is:
- Keep a cool head and stay calm.
- Assess your situation and determine your options.
- Anticipate outcomes rather than reacting to them.
- Control the situation to the extent that you can and stay in proactive mode.
I’ll continue this next week, but in the mean time, take note of news stories on various topics related to rescue and survival, then think how you might have handled the same situation.