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Armed Defense

Situational Awareness: Why, When and How

Below is the situational awareness color code first developed by the late Col. Jeff Cooper, founder of Gunsite Academy in AZ. Each color represents a state of alertness as we live out our lives. The “state” or level of awareness you are in has and will have a direct impact on how you will be able to respond to a threat and survive. Make sure you know these levels and work on increasing your situation awareness skills daily.

Yellow Looks Great on You!



Unaware of what is going on around you. Honestly, the only time you should be in white is when you are asleep. Unfortunately, too many of us can be this condition while we are

awake and moving through our day. Walking out of the store while on the cell phone, talking, texting or checking social media for example. Our attention is elsewhere, or we are so entirely absorbed in something else, that we have no idea what or who is around us.



Alert and paying attention to our environment but still relaxed and calm. Yellow is the condition we should be in at ALL TIMES. We see and hear what is happening around us, and our ‘antennae’ are on. We are just naturally tuned in and aware of our environment. Walking out of the same store but in Yellow, our heads are up, eyes open and looking around and aware of who and what is around us. Taking in all of the information and paying attention to our environment.



Something doesn’t look, sound or feel right. You sense someone, or something could “potentially” become a threat. When you move into the Orange level of awareness, you formulate a plan. “I will do _________ if the circumstances escalate and become a real threat.”

While walking toward your car, you notice a menacing looking man who looks out of place, just hanging out in the parking lot. His hands are in his pockets, and he is watching you closely.

Another excellent example of this when you are driving, and you notice a car approaching an intersection up ahead on the right but the car is moving at a higher rate of speed, and you suspect it may not stop. You scan the lane next to you and think to yourself “if this car doesn’t stop I will move into the lane to my left to avoid it.”

Asking yourself the “what would I do if?” question is an essential component of effectively staying aware and ready to respond should the circumstances require action.


When the circumstances you were concerned about in level orange shift to become a real threat to you – the fight is on! In Red, you put into action the plan you developed in level Orange. An example of moving to red in the parking lot example above is: as you approach your car, the man begins to walk toward you. He then pulls a knife from his pocket and runs toward you screaming obscenities. You draw your gun, aim and shoot. If you find yourself at condition Red, you should be fully prepared to defend yourself. Training is key to becoming ready to respond in the red level. You must practice drawing your gun regularly to build the “muscle memory” necessary to respond instantly and effectively. With the available practice cartridges, you can practice firing in a variety of different positions.


Building Situational Awareness Skills

Exercise Your Observational Skills

Always pay attention to your surroundings and remain in condition YELLOW. Yes, I mentioned this earlier, but it bears mentioning again. The act of being in condition YELLOW will help you build your skills. One of the best ways to get better at something is practice! Teaching yourself to simply pay attention will increase your observational skills.

Put Yourself in the Right Position

When you go anywhere make sure you are positioning yourself in the best area for observation. How do you do this? Sit in the corner facing out. This will help you to see any threat that may be coming your way. Putting yourself in the least vulnerable position may not be something that you take advantage of regularly, but it is an important part of situational awareness.

Play Games

Seriously! You don’t have to look at building your skills as homework. Play awareness games with your friends, kids, significant others, whoever you happen to be with. Count the number of people wearing hats in the room you’re in, what color shirt is the most common, how many people are wearing glasses, etc. If you look at is as a game and “play” it with others, it will become something that you do without a second thought. Observations like this could possible save your life. Memories games will also help strengthen your awareness abilities.

"I didn't know something was wrong...
until it was too late."

Know The Baseline

When you go out, pay attention to what is happening around you. What kinds of people are there; couples, single men and women, families? Is there often a commotion or is it usually calm and quiet? Getting to know the places you frequent is important so you can recognize the baseline of where you are. When you notice something out of the norm, you should heighten your awareness in case there is something happening. Of course it could be completely innocent, but you do not want to take that chance. If you don’t have a baseline, you don’t know when something is up, you do not realize that you should be paying even more attention.

Is Anyone Standing Out?

There are some people that you just automatically notice, whether it is because of some unknown magnetism or something sinister, take note. If you see someone looking “shady” they may be up to something. Normally, as women, we tend to avoid eye contact with people who seem off, but making eye contact may help you. If the person you want to avoid is looking for an easy target, making eye contact shows that you are empowered and unafraid. If you notice someone who looks like they want to disappear, unnoticed, into the background, keep tabs on that person as well. Again, oftentimes these people mean no harm but it is never a guarantee.

Final Thoughts on Situational Awareness

Know what is happening around you, at all times. Don’t take “it won’t happen to me” for granted. Keep your head up, your eyes open and listen to what is going on. This means don’t have your eyes glued to your phone, look at the people in your vicinity, and don’t have headphones in or on when you’re out. Build your situational awareness every day so when you will always be prepared. This seems like such a simple practice but so many women have said things like; “I had no idea he was there”, “I didn’t see anyone coming”, “I didn’t know there was something wrong until it was too late.” Do everything in your power to avoid having to make these statements.

Prepare Yourself for Anything in any situation.

Keeping Your Identity Safe is another way to protect yourself and your family.

And don’t forget the 3 in 1 Self-Defense Survival Tool You Need.

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3 thoughts on “Situational Awareness: Why, When and How

  1. mary anne hughes says:

    Very good ideas. I will start practicing them..Thanks

  2. Carolyn Hiatt says:

    I am dating myself here but when I was 20 yrs old I was followed home by a man when I was in my car. My apartment building’s parking lot was dark and behind the building. He pulled up next to my car. Instead of acting scared I pulled out my removable stereo, looked him dead in the eye with a don’t f$&@ with me look got out of my car ready to hit him with my stereo (that was a 5×5 metal box if needed. I calmly walked into my building’s black door (that by the way was not locked ever) as soon as I got in the door ran as fast as I could up to my apartment and looked out the window to the parking lot and he was gone. I was so proud of myself seeming confident and ready to defend myself when I was totally not. I never saw him again. But I lived on a college campus where rape was very common.

    1. Bonnie Fiddes says:

      Thanks for sharing that. You were one smart cookie!

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