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Being your own bodyguard – A practical guide to situational awareness

Situational Awareness (SA) essentially means being cognisant of what is going on around you. In terms of security, it means being constantly aware of your safety and having the ability to identify potential threats. Not just important when it comes to hostile scenarios, SA helps to keep you safe in everyday scenarios. Today, professional bodyguards are not only equipped with the right psychology and traditional techniques to remain at the highest levels of awareness, but they are also increasingly taking advantage of rapidly evolving technology to protect you.

That said, there are several steps you can take, yourself, to stay safe. And they go far beyond simply avoiding dark streets, not wearing expensive jewellery in public and locking your car doors.

Mindset over matter

Being aware of one’s surroundings is predominantly more of a mindset than a hard skill. This practice can, ultimately, be exercised by anyone with the will and the discipline to do so.

So how do you alter your mindset to become more aware? The first step is to recognise that threats exist – everywhere. Apathy and complacency can make it difficult to quickly identify and avoid a threat.

Another important facet of this mindset is learning to trust your intuition. Often, a person’s subconscious tunes into subtle signs of danger that the conscious mind has difficulty quantifying or articulating. The discipline element of practicing enhanced SA refers to a conscious decision to pay attention to gut feelings and surrounding events, even when doing other things.

The five levels of awareness

There are five core levels to measure SA which are often referred to as Cooper’s colours in military training. These include:

  • Actively distracted – Not paying attention
  • Relaxed – Going about your business while paying attention
  • Focused – Observing potential threats (Amber)
  • On high alert – Identifying viable threat and reacting
  • Comatose or in shock – Freezing, unable to respond

How do I choose the right level?

Personal SA is not about teaching you self-defence. A fight or flight approach to your surroundings might be helpful, in certain cases, but it is neither sustainable nor healthy for body and mind. Rather, SA is all about stripping things back to allow you to be more in tune with who is around you, where you are and whether you are an easy target. Most of the time, the best level to stay at is that of   relaxed awareness – a state of mind that allows you to live your life without the adrenaline, stress and fatigue associated with being on high alert.

Professionals meanwhile often follow the Cooper’s Colours related saying ‘always on amber’ which relates to a focused state and it is at this level that trained operatives tend to stay in whilst working.

You can hone your situational awareness capabilities by practicing some simple drills where appropriate. For example, you can consciously move your awareness level up to a focused state for short periods of time during the day to get into the habit of responding to a change in your surroundings. Examples of this might include identifying all the exits when entering or exiting a building, counting the number of people in your immediate area and even noting which cars are taking the same turns in traffic.

Another useful exercise is to assess those around you and attempt to ascertain their stories, asking yourself what their mood is, what they do for work or what they appear to be focused on, purely by observing them.

Trained teams often follow similar exercises when working – aiming to remember, cars, make and models of vehicles as well as registration numbers of vehicles seen more than once throughout the day.

Our SA is only ever as accurate as our own perception or reading of a given situation, which is what makes developing your abilities so important to protecting yourself and those around you. But this doesn’t have to mean being obsessively concerned about security every moment of the day.

If you come to a point where you feel that your situation has evolved beyond practicing your own enhanced SA and you no longer feel safe, engaging a bodyguard or close protection team is by far the most effective route to consider. Bodyguards are hired for a broad range of reasons, not only by celebrities and royal families but also C-Suite executives and members of Family Offices. Concerns over professional threats can often be more complex than those related to private individuals, and most sophisticated threats nowadays will come from in the form of cyber security breaches, covert surveillance or highly technical equipment that can only be counteracted through specialist equipment and techniques.

For more information on our close protection services, get in touch with us or visit our dedicated physical protection page on our website.


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