Survival starts with preparation. You have to prepare, to survive.

Situational awareness is a term primarily used in self-defense and law enforcement.

The media and ridiculous reality “survival” shows have completely misrepresented what being a skilled survivalist are about.

It’s not all about guns and gear. It’s not doing stupid stunts in the jungle. Building real survival skills through real disasters and tragedies that can occur any second around you. It happens every day. And they will keep happening.

Earthquakes, Bombs, Hurricanes, Planes crashing in the mountains, and people getting mugged walking home from work. These things aren’t going away.  So what are you going to do? Sounds like it would be smart to prepare for those things before they happen. So when they do happen. My chances of survival will be infinitely better for myself and my family.

My chances of survival will be infinitely better for myself and my family.

So what exactly is it?

What Is Situational Awareness

Situational awareness is a term primarily used in self-defense and law enforcement.

According to Wikipedia, situational awareness is:

“Situational awareness or situation awareness (SA) is the perception of environmental elements and events with respect to time or space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their future status.”

It’s a heightened state of awareness. The opposite of awareness would be someone getting robbed right in front of them and not even seeing or realizing it. It’s been recognized that this is a skill set and is more important now than ever to develop a heightened sense of awareness.

What is situational awareness in law enforcement and safety?

Situational Awareness Synonyms

There are a few other terms that people use to describe situational awareness. One of the common terms I hear from people is alertness. Being more alert to your surroundings. They are referring to the same thing.

You can see a detailed list of synonyms here.

How To Build Situational Awareness

Becoming aware of everything around you at all times is a skill like anything else. It’s a smart skill to have and develop. It can mean the difference between survival and death. Of all survival and preparedness skills to have, situational awareness is one of the most important.

Situational awareness is a combination of a few different skills that are implemented quickly, again and again, all the time. It’s you’re the ability to observe your surroundings. Observe the details in your environment.

Then process that information. Process all the details around you quickly so you can then quickly act on that information. This process should happen as quickly as possible so you can act as quickly as possible.

Nothing happens without action. Making a decision to do nothing is still an action. You’ll get sharper and faster as you practice this awareness process.

There is a nice 14 step guide from wikiHow on increasing your situational awareness. They break it down into three parts.

14 Step Overview

Here is an overview of the 14 steps they laid out.

Part 1: Assess your Environment

  1. Assess your surroundings for threats.
  2. Be aware of what should be normal in your situation.
  3. Identify and gauge the danger of elements around you.
  4. Use your imagination to plan for different situations.

Part 2: Controlling Your Focus and Attention

  1. Don’t assume abnormal behavior doesn’t pose a threat.
  2. Don’t get distracted.
  3. Pay attention to time
  4. Fight against complacency.
  5. Don’t let fatigue set in.
  6. Use your peripheral vision to identify threats.

Part 3: Being Aware of Dangerous Situations

  1. Try to predict upcoming events around you.
  2. Trust your gut feelings.
  3. Position yourself to easily identify threats.
  4. Immediately identify dangerous factors of those who enter your personal space.

You can go to the full post here.

How To Develop Situational Awareness Skills for Survival

So now that you know what situational awareness is and why it’s important. Like most things, you want to have a well thought out strategy to follow and take action on. Situational awareness is no different. There are many ways you can start becoming more aware of what’s going on around you, no matter where you are.

How To Sharpen Your Situational Awareness and Awareness of Mind

How good are you at observing the world around you?

Do you notice all the little things in your environment?

Are you prepared for any worst-case scenarios where ever you are?

Developing your situational awareness is key. It’s important to always be prepared for anything where ever you are.

Looking at people around you is a great place to start sharpening your awareness. People can potentially be your biggest threat.

Always looking at the people around you can save yourself from a disaster. Now, of course, you don’t want to stare at them constantly. But there’s nothing wrong with glancing at others just so you know who is around you.

If you stare at people, you could become conceived as a threat and do more harm than good.

What are they wearing? Are they carrying anything? Are they alone or in a group?

And if you develop or have developed a trained eye, you could also spot which people are concealed carriers. That information would be good to know in an emergency situation.

Putting labels on people around you may help you simplify this part of your awareness. Making it as easy as possible for your brain to remember what the people around you are.

Labels such as “business man“, “Soccer Mom”, “Prepper“.

By seeing people and what they are doing, you can quickly label them in your head and move on.

After becoming aware of the people around you, become aware of all your surroundings. The terrain. The buildings. The trees. Any wildlife. Moving parts and machinery. In a city or in the Amazon forest, notice what’s moving and happening around you.

While you’re observing your physical environment, keep track of what you’re doing. Where are you going? Look in front of you and behind you. Is there anything potentially dangerous in front of you? How about behind you? Do you know which way to go back if you had to backtrack?

Being unaware of any of these details can result in a dangerous situation if you’re unprepared.

After becoming aware of the living things and the environment around you, most importantly, act.

Think of it as a three-step process.

Observe. Assess. Act.

Keep it simple

Observe everything, quickly assess it and label it. And act on that assessment. Most times your label and assessment will be non-threats. But becoming aware of potential threats is the best way to prepare for disasters around you.

Also, keep in mind. You’re the ability to do any of this will depend on whether or not you’re focused. If you’re not focused, you can’t observe. If you can’t observe, you can’t assess. And so on.


So what do you do? Focus. Don’t aimlessly walk around your environment.

How many car accidents are there because of people on their cell phones?

Situational awareness all starts with first eliminating distractions so you can observe what’s around you.

Lastly, if you find yourself in a hostile or dangerous situation. As always, don’t panic and act.

Do you practice your situational awareness?

For more Urban Survival Skills, visit this guide.


Situational Awareness: The Complete Guide
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