People usually operate from five different areas of situational awareness:

Tuned Out, Relaxed Awareness, Focused Awareness, High Alert, and Comatose 

Stratfor Worldview uses a scale to measure where individuals fall in the spectrum. They use examples from driving a car to help people understand what the varying levels of situational awareness look like. The first level is called Tuned Out. This mindset is similar to when you are driving while thinking about something else or listening to music. The person’s actions and decisions are automatic. The next level is known as Relaxed Awareness. Like defensive driving, the driver can enjoy the scenery and the trip, but is still very aware of other drivers around them and potential dangers. This level does not require much extra energy. Focused Awareness follows. This is similar to driving in dangerous road conditions. The driver has to keep two hands on the wheel at all times and keep his or her attention focused on the road. This can be exhausting. High Alert is next. There is an adrenaline rush that is caused by a sudden danger or event, but the individual can still function. They are able to keep under control and respond to potential danger. The final level is Comatose. The driver is frozen at the wheel and can do nothing due to panic-induced paralysis. The brain cannot process information, and the person can go right into denial.

While it is important to spend several hours a day in a tuned out state to give our mind and body a chance to rest, we cannot live day to day at this level. Examples of being “tuned out” are watching a movie or reading a book while at home. Problems occur when people stay in this tuned out mindset even though they are in environments that could be potentially dangerous. In this frame of mind, people may think, “That could never happen to me, so I don’t need to worry about it or be watchful.”

It is essential to find the right level to stay at. The issue with constantly staying in a tuned out state is that if an incident happens, it is very difficult for the brain to go from tuned out to high alert. It is challenging to see a problem coming when an individual stays tuned out. There have been many incidents where a criminal catches a person off guard, they completely freeze up, and are then unable to take any actions.

Stratfor also points out that “the flight or fight syndrome can be very effective if it is controlled” (Stratfor 2014). However, if it is not under control, it is unhealthy physically and mentally to have a constant degree of stress and adrenaline coursing through your body. We are not meant to stay in a mindset of focused awareness.

Everyone must learn to get in the habit of staying in a relaxed awareness mentality since they can stay here without depleting the mind or body. They can still enjoy life while making sure they and their loved ones are secure and safe. People can go through their day intentionally aware of their surroundings and still be able to naturally move into a focused awareness when they notice something out of the ordinary or strange. They are then able to avoid and/or deal with any potential threat. It is still essential to keep a focused awareness when going into known dangerous situations. When out of potential danger, the person can easily go back down to a relaxed awareness.

How exactly can you do this?

First, you can practice some simple drills. Some examples include: identifying all exits when entering a building, counting the number of people in a restaurant or bus, taking a look at the people around you to figure out their stories (law enforcement often does this) through observation. Practicing these exercises trains your mind so that you are subconsciously aware of what is going on around you. It is important to be conscious of your environment and any potential dangers that could be around you.

Atlas Aegis is here as a resource for your personal, group, and corporate security and intelligence needs. We can help you customize an approach that will help you or your organization be more secure, aware, and ready to address any potential risks.