I recently conducted several presentations on “situational awareness.” With this recent interest and the holiday season quickly approaching, it occurred to me that I should use this blogging opportunity to provide some helpful tips for increasing your personal safety.

Situational awareness is just that—being aware of your situation or surroundings. Many people go through their daily routines unaware and tuned out, which increases their risk of injury and crime. These mishaps can range from walking into traffic or falling down stairs to appearing as an easy target.

As our distractions and stress levels increase during the holiday season, our situational awareness tends to decrease proportionally. How do we mitigate this?

Studies show that criminals choose their targets because of their lack of awareness and the opportunities they present. To avoid being perceived this way, here are a few tips to help you stay safe:

  • Practice being present. Look at those around you and make brief eye contact. To keep yourself engaged, make a mental note of your surroundings, how many people are in the area, what they’re wearing, facial details. Be aware of those who may be watching you or who seem to show up at the same places you do, especially when handling cash.
  • Park smart. Choose well-lit areas and lock your doors. Store your valuables and purchases in the trunk or hide them from view. Consider moving your vehicle after dropping off your purchases. Walk to your car with keys out and ready. If you see people near your vehicle, walk past them or turn around and go back into the store.
  • Plan your exit. In case there’s an emergency, it’s important to know where the nearest exit is—or even unconventional exits. (Are you willing to break a window if necessary?)
  • Pay attention to your gut feelings. Your brain is built for survival. If something doesn’t feel right, it likely isn’t. It’s better to have to apologize for a perceived slight than to ignore your instinct that danger is near.
  • Partner with others. If you feel unsafe, contact a store manager or mall security. You can also call a friend to explain your current situation, telling them where you are, where you’re going, what you’re wearing, etc.
  • Prepare in advance. Let people know where you’re going and what time you should be back. Install an app, such as “Life 360” or “Circle of 6,” so a dedicated set of people can know your location. Many phones also have security features. For example, my android security feature allows me to silently request help by squeezing two buttons three times. This is a great feature if you don’t want to draw attention to the fact that you’re notifying others you’re in distress.

By implementing just some of these suggestions, you can increase your situational awareness and personal safety during this holiday season, as you enjoy shopping, festivities and travel.

For more information on situational awareness or to schedule a training, please contact FEI at 800-987-4368. Or check our website for additional training opportunities.