Sunday, March 17, 2013

Situational Awareness – Life’s Easy Lesson #1


My crude MS Paint depiction of where everybody was. This is definitely not to scale.

You never know what you’re going to come up against in your normal daily routine. I am going to the store to get some Brats for supper. I've got the windows down and Sirius/XM Hair Nation on the stereo. The sun is behind my left shoulder and still fairly high in the sky. There isn’t a cloud in the sky and it’s almost 80 degrees. It’s been a beautiful day in southeast Georgia. Unfortunately, my situational awareness is at about a 2 on a 10 scale right now.

I pull up to a traffic light behind another pickup truck. Now, this intersection is famous for homeless folks with signs looking for a helping hand. There usually isn’t more than one on this particular corner, and I’ve NEVER seen anyone give them a hard time. But today I see two, a male and a female. Oh look, they've got a dog too. It’s a young Pitbull. Probably out here playing music for whatever money they can get from passing vehicles, because I see one of them packing up a guitar. Then I see the officer approaching the corner from his car parked on the side of the cross-street. The female starts to approach him with the dog on a short-ish leash but they stop about 10 feet from each other. The male is squatting while packing up his guitar, with his left side to the officer. I can’t see Guitarman from the waist down because my hood is in the way. I can see the officer talking to her and keeping an eye on the dog, not so much him. Guitarman stands up and I see he’s carrying a straight bladed knife with about a 6 inch blade in a sheath at the 4 o’clock position on his belt. I’m sure the officer cannot see the knife, but he turns and heads back to his cruiser to leave while the couple and the dog walk off in the opposite direction.

My first thought was the alignment of everyone. If the officer had to use deadly force to protect himself from either the dog or Guitarman, guess what his backdrop was. Me and my Hemi. There was nowhere to go. I was trapped at the intersection. The best I could do if there were time would be bail out and cover behind the front wheel.

To me, this reinforced the importance of situational awareness. Always be aware of what’s going on around you, regardless of how “normal” it might appear. You should always be looking for an out as well. Bailing out of the truck for cover behind the front wheel would have afforded me better cover than the cab of the truck’s sheet metal and glass if bullets had started flying. Had I seen this just a bit sooner, I’d have stopped a little back, out of the potential line of fire. No, it wasn’t likely to happen, but that doesn't mean it couldn't happen, even in our little town.

How many of you go out to a restaurant with your significant other and know where the exits are once you’re seated? If things suddenly got ugly at the front door, would you know where to head to get out of harm’s way? From an acquaintance, I’ve learned that Secret Service agents are taught to think like this all the time. His example, “Two men with Uzi’s come through that side door. What are you going to do?” This applies to driving as well. If you’re sitting at a traffic light and someone approaches your vehicle, do you have an out? Hopefully you haven’t pulled up too close to the car in front of you. The rule of thumb here is always stop where you can see the rear tires of the car in front of you. (This should also be enough room to keep you from getting a ticket for following too close if you get rear ended while waiting at the light. Doesn't seem fair, but it happens.) Food for thought.

Be safe.

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