December 23, 2019
The term “situational awareness” is one that most of us will come across fairly frequently once we become focused on self protection or emergency preparedness. In plain terms, situational awareness (or SA) simply means being aware of what is going on around you and whether someone or something in your area is a potential threat to your safety. In some cases, we see references to situational awareness as a way to thwart terrorism, as in the “See Something, Say Something” campaign; however, situational awareness helps us identify criminal behavior and other dangerous situations in the most normal of times, such as a storm on the horizon or traffic stopping suddenly ahead of us. Having a good idea of what’s going on around us at any given time, in any given location, can do anything from save us time by skirting traffic on the way to work to saving our lives by helping us avoid, or be proactive in responding to, life-threatening actions by others.
Clearly SA is something we should be thinking about, and working on, throughout the year - so why would it matter more during the holidays? Starting in late fall, especially in the USA, we have a calendar chock full of extended weekends, big celebrations, and blocks of time that are traditionally spent on the road or in the air. Many of us are out shopping, with cash and credit cards in hand and huge crowds around us. Lastly, with the large number of people traveling by every method available, we will face more traffic, longer lines, and stressed out, potentially cranky fellow travelers who have the potential to act out inappropriately, as well as those who plan to prey upon everyone possible in such a target-rich environment.
Expanding our situational awareness during the holidays can usually be broken down into two major needs: time at home and time away from home, including going out shopping, going to holiday events, and spending extended periods away from our homes and possibly via methods where we cede control of both the area and the mode of transportation (such as moving through airports and flying). Entire books have been written about situational awareness, such as Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear, and I strongly encourage you to continue beyond the quick tips in this article to help learn more about situational awareness and how to appropriately respond to the threats that could come up in these, and other, situations. Such resources will also help you move along in your preparedness efforts if you feel you’ve got a good handle on being situationally aware and need to challenge yourself further.
Let’s start with how we can be more aware at home during the holidays! First of all, all of us should be making an effort to practice the basics of home safety and security, such as locking doors and windows when they don’t need to be open, and analyzing our home for entry points that bad guys could use against us. Come holiday time, though, we need to amp things up a bit, because said bad guys know that this is the time of year that families are stacking up gifts and goodies that they may want to steal. Obviously, good home security will serve you year-round, so don’t hesitate to consult with local law enforcement on ways you can improve your home security. Being neighborly also benefits us all year, but particularly so during the busy holiday season: knowing your neighbors means having someone you may be able to trust to watch your home or pets should you travel, and it means you’ll be more likely to know that your neighbor is out of town and there shouldn’t be a big van in the driveway swiftly filling up with furniture and valuables!
Since so many of us host guests and do lots of cooking this time of year, our situational awareness needs to take into account common causes of injury and illness. Being aware could include making note of the chimney that has some creosote build-up and scheduling a cleaning before cold weather hits; it also means checking smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors to make sure they are in good working order before firing up the stove or when everyone piles into bed for their “long winter’s nap”. It can even be as simple as making sure to follow industry standards for extension cords and chaining Christmas tree lighting to prevent electrical fires. Your local fire department or utility company may be able to do an assessment for you on such safety issues. Another option is to visit websites and work down a checklist yourself. There are great lists and suggestions for holiday and year-round safety assessments through the National Fire Protection Association (http://www.NFPA.org), the Electrical Safety Foundation International (http://www.esfi.org), and the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (http://www.nachi.org).
In addition to being aware of these safety concerns, consider these holiday tips for home security:
Speaking of Christmas, let’s discuss shopping. Obviously, a great option for personal safety and security is to skip the crazy lines and chaos and shop the sales online - bonus points for being able to kick back in our jammies! You’ll want to research good cybersecurity practices - your bank and local police department likely have tons of ideas for you there. However, if a big part of your holiday fun is to get out and about to do your shopping, here are some suggestions for staying aware and safe:
Melonie Kennedy is a military spouse, homeschooling mom, and freelance writer. She is a chapter leader for The Well Armed Woman (TWAW) Shooting Chapters and an NRA-certified Range Safety Officer and Refuse To Be A Victim instructor. Learn more at MelonieK.com or on Instagram.
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