In the first part of this series we discussed the need for situational awareness, what to look for in your environment and learned the importance of pre-event indicators. Now we will expound from that into what to do once you realize something might go wrong.
Now What Do I Do?
I hope you are feeling a bit better about understanding how people interact in a given place. You know better how to pick out someone or something that stands out as odd. So now what? Well that depends on what you are seeing and how much of a threat you perceive to you and your family.
When you know your family is in danger, or perceive a high likelihood of danger, you leave quickly and quietly.
The vast majority of times you perceive a threat, you are to leave the area as quickly as possible. This does not mean knock people over and scream on your way to the door. When you know your family is in danger, or perceive a high likelihood of danger, you leave quickly and quietly. Once you leave and have your family in a safe place, then you can call the police if you feel the situation warrants it. Rarely will you be in a criminal situation that requires you to take action against a threat. I’m not saying it will never be in a physical defense situation, but the likelihood is low. Still be prepared to defend yourself. The goal of situational awareness for families is to escape the danger before it starts.
Don’t allow a stranger to get too close to you. The closer they are the more damage they can cause and the more control they have. Don’t let someone block you into a booth at a restaurant or between two cars in a parking lot. When someone approaches you and you are uncomfortable, all manners go out the window. Do not be afraid to yell at them. There is no more powerful statement a mom (or dad) can make to a stranger than, “STOP! GET AWAY FROM MY CHILD!” When other people hear that a child is threatened, they are more likely to take notice and respond. I know I would. After you issue a verbal command, don’t stick around to see if it works. Leave while he’s surprised and reeling from bringing too much attention to himself.
The goal of situational awareness for families is to escape the danger before it starts.
But not all threats are human. When I enter a store or restaurant I begin to look for the exits. Why? Am I paranoid? No. If a fire breaks out in the restaurant I won’t have time to stand around. Life won’t become a slow motion action scene. I won’t have time to look at the fire, take a selfie with the fire, grab my family and THEN look for a way out. I know when the fire alarm goes off to grab my son and take off. My wife will follow. I’m not going to run off in some arbitrary direction. My memory of the store will guide me to an exit. Trying to learn how to escape after the fire has started is way too late.
Also, keep in mind the quickest way of of the main area of a restaurant may be through the kitchen. Kitchen’s have back doors for deliveries. Just because you are a customer doesn't mean you can’t escape through there in an emergency. Likewise at a store the backroom may be the best way out. Consider Walmart, the back area there offers many places to hide and many doors and loading docks to escape through. So the quickest way out of a bad situation may not be out the front door.
An emergency phrase is for alerting your family to danger. Once spoken, the entire family needs to listen to the adult who said it for further instructions. No matter what is going on, family members stop mid sentence, mid chew and get ready to take action. Most likely the instructions will be to get up by following a parent and leaving. Every family member needs to be aware of the phrase and how important it is to listen to the instructions that follow.
Keep in mind the quickest way of of the main area of a restaurant may be through the kitchen. Kitchen’s have back doors for deliveries.
Imagine that you are having dinner at Taco Bell with your family. It’s not your first choice, but you daughter brought home a 100 on a spelling test, so this is her treat. Things are normal as you being to eat. Nothing significant is going on. The front door opens and a lone man walks in. The cashier casually greets him and calls him, “Tony.” Then she turns around and yells back into the kitchen to someone named Kim that Tony is upfront. This leads you to conclude that Tony and Kim know each other. As you dive into your second Chalupa, you notice that Tony has not ordered.This is unusual, it’s Taco Bell after all. His head is down and he keeps talking to himself as if he’s rehearsing a speech. You can tell he’s heavily burdened as he shuffles around the front door. Tony has your attention now. You don’t quite know what’s going on, but the little voice inside of you tells you that Tony is not here for nachos and he’s tired for waiting for Kim. He approaches the register and slams his open palm against the counter while calling Kim a word you don’t want your kids to know. He is highly agitated and it’s time for you to go.
Tony has done nothing to threaten you and your family, but you know this situation is going to get bad. It may just be an argument or he may shoot her as soon as she appears. Regardless your family doesn’t need to see this. You can’t go out the front door or the kitchen because Tony is between you and those exits. So you are left with the back door opposite to the register. You tell your family your emergency phrase and that you are all leaving. It’s a clumsy process but you’re up and moving quickly. You have your daughter by the hand while your spouse carries your preschool aged son. You don’t make any noise as to draw Tony’s attention. You lead your family to the back door and to the car. As you look back inside you see Kim has now appeared and she and Tony are arguing loudly. Tony hits Kim and jumps the counter. You grab your phone and dial 911 as others begin to flee the restaurant.
In the above scenario, your family was not the target of violence. Nonetheless it was imperative that situational awareness be used to keep your family from harm. Tony was agitated while demonstrating dominant and uncomfortable behaviors. You could not have predicted what Tony was going to do. Domestic disputes often lead to violence so it was in the realm of possibility that Tony would have brought a weapon of some sort with him. But you were not going to stick around and find out, which is why situational awareness is so important.
In the conclusion of the series we will look at how often you need to be using situational awareness and what all of this means for your family.