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  • Writer's pictureAndy Murphy

What is BAD Situational Awareness

Why it can be good to have BAD situational awareness

Acronyms are fun. They are abbreviations of the initial letters of other words and are pronounced as a word.

A great example of this is NASA. It stands for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Another good one is FOMO which is the Fear of Missing Out. And even car brands have acronyms like Jeep which actually stands for Just Expect Every Problem.

Safety and self-defense have their own acronyms. One of the most popular is the OODA loop. This one gets thrown around a lot and there are some strong options about it. But OODA is the cycle of orient, observe, decide, act.

Good guys and bad guys use the OODA loop. You may like it and I agree that it has its place, but the OODA loop isn’t the end all be all of the safety acronyms.

The 5 Ds of Home Security

You might be thinking about the 5 Ds of home security. This is not an acronym by definition because it’s just the letter D 5 times, but it’s used a lot. Right now, I can’t tell you what the 5 Ds are.

And you know what, when I had Clint Emerson on the show he stumbled his way through them too. He was even like, well two of these things are the same really. And he’s right.

My book on home security doesn’t rely on the 5 Ds of home security because I know it’s vague. My layered home defense strategy is discipline, deter, fortify, and defend. You can’t make an acronym out of that and I’m glad I didn’t try. But these layers are shortcuts to a larger concept of protecting your home.

Mental Shortcuts

But why are acronyms and mental shortcuts so popular in self-defense and situational awareness? It all comes down to heuristics.

In simple terms, a heuristic is a mental shortcut that allows you to think of a larger concept in a short amount of time to solve problems and make judgments quickly. There’s much more to it than that, but for today’s discussion, we’ll leave it at that. We use heuristics every day and we've taught them in school.

If you ever catch on fire, you stop, drop to the ground, and roll. We all learned that in school, right? I had Jason Patton of the Fire Department Chronicles on the show and I asked him if stop, drop, and roll really worked.

And his answer wasn’t comforting. He just said it was better than nothing. So… yeah. That’s helpful as it’s only better than nothing.

So if we have all of these acronyms and mental safety shortcuts that are complex and hard to remember why am I talking about them? BecuBecausease there’s one heuristic that I want you to remember because I think it’s very important and that is B.A.D. SO let's break down BAD Situational Awareness.

BAD Situational Awareness

I picked this up from Greg Williams and Brian Marren at Arcadia Cognerati. It really breaks down to B + A = D and we use this when we need to be proactive in observing our environment for threats.

B + A = D simply stands for baseline plus anomaly equals decision.

So what’s a baseline? A baseline is the feeling of an environment. In short, it’s the vibe of a place.

At a library, you expect the baseline to be people quietly reading. Maybe some polite coughing just to spice it up. But baselines aren’t constant, they fluctuate.

For example, if you take your kid to the park on Tuesday at 11:00 in the morning for a playgroup, then you might see the park as calm, quiet, and filled with parents. But on Saturday afternoon the park is the location for a protest where it is busy, loud, and filled with angry people.

This is a shift in the baseline, but it’s the normal deviation of the park because the park is a transitional space that is public and plays host to events.

A stands for anomaly. Just like you may expect an anomaly is when something is different. Anomalies can be positive and negative. And don’t mistake positive for good and negative for bad it just means something is different beyond the normal baseline.

A positive anomaly is the addition of a person or object like a loud person at the library. This person is acting out of the normal range of behavior in the library and it doesn’t make him a threat, just a jerk.

A negative anomaly is when something is missing from the environment. Going back to the library, let’s say you walk in one day and the head librarian has been fired and is no longer there. Her absence is going to affect the environment because no one is running off the loud talking guy.

And the D stands for decision. Once you determined the baseline for an environment and you’ve observed an anomaly it’s time for you to make a decision. For us as protector parents the first decision should be should we stay or should we go?

So once we come to the decision point in our equation, we have to act on that decision. If you’re going to leave, then get your family and go. Don’t second guess yourself. If you think the anomaly in the environment is a threat or could escalate to a threat, then it’s best to leave.

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Andy Murphy

Andy Murphy founded The Secure Dad in 2016 with the aspiration to help families live safer, happier lives. What started as a personal blog about family safety has turned into an award-winning podcast, an Amazon best-selling book, and online courses. He focuses his efforts in the areas of home security, situational awareness, and online safety.


Andy is a husband and father. His interests include coaching youth basketball, hiking, and trying to figure out his 3D printer.

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