Situation Awareness: Developing It Could Save Your Life!

What women want is safety. Preppers want this as well. How do you surround yourself
with a comfort zone where survival isn’t stressing you out constantly? You learn to live
outside of the white zone most people exist within.

Situational awareness may have begun as a military concept, but it’s mainstream today.
With mass shootings happening almost every day of the year in this country, learning
situational awareness and using it every day is one of the best ways to not be caught off
guard when the unthinkable happens. It might not prevent injury, however, it could save
your life.

The Situational Awareness Zones

Colors visualize the zones very effectively. From white through black, the zone colors
intensify as the reaction to the situation changes.


When you’re asleep, you’re in the white zone—completely unaware of what’s going on
around you. You’ve probably experienced the total confusion that floods your mind when
you are thrust from deep sleep to wakefulness. You don’t know what to do. You may not
even know where you are. It’s difficult to respond appropriately to the world around you.

Unfortunately, many people are also walking around in the white zone when they are
awake as well. They just assume everything is all right around them. They’re so focused
in their own bubble they don’t register what’s going on around them.

Your home may be a safe place to be in the white zone, however, the moment you step
outside you need to shift to the next zone—yellow.


The sign letting you know there’s a school bus stop ahead is yellow. Pedestrian crosswalk
signs are yellow. They’re not designed to make you fearful. They’re friendly reminders
that there’s something you need to be aware of.

That’s exactly what the yellow zone is—the awareness domain. At this level of living,
you take in your surroundings. You’re relaxed and alert. You could even say you’re really
enjoying the world around you. It’s the ‘stop to smell the flowers’ mode. You see the
flowers. You take in details.

When you live in this state of situational awareness, nothing coming at you is a complete
surprise. You might not be fully prepared for it, yet you don’t have to assess the situation
before you can take action. You’ve already been doing that.


Because you’ve already been in the ‘yellow’ state, it’s easy to move into the orange zone
when you perceive a potential threat. This is when you begin running ‘what if’ scenarios
in your head. You begin planning your reaction if the threat becomes reality.

For example, how would you react if you smell smoke in a theater? Would you run for
the door like every other panicking theatergoer? Or do you plan how to take charge so the
mass exodus is orderly.

When you move into this awareness level, your heart rate speeds up. Your adrenals
prepare for fight or flight. For this reason, you don’t want to stay at orange any longer
than necessary. If a situation doesn’t materialize, relax and return to yellow-level

The interesting thing is this. You don’t have to run ‘what if’ scenarios only when you’re
in orange situations. Imagine different scenarios during both yellow and orange
awareness levels. Just having thought through potential action plans makes it easier to
execute a plan of action if a threat does materialize.


The shift from yellow to red can be swift. Awareness of the threat and the need to take
action might take just a matter of seconds.

Your heart will hit that zone where it’s most efficient—between 115–145 BPM.
Adrenaline enters your blood stream. Your large motor skills, visual acuity and reaction
times will be at your fastest. If you’ve already developed a potential set of responses to
the type of threat you are facing, you’ll be as efficient as it’s possible to be. Your brain
will be prepared to process variables and make decisions.


This is the first zone you don’t want to find yourself in. It’s the place where your body
starts shutting down. Your vision tunnels. Your heart climbs toward its maximum BPM.
Selective hearing happens at this awareness level. A gun may go off without you hearing
it, while you hear people around you.

At the same time, you may experience the phenomenon known as ‘slow motion.’ You’re
hyper aware of the world around you. Unfortunately, most people can’t react to this ‘slow
motion’ world. They are only aware of it.


This is the second zone you want to avoid. Your heart rate hits its maximum. Your ability
to function both mentally and physically disappears. Your body overrides your brain. You
have no control over whether you fight or flee. Whatever response you have to a situation
is controlled by deep primal factors. You’re out of control.

Avoiding Gray and Black

Most people who find themselves in the gray or black zones went there directly from
white-level awareness. If they come here from the yellow zone, their ability to respond to
a situation usually remains at the lower end of gray.

When yellow zone aware individuals do move directly to gray or black, it’s usually
because the situation leaves them feeling powerless, such as not having their gun because
the zone was ‘gun-free.’

Health Affects

Are you afraid that situational awareness is going to have negative affects on your health?
This isn’t so if you develop the skill of remaining in ‘Condition: Yellow.’ In this state,
your heart is beating normally. You’re relaxed. Yet you are also aware of what’s going on
around you. It’s the state you want to live in. It could save your life!

However, you do need to avoid living in ‘Code Orange’ all the time.

Some bloggers consider ‘Code Yellow’ as the bad zone. If you use Jeff Cooper’s
definition, I’d agree. “In Yellow you bring yourself to the understanding that your life
may be in danger and that you may have to do something about it.”1 This definition
elevates yellow into the orange zone.

According to Bruce Schneier, “A lack of safety makes people anxious and tense, and the
long term effects are debilitating.

“The same effects occur when we believe we’re living in an unsafe situation even if we’re
not. The psychological term for this is hypervigilance. Hypervigilance in the face of
imagined danger causes stress and anxiety. This, in turn, alters how your hippocampus
functions, and causes an excess of cortisol in your body. Now cortisol is great in small
and infrequent doses, and helps you run away from tigers. But it destroys your brain and
body if you marinate in it for extended periods of time.”2

Heed Schneier’s warning that living in Jeff Cooper’s definition of ‘Yellow’ will harm you
physically. It will impair your judgment because you’ll begin to “forget what’s normal
and start seeing the enemy everywhere. Terrorism actually relies on this kind of reaction
to succeed.”3

Your goal as women preppers and male preppers is to live at the bottom edge of ‘yellow
situational awareness.’ You don’t want to be anxious that a threat is eminent. Rather you
want to maintain a joyful awareness of the world surrounding you. You want to ‘see’ the
world as a positive place, yet retain your own practical awareness of things, so when
something is out of place, you are ready to act.


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