How to Stay Safe in Urban Environments with Situational Awareness

How to Stay Safe in Urban Environments with Situational Awareness

May 19, 2021

Emergencies can happen at any time, and usually, when you least expect them, they vary depending on the situation and environment. For example, in urban settings, if one were to happen in front of you, would you know what to do? How would you react? Would you be able to detect triggers and behaviours in your surroundings and take action to keep yourself safe and protected? Without situational awareness training, there is a good chance that your safety is more likely to be compromised.

Urban Situational Awareness

Situational awareness is about identifying, processing and comprehending information in your immediate surroundings. It’s about how you process information to reduce fear and survive in an emergency; it requires patience to master and can be challenging to maintain all of the time. Situational awareness skills are taught to military and law enforcement personnel but can be a valuable survival skill for everyday people to master.

Urban settings, at first glance, don’t always present a plethora of immediate threats or hazards. The majority of threats would, in an urban environment, come from people rather than the often well-developed surroundings. While a bustling urban town or city may appear primarily harmless, there can be several dangers that can pose an immediate risk or hazard to you. If you don’t know how to stay safe, how can you possibly know how to spot these potential dangers?

Urban girl standing out from the crowd at a city street.

Situational Awareness in Safety

Advanced Tactical Resources specialise in providing bespoke, structured training courses to delegates that want to stay safe. We specialise in specific hostile environment awareness training, travel safety and awareness, and lone worker safety training. However, at the core of our training is situational awareness.

Our approach to situational awareness is that it starts with self-awareness. One of the most vital keys to complete awareness is to alert yourself to who and what is around you, and limit your distractions. Thinking proactively like this can be the difference between danger and safety. When you’re fully situationally aware, you’re continually prepared and aware of your entire surroundings.

Urban environments are densely populated, and built-up areas like these can be hotspots for opportunistic attacks. Even in a crowd of people, attackers can exploit vulnerabilities in civilians, and they could not even be aware of it until it’s too late. So how can you improve situational awareness in urban settings? Advanced Tactical Resources have outlined some tips to bear in mind to help you think ahead about maximising your safety, self-awareness and defining hazards and dangers.

Tips for Improving Urban Safety

Establish a baseline.

Every environment has a baseline (i.e. what’s considered ‘normal”). Each urban setting has its version of a baseline, from coffee shops to libraries. Establishing each unique baseline with situational awareness allows you to identify anomalies that don’t fit into that, meaning that you can assess whether they’re threats or not.

Don’t give the impression you’re an easy target.

Pay attention to your surroundings all the time; the easiest victims are the ones that are unaware of the activities going on around them. Particularly if you’re travelling to hostile environments abroad, take the necessary precautions when travelling. Still, you should do these in more familiar settings to avoid presenting yourself as a victim.

No distractions.

Look up from your mobile phone, don’t zone out, and open your eyes and ears to remain fully attentive to what’s going on around you. It’s easy to become complacent and for your focus to lapse, so challenge yourself to be fully prepared.

Observe body language.

Body language and behaviours are huge giveaways to potentially dangerous people. For example, if they’re acting dominant, they may be threatening, or if someone acts visibly agitated, they’re often a potential threat. Also, individuals paying close attention to specific people or seemingly uninteresting objects may warrant further observation. These people may not be threats after all, and there may be a reason for their behaviour. Context is crucial, and it’s your verdict that counts.

Stay in condition yellow.

This is a state of ‘relaxed alert’. In other words, there is no current imminent threat, but you’re aware of your surroundings. It’s important to stay calm so as not to draw unnecessary attention to yourself.

Get into an optimal observing position.

In order to enhance situational awareness, you need to be in a position to observe as much as possible. The entrance and exit points of any location are particularly important.

Situational Awareness Training Courses

The above list covers a fraction of what’s taught in situational awareness courses, but it shows you that it’s a valuable skill to have. Moreover, it can end up saving your life if practised correctly and with discipline.

If you’d like structured, scenario-based training, speak to Advanced Tactical Resources. We can tailor each course to meet your needs and teach you the fundamental components to keep yourself safe wherever you are.