Lesson 3 – Situational Awareness






Principles and Scenario Planning

There are five principles of situational awareness……

Audio Script
In part one of situational awareness, we will be defining what situational awareness means to you when you’re placed in a foreign environment.

We will also provide you with a number of situations that you may encounter while on your travels and explain the thought process you should consider when preparing to handle those situations.

Each and every situation is very different and only you being placed in those situations will be able to process the information and react accordingly.

So what is situational awareness? There are many definitions all of which explain what situational awareness is in a similar way. The term we use is as follows:

Situational Awareness is “closely monitoring what is going on around you in a complex and dynamic environment”.

Closely monitoring what’s going on around you will help you make better and quicker decisions based on the situation.

The word “complex” refers to the new environment in which you are suddenly placed. You walk off an airplane and out of an airport terminal into a new world in which you are not familiar. And “dynamic” refers to the activity that is happening around you.

Often, even in cultures where the way of life is much slower, your immediate surroundings may feel like they are moving at the speed of light.

The next time you arrive in a foreign environment, think back to this definition of situational awareness and you will be on your way to becoming better prepared for the unexpected.




Ill prepared employees and recreational travelers all around the world are vulnerable to kidnappings and life threatening situations due to poor skills and a lack of knowledge and training. Trying to get a handle on the situation as soon as possible and planning your response may save your life and the lives of others.


Travel Tip

Do not carry large amounts of cash. Always deal with reputable currency exchange officials or you run the risk of receiving counterfeit currency. Keep a record of your financial transactions.
Scenario Planning

It would be impossible to cover every conceivable situation, but with this topic, and others throughout the course, you will be generally better prepared.

First, we start with some basic situations which you may be exposed to while on your travels.

• Someone attempts to car jack you at a traffic light.
• You are walking down the street and you think you are being followed.
• A foreign police officer stops you in the street.

It is all about how you react – react in the wrong way and you will make the situation ten times worse. So how would you react?

Scenario Planning

Before we look at these situations in detail, lets first talk about the five principles for situational awareness.

  1. Training – The more realistic training you carry out the better and faster your reaction will be.
  2. Observation – You will only have seconds to read the situation before you react.
  3. Reaction – Once you have decided how you are going to react, do not waste any time.
  4. Control – If at any time you are not in control of the situation, then you will fail.
  5. Safety – Only when you are in a safe location is the situation over.

Detailed Principles


In this section, we will look at each principle in more detail.


Travel Tip

Do not leave drinks unattended – someone could slip a drug into it that causes amnesia and sleep.
Detailed Principles
Training – You may now be taking your first step in better preparing yourself for your travels. We recommend that if you’re going to a country that has been identified as potentially dangerous or unstable, then your organization should consider additional practical training to advance your skills. You should check with your own Government for a list of countries that are potentially hazardous. If they don’t have a list, the US State Department’s list is a good one to use as a reference.

Observation – You must be aware of your surroundings at all times. Only by realistic training will you be able to read the situation correctly. You may only have seconds to plan your course of action, and if you read the situation wrong, you may make the situation worse.


Detailed Principles continued...

Reaction – Within seconds you will have decided what course of action to take: hard, soft or passive. Responding in a passive way is when you talk or walk your way out of the situation. Responding in a soft way is when your reaction dilutes the situation from a potentially dangerous situation to a far less one. And finally hard – this is when you use maximum force to save yourself from a life threatening situation. Which ever one you choose you must see it through to the end. It is better to progress your response, i.e. try and start off passive and only go to soft and hard if required. You can always step up your response, but it is very hard to reduce it.

Control – You must be confident in your actions and see them through to the end. If you are indecisive then your reaction may fail and this could be costly to you and potentially others. Being in control may put an element of doubt or fear into the perpetrators, which may prevent the situation from becoming worse or even stop it all together.

Safety – One situation may lead to another. Only once you and your comrades are safe is the situation over.

Think about the situations described in the previous lesson and now ask yourself:

How would I react?

Scenario Planning

The Follow Summary
  • Go to the nearest public place if you’re not already in one.
  • Try not to lead the person to any important locations.
  • At all times you need to be aware of what the potential adversary is wearing.
  • Only if you feel you’re in real danger should you go to the nearest safe place which might be your hotel or office.
  • If you think you have been followed from your hotel then you may want to consider changing hotels and report the incident to your comrades who may be staying in the same hotel.
  • Report it to your company’s security manager at the earliest opportunity.
  • As you’re walking you should cross the road. Does the individual follow you?
  • Is that the same person you noticed earlier?
  • Do they appear to be looking in your direction?
  • Is there more than one person, and is there a vehicle involved? If there is a vehicle involved, this should raise your awareness even more.
  • Try to take three right or left turns around a block, if the person is still behind you then take it as if you are being followed and move to a safe location.
  • What will your reaction be if the person starts to get closer?
  • Remember, think on your feet and try not to panic.
  • Listen to your intuition as it is usually right.
Police Disguise Summary
  • A foreign police officer approaches you in the street, what’s your response?
  • Look at your surroundings, does he look and dress like a serving police officer? Do you know what a police officer in that country or city should dress like?
  • This is a disguise used in muggings or kidnappings in certain parts of the world. Prior to leaving you should try and find out if this method is used in the country your about to visit.
  • Foreign police officers can be inquisitive and will stop you based on you looking “out of place”
  • We recommend that you always dress appropriately and try to blend in with the country at much as possible, don’t stand out.
  • If you stand out then you will be seen by more people which could make you a target for any number of crimes.
  • Remain calm and answer the officer’s questions.
  • Make sure you carry the correct passes and paper work depending on where you are working.
  • Your organization may want to protect certain details of your business trip.
  • See how much information you can get from the police officer i.e. his name, unit and any distinguishing physical features.
  • Where possible, take advantage of police officers as they can be a good resource of local information.
The Carjacking Summary
  • Car jacking is a common tactic used in many locations around the world.
  • Prior to renting a vehicle or using someone else’s, you must ensure you have a comfortable and safe driving position and that the car is fully serviced.
  • If you do rent a vehicle try and make sure that the vehicle has no identifiable marks such as logo stickers on the back. This could make you stand out as a tourist or visitor which makes you a potential target.
  • Ensure when you leave the rental car location that you know how to get from there to your destination and try to identify some key locations along your route.
  • Even if you have a Global Positioning System (GPS) you should still carry a map as a backup.
  • Most carjackings take place during the early hours of the morning or evening times.
  • Carjackings mainly take place when you stop at a light or intersection where you have to come to a halt for a brief period of time.
  • It is important that you do not stop too close to any vehicles that may be in front of you as you may need room to maneuver around them if an emergency get away is required.
  • Try to choose a lane that gives you an option to go around a vehicle one way or the other.
  • When you do stop at a traffic light or other location that requires you to stop, you should be fully alert to what’s going on around the vehicle 360 degrees.
  • While you’re approaching a location that requires you to stop, you need to be looking at any suspicious behavior from individuals or groups of people that are located nearby.
  • If anyone is paying particular attention to you and your vehicle, then make sure you let them know that you have at least seen them, this may prevent an attack.
  • Carjackers will often come when you’re least expecting it and will commonly approach the vehicle in your blind spot between the side and rear view mirrors.
  • Ensure you look over your shoulder like you would when you make a lane change on a freeway.
  • Remember, observe 360 degrees for those few seconds when approaching and static at a stop location.
  • If you are overpowered at gun point and the assailant wants your vehicle, then give it to him, a car is not worth your life.
  • You may then be faced with other challenges such as, “where am I.” and “do I have my cell phone in my pocket to get help”?

Advanced Scenarios

Car Bomb Threat Summary

Remember the principles of situational awareness:

  1. Training – be prepared. The only way to be prepared for advanced situations is by conducting practical and realistic scenarios. These can be difficult to organize and manage if you don’t know what you’re doing. You will need a lot of equipment and people to make the training realistic. Seek advice from professionals who know what they are talking about.
  2. Observation – You should now be aware of your surroundings every minute of every day. You should be looking for that one thing which doesn’t look right.
  3. Reaction – Advanced situations are all about life and death. If you react in the wrong way someone may die. Maximum force will nearly always have to be used.
  4. Control – Your confidence should be growing the more training you complete. That is why practical training for high-threat and unstable countries is critically important.
  5. Safety – This does not change – one situation may lead to another. Only once you and your team are safe is the situation over, which may take hours or even days.


Illegal Checkpoint Summary
  • Try to identify how many people are involved in the illegal checkpoint. Where are they situated on the road, in buildings or other locations?
  • What weapons do they have, and where is your escape route?
  • Then what is your reaction going to be? Shoot first or try to drive through? This will depend on what you see and how you have been trained and if you have weapons.
  • If the road is blocked can your vehicle get through the roadblock?
  • Then stay in control. Strong command is the key, how are you and your team going to escape?
  • This type of scenario may not be common to the places you visit, but it highlights the point that being prepared for the worst case scenario will help you better understand how to respond to many other types of situations.
  • Remember, advanced situations like this are not going to be easy. Only when you are at a safe location can you start to reflect on what just occurred.

Situational Awareness Summary

  • You have just been shown two advanced scenarios, place yourself in those situations and ask yourself, how would I react?
  • It’s your employer’s responsibility to train you to the correct level for the region and country in which they are sending you.
  • In addition to this course, practical training carried out by subject matter experts is also advisable if you’re going to be traveling to a high threat location.
  • Situational awareness is a vital subject for those of us who travel. It is also a good skill to have for everyday life.

Are you prepared?