editorials

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Situational Awareness - What does it mean?

In previous editorials, I referred to everyone having a responsibility of practicing situational awareness and staying alert. Almost instantly, I get the question: What do mean by situational awareness and how does it apply to me?


There are many experts in the field of Protection & Security who have written countless, nonetheless very good books and publications on this topic and I am basically regurgitating the already said. But, for everyday Mr. & Mrs. America, making up most of our population, it needs to be straightforward and fit in daily routines and lifestyles.


My initial, cynical answer is “…pull your head out of your smart phone when you are out and about” (well, … something along those lines). In all seriousness, everyone can practice situational awareness. Simply put, situational awareness means “knowing what is going on around your, by scanning your environment and noticing changes compared to an established normal ”, also referred to as baseline.


The next question I get: How do I do it correctly? How do I know if I am looking for the right things?

When we go about our days, most of the time it is a routine process – we are on autopilot! That is the first thing; turn off the autopilot in your head. Start taking in your surroundings the moment you walk out the door. Your neighborhood for example. Usually you find the same people on the move at about the same time. Your neighbor’s cars are parked usually in the same spots. Kids are walking to bus stops. Dogs are being walked, newspapers delivered. You can call this the baseline for your immediate neighborhood.


Scenario: One morning you walk out the door and among the usually parked cars is a beat-up van with no panel windows, engine running, parked close to a school-bus-stop. Subconsciously, red flags should go up in your head – it’s called instinct. We all have it, but we don't respond to it anymore like our mammoth-hunting-ancestors did. Worse, today we tend to suppress it and reason it away (…that’s not possible, not here). In this scenario, our perceived baseline was disturbed. Now, we can ignore it (... as most people do) or, we can act upon it. It could be as simple as pausing for a moment and staring at the van long enough for the driver to notice that he has been made.


This will go mostly two ways, either the van starts moving away and you’ll never know what his business was in the first place (Oh! use your smart phone to snap a picture of the license plate …) or, a bunch of cheerful Latinos jump out of the van carrying paint buckets and ladders, getting ready for a paint job at the house next to the bus stop – and all is well again in the land of rainbows & sunshine.


This approach works pretty much in any environment, i.e. your work place, the shopping mall, movie theatre, fast food places, coffee shops, etc. Each [known] environment has a baseline. There are certain expectation how people behave and act, i.e. a coffee shop vs. a football stadium. Once something deviates from the ordinary baseline it deserves attention.


Also, this applies to both sides of the spectrum. If there is usually a higher level of activity in a given environment, i.e. busy gas station that appears deserted or subdued, something may be wrong, i.e. … a hold-up in progress? … a hostage situation? … a medical emergency? Or, the gas station attendant re-appears from a restroom break – and all is well again in the land of rainbows & sunshine.


The most important thing is to NOT dismiss the unusual. It takes a conscious effort and discipline to practice situational awareness until it becomes second nature. For someone in the Protection & Security business it is normal, sometimes to the point of annoyance of significant others. For example, I try not to sit with my back towards any door in a restaurant or entrance to public places, etc. Frequently, I end up sitting close to the restrooms in restaurants because that’s usually where one of the emergency exits is located. Granted, not the most romantic notion when on a first date.


So, you might ask, isn’t this a bit paranoid or overkill …? My response: There is a fine line, no doubt. But, ask the surviving victims of violent acts. The other argument I hear frequently: More people die in car accidents or get struck by lightning. True, however, there was no intent to cause harm - big difference in my book. While Situational Awareness will not avoid all atrocities, it will most certainly help in reducing death toll. The world has changed and will keep changing.


As a whole, our nation needs to wake up and take a new look at what we are facing, especially in recent times. Compared to other countries around the world, we have been very fortunate for a very long time.


Yes, it can happen to you to!

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Considering carrying concealed – Are you ready for the consequences?

So, here you are, a long time gun owner, possibly NRA member and you are following the news on the latest mass shooting. What you don’t have is a carry concealed permit.


Well, you consider yourself a pretty decent shot. Growing up, your dad or another male role model in your life taught you about gun safety and how to shoot. Every time you’re heading to the range with your favorite 1911, Kimber or Ruger SP101 you produce nice tight groups. So far so good!


How hard can it be? You do your due diligence and learn about your state’s gun laws, stand-your-ground laws, use of deadly force, etc. Next, you walk into your state’s respective court and apply for your first carry-concealed-permit. Some states require classes (which is a plus) other states send you your permit in the mail after you pass successfully a background-check and go through the fingerprinting ordeal. Next, you purchase a nice, comfortable In-Waistband-Holster.


Fast forward: Tonight is date-night with your significant other and you strap your semi-auto or revolver to your hip. Out the door to your favorite restaurant feeling all safe and in charge. What can happen, you’re armed and [dangerous].


As you sit down in the restaurant, you notice the holster pinching a bit and you start shifting in your chair. Now it is getting warm and you really don’t want to take your jacket off because it would show your firearm …


Going over the menu, you find yourself pulling and tugging at your jacket making sure all is in place. Carrying concealed takes getting used to and figuring out a few things. For example clothing: I typically wear one pant size up because it’s more comfortable. In places where I cannot legally carry, I just wear the empty holster so my pants don’t end up around my ankles. I typically wear shirts which I don’t tuck in (access).


Back to [you] our newly minted carry-concealed-guy in the restaurant. Just as the waiter took the order and walks off to the kitchen, a couple of dubious figures walk into the restaurant, apparently intoxicated and displaying rambunctious behavior. Of course, you don’t pull your gun and shoot them. But, now, the “what if” scenarios start going through your head. As one of the dubious figures turns to his buddies, his jacket opens slightly and you catch a glimpse of a .45 tugged in his pants. Now, this is reason for concern. And, you still can’t shoot the guy. Now you have an element of reality to deal with. Any form of escalation and you have your worst case scenario on your hands! So, what do you do? … Honestly? Telling the waiter you changed your mind or making it a to-go order would be most prevalent.


Kick it up a notch, if the intoxicated knucklehead with the .45 started pulling his gun in a rage, what would be your next step? Would you shoot him? He is 18 feet away from you, still at the restaurant reception area. Between you and the guy are two tables with 6 adults, an elderly person on a walker and a toddler in a high-chair. The toddler’s mom is getting up tending the toddler who just dumped his Sippy-Cup on the floor. She’d be in your line of sight/fire.


Assuming all goes to hell and the knucklehead fires a round into the ceiling, could you and should you pull your firearm? Remember, you are a pretty good shot at the well-lit shooting range. Is that enough to engage a combatant in a dimly lit restaurant full of people? Can you confidently, speedily and accurately present your firearm? Can you assure no one else gets up and into YOUR line of fire? Have you ever fired accurately in low-light or dark conditions without your heart-rate going through the roof (because it will, no matter how cool you are)? Can you position yourself to avoid harming innocent bystanders? Have you ever practiced pulling a firearm and shooting accuratly from a seated position? Or, while moving? Or, in close quarters between screaming and panicking people?


We have not even introduced the aspect of rounds being hurled your way …

Do you still think that your weekly trip to the shooting range with a Range Safety Officer and 20 range rules prepare you for a real life scenario? Think again!

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Drones and Private Investigation

The use of drones (sUAV = small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) is no longer limited to government and military use only. The drone industry has opened countless opportunities. Investigations is one area where we find a wide range of application without violating privacy laws. However, if used for commercial applications, such as private investigation, commercial photography etc., the drone operator needs to hold a remote pilot airman certificate with a small UAS rating, issued by the FAA (Part 107). Additionally, the drone operator should carry an appropriate liability insurance to protect his business and his clients.

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Is America any safer today?

Here we are, almost 20 years later. I do not get the feeling that people in general have completely wrapped their brains around as to what is going on in the world today and how it affects life in the US. I don't want to come across as a fear monger, far from it. What we are facing today is manageable with realistic expectations and the associate risk of simply being alive. There is no 100% solution and there never will be.


First, the situation today is very different compared to right after 9/11/2001, even compared to several years after 9/11/2001. Secondly, we are in a [very unusual] political climate. Bias mainstream media coverage on both ends of the spectrum is at a peak.


I am not sure the question even invites a fair comparison. Looking at the security aspect, we are dealing today with rapidly evolving and completely new security challenges since 9/11. The US government has thrown a lot of money at the problem since then. The Department of Homeland Security, the FBI or any LE agency are not the one-stop-solution to the problem, as many folks would like to believe.  If anything, after 9/11 they have fallen victim to the bureaucracy machine of Washington D.C. and politics. When they roll up on an incident site, it’s frequently too late. Expecting a different outcome is unrealistic.


In addition, and in my opinion the bigger factor, the terrorism potential inside the US is not fully acknowledged by the administration. Of course, full acknowledgement would more than likely feed opposition’s rhetoric and cause only panic. There is no winning.


The general public’s mindset that government has to take care of its people concerning security must change. That in turn requires honesty, education and conditioning of the general public first.


Intelligence sources suggest that IS and Al-Qaeda members and sympathizers are located in all major cities in the US. The question is, what will trigger individual activation and when? Next, the so-called “lone wolfs” are not so lonely. About ¾ of them have ties to loose networks of like-minded individuals and support groups. They don't spring up in a vacuum. Some of them may never get passed extremist’s rhetoric or even planning a terroristic act. Fact remains, they are here, probably were even born in this country.


In my opinion, the problem needs to be addressed from the bottom up. Again, acknowledging the full scope of the problem, keeping eyes peeled and making situational awareness part of daily routines will keep everyone safer and casualties lower. Everyone needs to be his or her own “counter-terrorist person”. We are not living in your grandpa’s America anymore.


Wake up people!



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