In his last article about terrorist planning methodology Scott Stewart discussed the surveillance stage of their planning cycle.
This week he discusses practical steps you can take to maintain situational awareness. This is a topic he has written about before, and as he points out, it is also a necessary mindset to develop to try to avoid criminal behavior as well.
The beginning of the article is excerpted below. A link to the full article follows the excerpt.
Because the article was about situational awareness, the movie Clueless naturally came to mind as I pondered who deserved to be the article's Hot Stratfor Babe. That settled, Alicia Silverstone was the obvious choice for the honor.
In the film Alicia plays Cher, a vapid and fashion obsessed butinsky who gives everybody else in the film relationship and style tips. Her own personal life is a bit of a fiasco, as she spends the majority of the movie chasing after a guy who turns out to be gay. I saw it when it first came out and have no idea how well it aged, but I remember it being an entertaining bit of fluff.
Ms Silverstone started her career at a young age in the movie The Crush. This led to a series of music videos for Aerosmith where she started to gain a following of young fans. Clueless was her breakout film. She's continued to do films, has had less luck getting a TV show to last, and has gradually started doing more and more stage work.
A Practical Guide to Situational AwarenessBy Scott Stewart, March 12, 2012
For the past three weeks we have been running a series in the Security Weekly that focuses on some of the fundamentals of terrorism. First, we noted that terrorism is a tactic not exclusive to any one group and that the tactic would not end even if the jihadist threat were to disappear. We then discussed how actors planning terrorist attacks have to follow a planning process and noted that there are times during that process when such plots are vulnerable to detection.
Last week we discussed how one of the most important vulnerabilities during the terrorism planning process is surveillance, and we outlined what bad surveillance looks like and described some basic tools to help identify those conducting it. At the end of last week's Security Weekly we also discussed how living in a state of paranoia and looking for a terrorist behind every bush not only is dangerous to one's physical and mental health but also results in poor security. This brings us to this week, where we want to discuss the fundamentals of situational awareness and explain how people can practice the technique in a relaxed and sustainable way.
Situational awareness is very important, not just for personal security but as a fundamental building block in collective security. Because of this importance, Stratfor has written about situational awareness many times in the past. However, we believe it merits repeating again in order to share these concepts with our new readers as well as serve as a reminder for our longtime readers.
More Mindset than Skill
It is important to note that situational awareness -- being aware of one's surroundings and identifying potential threats and dangerous situations -- is more of a mindset than a hard skill. Because of this, situational awareness is not something that can be practiced only by highly trained government agents or specialized corporate security teams. Indeed, it can be exercised by anyone with the will and the discipline to do so. Situational awareness is not only important for recognizing terrorist threats, but it also serves to identify criminal behavior and other dangerous situations.
The primary element in establishing this mindset is first to recognize that threats exist. Ignorance or denial of a threat make a person's chances of quickly recognizing an emerging threat and avoiding it highly unlikely. Bad things do happen. Apathy, denial and complacency can be deadly.
A second important element of the proper mindset is understanding the need to take responsibility for one's own security. The resources of any government are finite and the authorities simply cannot be everywhere and cannot stop every potential terrorist attack or other criminal action. The same principle applies to private security at businesses or other institutions, like places of worship. Therefore, people need to look out for themselves and their neighbors.
Another important facet of this mindset is learning to trust your "gut" or intuition. Many times a person's subconscious can notice subtle signs of danger that the conscious mind has difficulty quantifying or articulating. I have interviewed many victims who experienced such feelings of danger prior to an incident but who chose to ignore them. Trusting your gut and avoiding a potentially dangerous situation may cause you a bit of inconvenience, but ignoring such feelings can lead to serious trouble.
The discipline part of practicing situational awareness refers to the conscious effort required to pay attention to gut feelings and to surrounding events even while you are busy and distracted. At such times even obvious hostile activity can go unnoticed, so individuals need to learn to be observant even while doing other things.
Levels of Awareness
People typically operate on five distinct levels of awareness. There are many ways to describe these levels ("Cooper's colors," for example, which is a system frequently used in law enforcement and military training), but perhaps the most effective way to illustrate the differences between the levels is to compare them to the different degrees of attention we practice while driving. For our purposes here we will refer to the five levels as "tuned out," "relaxed awareness," "focused awareness," "high alert" and "comatose."
Read the rest of A Practical Guide to Situational Awareness at Stratfor.