Left of Bang

The importance of Situational Awareness

Situational awareness, like cultural awareness is much talked about but all too often misunderstood and poorly applied in any practical sense. Recent events have caused many people to ask what can I do to better equip myself in order to avoid bad situations. The answer is situational awareness and alongside it, what we call tactical awareness.

Situational Awareness is a process that helps us identify potential threats early on and allows us to take early evasive action and avoid the threat. The term Left of Bang is used by the US Marines to refer to this pre-event activity. Military timelines run left to right so left of bang means activity before the bad event or the bang we wish to avoid.

The US Marines call it Combat Profiling. The programme is intensive and lasts several weeks. I was similarly taught situational awareness during my training as an Intelligence Officer before being posted to high threat environments overseas. Clearly the average business traveller can’t spend several weeks undergoing such training but a few simple techniques can be taught in a relatively short period of time and change how people see and interpret the world around them.

There are three basic ingredients. Firstly, enhanced observation; a few simple techniques to improve how we observe and monitor the world around us. Secondly, developing an understanding of what constitutes normal in any given environment, often referred to as the baseline. Thirdly, identifying and interpreting anomalies, things that don’t fit with that baseline and may indicate a potential threat. We call these triggers. There are many types of trigger, some are universal and apply wherever we are, while others are contextual and apply to a specific environment or are defined by it.

The second tool, tactical awareness, is a different way of looking at the environment itself; whether it be a busy street, the inside of a building or while on a train or plane. It informs our decision making and defines our response options so we can react quickly and effectively in response to those triggers.

We have trained hundreds of client personnel in situational and tactical awareness as part of personal security and complex environment awareness training and I am constantly amazed at how its simple application is such a revelation to many of them, helping recipients become safer, confident and more effective employees.

David Curran MA FCIPD MSyl