A Primer on Situational Awareness

Bill Mattocks

Sr. Grandmaster
MTS Alumni
Feb 8, 2009
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I am putting this here instead of The Study because I think it relates directly to self-defense (as in 'avoiding the need to employ physical violence'), it is topical (recent travel advisory for American traveling to Europe), and it is something that everyone would do well knowing a little something about (in my humble opinion). If it needs to be moved to another forum, my apologies in advance.

I enjoy reading STRATFOR, a more in-depth look at the news for those who aren't necessarily intelligence or law-enforcement professionals, but who still want more non-political analysis of the news that provided by the mainstream news media. Or, as they say on their own webite:

STRATFORs global team of intelligence professionals provides an audience of decision-makers and sophisticated news consumers in the U.S. and around the world with unique insights into political, economic, and military developments.

I was reading this article:


This is a very interesting piece on its own, but it led me to this piece, which I thought might be of more enduring value:


Regardless of the threat, it is very important to recognize that criminal and terrorist attacks do not materialize out of thin air. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Criminals and terrorists follow a process when planning their actions, and this process has several distinct steps. This process has traditionally been referred to as the terrorist attack cycle, but if one looks at the issue thoughtfully, it becomes apparent that the same steps apply to nearly all crimes. Of course, there will be more time between steps in a complex crime like a kidnapping or car bombing than there will be between steps in a simple crime such as purse-snatching or shoplifting, where the steps can be completed quite rapidly. Nevertheless, the same steps are usually followed.
People who practice situational awareness can often spot this planning process as it unfolds and then take appropriate steps to avoid the dangerous situation or prevent it from happening altogether.

Read more: A Primer on Situational Awareness | STRATFOR

Hope you find it useful, I did.


Senior Master
MTS Alumni
Apr 12, 2005
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The Desert
I thought the article was well written. Though I don't normally think of myself in those terms, it was pretty easy to envision instances where I've demonstrated different levels. I actually spend more time in focused awareness than I would have thought. :)


Big Don

Sr. Grandmaster
Sep 2, 2007
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Sanger CA
I can't for the life of me remember where I heard it, or more likely read it, but, KEEP YOUR HEAD ON A SWIVEL, has been a long habit of mine, and has kept me safe, not just from crime, but, falling equipment, etc.
There is nothing you can do that will serve you as well as being aware of your environment.

Deaf Smith

Master of Arts
Apr 25, 2008
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The primer is ok.

But the ideas of a color code system have been around along time.

Jeff Cooper popularized one.


As it says on Frog's website:

"He further simplified things in Vol 13 #7 of his Commentaries."

"In White you are unprepared and unready to take lethal action. If you are attacked in White you will probably die unless your adversary is totally inept.

In Yellow you bring yourself to the understanding that your life may be in danger and that you may have to do something about it.
In Orange you have determined upon a specific adversary and are prepared to take action which may result in his death, but you are not in a lethal mode.

In Red you are in a lethal mode and will shoot if circumstances warrant."

And this meshes very well with Massad Ayoobs 'Level of Force Continuum".



White Belt
Sep 9, 2010
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Good stuff. I have been a long time reader of Stratfor's stuff. For those interested I recommend subscribing to the two free newsletters they have to stay up to date on new articles.

I also think it is important for people to have a basic understanding of the 'Terror Attack Cycle' so we can recognise when something is not right and report it to the appropriate authorities.