Situational awareness is one of the cornerstones of avoiding trouble. Things can happen in seconds.
During good times and bad, paying attention and learning to move strategically, can save your life. In a time when it is easy to be distracted by a myriad of electronic devices, billboards, and a lot of other very distracted people, it can seem overwhelming to try to take it all in. On the other hand, there are strategies and methods that can help you out, and that will become second nature to you once you have done them enough.
Any soldier that has been deployed can tell you how it is almost impossible to break these habits even decades later. I know that my father passed a lot of this behavior on to me so that shows how deep these safety measures can go.
I am not telling you to be as paranoid and jumpy has someone like my Dad that saw heavy combat, but some of the habits and strategies can help you when applied in the right setting. How far you take your situational awareness should be based on a lot of factors. For example, if there is civil unrest in your area, you may want to be a lot more careful and implement more of the strategies discussed in this article.
Strength in numbers
A person alone is more of a target than a group in some situations. People may be less likely to attack or harass you if moving in a group, on the other hand, if you are caught up in a crowd and a lot is going on, people may not notice if you go missing or there may be someone that uses all the commotion to do bad things.
Movement to avoid ambush is different in a big group versus by yourself
If you have a big group and you are moving through the woods or jungle, a clover formation pattern can be helpful. My Dad taught me about this formation because it was a movement pattern they used in his platoon in Vietnam. It is useful for groups moving through unknown territory where there is a high likelihood of ambush. This formation involves sending a forward marching unit but sending out others to the left and right and forward so that the main unit is covered at all times. For maximum effectiveness, this is usually only used with large groups. If there are less than 30 people moving, other tactics might be better. It is still a good movement pattern to be aware of though.
Be aware of high crime areas and avoid them
It is easy to get into the groove of everyday life and comforts and have no idea the areas of your town or surrounding ones that are known as high crime areas. A lot can be hidden when you just occasionally drive through an area. During a major situation, you may find yourself seeking out routes that you otherwise would never consider. You may think by mixing up routes you are smart, but it is not that simple.
Time changes all and the neighborhoods that once were considered dangerous when you were younger could be a very low crime now. When I was in college West Asheville was run down and considered a place that you should be very careful walking through at dark. I remember going to get tattoos and always having someone with me. Sixteen years later, that neighborhood is hardly recognizable. It is a highly desirable neighborhood with a ton of businesses and considered much safer.
On the other side of things, neighborhoods sometimes go in the opposite direction due to many factors. Jobs and other economic factors can change a neighborhood.
Of course, during a SHTF scenario, all neighborhoods should be considered threatening on some level. As the situation progresses and power-hungry individuals and gangs emerge, you just have to be on guard all the time because even the nicest person is capable of some awful things after they reach their breaking point.
Crime statistics can be found online fairly easily.
Don’t jeopardize your safety by refusing to acknowledge the way the world really is.
Sure in an ideal world it would make no difference if a woman walked down the street versus a man walking through that same neighborhood. The world is not ideal. I am not saying “women are asking for trouble,” but I do see an attitude of “well it should be this way, so I am going to pretend it is.” No men shouldn’t target you because of what you wear but don’t let your ideals get in the way of your safety.
We don’t live in the world we would like to have and acting as we do can lead to grave harm or death in extreme situations.
You are smarter than that. During good times and bad times, realize that there are a lot of people out there that are going to make judgment calls based on your appearance regardless of how terrible that is of them.
This is coming from a woman that has lived in some rough places when younger. I realized at 11 that I was a target and the importance of being a hard one because people judge appearance.
Time your trips if possible
Ambushes can be more likely to happen at certain times. With more people around it may be easier for individuals to move through various areas but at the same time, a big crowd can mean no one notices if you are grabbed and pulled into a building or side street. If traveling on a busy street with lots of foot traffic, try to avoid getting close to doorways and alleys. Being aware of those places can also allow for escape from the main throng too.
Avoiding ambush involves being able to quickly access the options you have and choosing the right one as quickly as possible.
If I walk into a big store, restaurant, theater, etc., I survey where the exits are. Sometimes I even base where I set on this if there is an option. I am not going to tell the whole family during a gathering that we have to move 5 tables to the right so I can get out fast but if I am picking, I may choose the one where I can get out fast and even keep an eye on the vehicle if we have just been shopping for a lot of things. Being near a back exit might mean that if some nutter comes in and starts acting crazy I can just slip out or I at least won’t be the first one they see coming in the door.
Shields and barriers
If you are behind something then it can be hard for someone to take you by surprise on the other side of the coin, people can hide behind barriers and ambush you. Check for hiding points and consider how you can use them yourself. A small concrete wall can provide a lot of protection due to visibility and stopping projectiles like bullets. I have shot a concrete block wall with an AK-47, and I can tell you that while not good for the wall, chances are you would survive someone shooting at you few times.
Be a hard target
Wearing clothing where someone cannot tell if you have weapons hidden can be helpful. Tighter clothes are pretty popular with women and men right now, and it can be hard to hide some weapons. Don’t think that those that are looking to harm don’t consider things like this when choosing someone to rob or take advantage of in some way. A fanny pack or a tactical belt with pepper spray and an EDC knife in a holster can change the way people perceive you as well. While I know displaying pepper spray or a knife even if they are in holsters is not always okay in some places, if the situation calls for stepping up your personal protection game during civil unrest or anything like that, the rules may be different. Use some common sense and know what methods you have at your disposal and utilize them as needed.
Don’t smile and act friendly with everyone you pass by. I am not saying be rude but being too friendly can make people suspicious, or they may get it in their head that you are an easy target.
Learn to move as silently as possible
Loose lips sink ships, and big stomping footsteps will give you away. Practice walking without making a bunch of noise even if it takes you a lot longer to get somewhere. It is better to reach your destination more slowly than winding up hurt or dead. This reminds me of the lessons my Dad taught me on the banks of the Skagit River in Washington State. I was in grade school and remember how heavy an SKS rifle was, but I wanted to carry it for practice. He told me the importance of walking as softly as possible while paying attention to everything around you and how to make a sweep on an area with a rifle, so you have less chance of being caught unaware. Practicing how to walk lightly is something you can do for free that will work to your advantage when trying to evade ambush in town or country. It is a good thing to teach everyone in your family.
Movement above ground in cities
If you are afraid of heights, then you are not going to like this method. During times of war and unrest in cities, it is common for people to make bridges between buildings via rooftops or windows. It may just be a few boards thrown across a gap, or it may be more elaborate and with some safety considerations made.
Sometimes staying off the main streets is the safest thing but it is not always easy. If you don’t do well with heights or have the ability to move through windows, holes, or other openings, then this is not a great option. At the same time remember that you will be moving somewhat slowly at times because you need to keep a watch out for potential ambush and safety hazards when traveling through abandoned buildings. There is no guarantee that a building doesn’t have someone in it or it may be a known above ground route so you could meet up with anyone.
Avoiding an ambush of your home
Good perimeter security is essential to avoiding ambush.
I will always recommend multiple layers of security. The size of your property may mean layers are close together, but everything helps. Here are some example layers of security to consider.
Any fence is better than no fence. Woven wire field fence is inexpensive for the barrier you get and how long it lasts. During times of unrest, you can add barbed wire to the mix if needed. I never recommend a barbed wire only fence to those that have livestock, pets, or kids because it can cause a lot of injuries. Out in the country, people often say that it is the cheapest fence you can have until you get the first vet bill or lose an animal. It also won’t keep a lot of smaller creatures in or out. It is just for cattle or dissuading people from your place.
Another layer of fence
Our place is like a maze in a way. This was done so we could rotate our livestock throughout the year and separate out animals when needed. It has the side benefit of making it much harder to figure out how to get to our house.
Gates at least slow intruders down some. Having more than one gate, especially if it is lockable, is a great idea if you have a large enough place.
Alternative entry points
If possible, don’t always use what appears to be the main point of entry. If you have multiple driveways, consider using the harder to access one and block or at least put a gate up that you can lock. Out in the country, it can sometimes be confusing as to what gated road is the entry to someone’s home since there are so many roads that are farm or pasture access.
Terrible road conditions help
I live on a four wheel drive the only road, and it does a lot to keep people away. During major rain, it gets even worse. During the last snowstorm when the ice started to melt just a little, you could not even get a 4×4 Kawasaki Mule up here without using a winch to get past the really steep and rough parts. While it means that the company can’t come calling easily, it is great for security.
Avoiding ambush when coming home
I always take a sidearm down the road with me. Sometimes Matt will just carry one too, and a lot of the time we both have one. While we may not take them to town with us, it is easy to stash them at the other house so we can get back to our place armed in case someone is waiting. Paranoid? Perhaps, but I live on a dead end with not a lot of people around to respond if something is amiss. At the same time, it also makes it unlikely that someone will attempt much because they would be trapped. We just like to play it safe.
Plan alternative routes home based on the unique topography of your region.
Take some time and study maps and topography of your area. A lot of counties have GIS maps, and the government has topographical maps you can access or even buy at a local outfitter. Printing them off is cheaper, and you can always laminate. While it can be legally risky to explore some areas of food during good times, this is a way to learn about your surroundings as much as possible without having to hit the bush.
I am a moderator over at Prep Club on Facebook, and one day I made a post about how we should all show our prepper dogs off because there was so much negativity in the news and such. One thing I notice is that people underestimate the power of dogs that are smaller or not known for being guard dogs. The same thing happened when I wrote a post about dogs for prepping. My response is to tell these folks that if a dog can bark or make noise/alert you then they definitely deserve prepper dog/guard dog status. Even a chihuahua can save your life! Just look at Pickles the 5 lb dog for all the evidence you need. Pickles barked and distracted a bear that forced his way into the home of a family. Yes, Pickles lost his life, but the kids and mother that were at home came out without any physical injuries. Pickles is a hero.
A driveway alarm is a good idea but make sure you get one that is good enough. There are some really cheap pieces of garbage out there, and if you are on hilly terrain or have a lot of objects in between you and the receivers, the response you get can vary a lot. Some people bury wires for this reason. It is more work, but if wireless is not okay, then you should consider it.
A fallback point
So what if circumstances are sketchy and you see someone or a group approaching? This is where having a fallback location can be a big help. Walk your property and make notes of the visibility and approach. Of course, this is mostly a solution for those that are on acreage and have a place where they can get to and be at an advantage to take whatever steps are necessary to defend their home and family. Knowing where to fall back to and where you can see the most can put you in a position to ambush the people that are trying to ambush you!
Your area, situation, abilities, etc. are things that you must consider when trying to avoid ambush. Remember that being in too much of a hurry when there is no need to is asking for trouble. If it is really a time of civil unrest or even SHTF, you should plan on taking a lot longer to get where you are going if you have to be evasive.
Be confusing. Don’t take the same route to and from work during difficult times.
Even if it takes you longer or is just not convenient, making your route less predictable means those up to no good cannot easily create a premeditated attack plan. All too many stalkers and criminals use these tactics during regular times, during civil unrest or SHTF, it will be even worse.
What do you do to avoid an attack on you, your family, and home? Have you discussed any strategies with other members of your family or are you the only one thinking about this?
Samantha Biggers can be reached at [email protected].