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This is the section where we discuss our awareness skills and our personal security procedures that can help us become streetwise.

This knowledge comes from learning from individuals that have operated in "challenging" environments and situations, and from our own practical experience of working close protection, covert surveillance and corporate investigation operations for over a decade.

Firstly, I hate the overuse of the word "Tactical."

Its usually overused by middle aged men sporting baseball caps, wearing the latest 511's and posing for the camera with the de-rigeur tactical assault rifle who are intent on living the tactical lifestyle - whatever the hell that is!!

This type of thinking caters more for the Walter-Mitty fantasist than true exponents of personal security.  Combatives instructor Mick Coup calls them jokingly (I think!!) "Tactical Tourists."  I can see what he means....

No one can, or should, try to live in a heightened state of alertness 24/7.  Its not practical and in many cases does more harm than good to our overall personal security plan.  Whilst you are jumping at shadows one way, you will have dismissed the basic simple procedure that could save your life.  Forget the hype and whats "tacticool" and go with what is practical.

Tactical is a task and role specific mindset and does not need for the individual to surround himself with the latest gadgets and gizmo's.  The reality is less "24/Jack Bauer" and more humdrum by the book forward planning.

I have been involved for months on end on jobs that have been high risk situations (yes with people actually trying to kill me!!) and even then all the tactical gizmos and jargon have been kept to the bare minimum.

There have been a couple of insightful (and funny) threads on this topic at the SP forum:

This section is called Street Smarts, and is dedicated to the late Bob Kasper, a talented operator and instructor that for many years was the columnist for the Street Smarts page of Tactical Knives Magazine.  Hopefully the knowledge that we impart here will help to keep that tradition alive.

Stay safe



Whenever I have been running a self protection or even corporate security seminar/workshop/lecture - regardless of who the attendees are - I always start with these basic tenets.

I first came across these fundamental guidelines in the excellent book "Streetwise" by Peter Consterdine.  These 3 principles are the start point for everyone who we train in personal security skills.

3 simple rules that get over the message quickly and without any fuss.  So lets look at them in more detail.


This starting rule is the one that sets the record straight.  As with anything of any worth our own personal safety SHOULD be held in our own hands.  The moment we give over responsibility to a stranger or unknown 3rd party we are asking for trouble.

An example;

If we invest in a Million pound house and then fail to equip it with locks, alarms, CCTV, etc, then decide to go away for a 6 week vacation only to return to find that the house had been "screwed" by the local robbers.....well....who is to blame?  The Police?  Society for churning out such criminal elements?

NO - its us.  Its our responsibility, failure to be concerned with our own personal safety by installing effective methods and procedures is dooming us to failure.

For many individuals this first rule is the one that shocks them the most, as many having been raised always assuming that the authorities are 100% there to safeguard both their person and their property.  This is far from the case.  The authorities provide us with an element of personal safety and security, but we must have the greater say in our own fate.



When assessing our personal security it can be very easy to fall into the age old trap of going OTT regarding HOW we conduct our security planning and overall risk assessment.  

Much will depend on how realistic your threat assessment is evaluated.  The "Tactical Lifestyle" gurus - that have been mentioned above - will have you kitted out with everything that the special ops community wear, talking in deceptive acronyms, and jumping at every shadow that pops out at you.  Ignore them - for the majority of the general public, these types do more harm than good.

A competent corporate security advisor will first do a detailed investigation into what it is that the company is afraid off!  From there he will assess the probability of threat and then move on to the final stage of what procedures and hardware (if any) will be needed.

The same applies for the average citizen.  Keep your security procedures in perspective and realistic to your life.

For example - if I moved into a medium to rough area, it may be slightly over the top for me to walk around in body armour, higntech weaponary and a team of security.  All that to buy a pint of milk from the corner shop!!

However, if I was to land in downtown Kabul armed only with my flip-flops and a packet of wine gums - it could be very strongly argued that I had SERIOUSLY underestimated the realism of the situation!!

I realise that the above comments are meant' to be taken as a joke - but there is a serious point behind them.

For the majority of people updating their overall security procedures can be as simple as installing a new security system to the house, attending a self protection seminar to get some realistic training, or just becoming more aware of the situation and their surroundings.

In short keep it real



And it is - nothing could be more true.  However it seems that the teaching of awareness is one of the more trickier subjects to impart to someone concerned with their personal security.

Some people are naturally "switched on" and are thus far more observent and aware.  Whilst others have to work that little bit harder for it to take effect.

Good awareness can be scaled down to a number of issue.  The main one is that like any degradable skill, the more we conciously practise it, the better we become

As a broad strategy the 2 main things that we should be looking out for in our awareness tactics are:

  • The Environment that we are in
  • The people/groups in that environment



In order to understand what we are required to be looking for, we need to break down into sections how we are "aware."

It falls into three basic sections.

Firstly there is out awareness of a threat - whether that is of an environment or individual that sets of our "spidey sense"

Immediately following on from this is our evaluation of a threat - in short we have seen a potential problem, now we have to decide/decipher/judge whether this offers a realistic physical threat to us.  How?  Well this will come with life experience, the reading of body language, and/or understanding the behavioural trait of criminal/attackers.

The final section of this pyramid is avoidance of the threat - this can be a decision that can happen in seconds.  The decision that we make could be something as simple as crossing the road to avoid the gang loitering on the street corner, not getting out of your vehicle until an individual has passed, or "talking down" someone in a verbal confrontation.



As I've said previously, awareness skills aren't neccesarily something that everyone has honed.  Sometimes we have to practice to get to a competant level.

I'd like to offer several techniques that we've used over the past 10 years or so to be able to get the concepts across to people that we are training - whether this is during a self protection seminar, VIP protection training day or for a corporate security briefing.

One training technique that we use is the "Traffic Lights" concept.

Now many people will have heard of, or used, the Jeff Cooper Colour Codes in order to get this information across.  And that's fine, absolutely nothing wrong with that.  Its a first rate system.

However, from our experience in the corporate and private training market, we found that the "traditional" colour codes, if you like, tended to confuse people.  Especially people new to the whole self protection/personal safety briefing concept.

You would see them during training sessions looking around thinking "Am I in code Red, orange or yellow???

In short they spent to much time worrying about the nuances of each different state, that they kind of missed the point of the exercise!  Its mean't to be a quick flash of instinctive recognition rather than ponderous thought!

So we decided to simplify the protocol and keep it much more grass roots and easier to deal with.

Hence the Traffic Light concept of GREEN, AMBER, RED.

As we make our way through our everyday lives we will flit between various states of alertness - even if we don't know that we do.  Once you start introducing awareness principles into our lives we need a system with which to recognise and keep us "alive" to the situation, hence the simple traffic lights system.

Broadly speaking they are:


The state that we will be in the most (hopefully).  With this colour code in our head we wil be SAFE and ALERT to the situation around us.


This state ups our "spidey sense."  We have been made to feel uncomfortable by a situation or an individual and have assesed that the situation is out of the norm.


We have judged correctly that the situation is about to be combative and from here we have to make the sometimes split decision to FIGHT or FLEE.


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