Situational awareness is the key to staying safe both in the outdoors and in population centers. It is the combined ability to pay attention to details, process information you gain, use that information to identify threats, and create plans to handle the threats or avoid them. This is the same mental multi-tasking that military and law enforcement professionals use when on duty. They are constantly paying attention to everything, especially individuals and things that look like trouble. While the training that brought these professionals to their alert status is not available to the public, we can all take steps to develop a more alert mental state. Enhance your own natural powers of observation with these three simple acts.

1. Eliminate distractions
Chatting on your cell phone or listening to music through headphones may seem harmless enough, but they are poison to situational awareness. Reading and playing games on your phone are also likely to rob you of the attention you should be spending on your surroundings. And as anyone who’s had a deer walk under his tree stand while he was engrossed in a game of Angry Birds can tell you, these distractions can also hinder your awareness in nature.

2. Look at people
Don’t make eye contact with strangers (who may perceive your stare as a threat), but check out the people around you wherever you go. Pay attention to the body language and actions of the people nearby. Pay attention to the people you run into in the outdoors, as well. Not everyone is there for a wholesome reason (think pot farmers, meth cookers, poachers, etc.).

3. Look at your surroundings
Whether you are in the city or the wild, it makes sense to pay attention to the “lay of the land.” Understand where you are, where you are going, and which way to go if you need to back track.

What do you do to be more alert and more in control of your situation? Let us know by leaving a comment.