“You look, but you don’t see”

Awareness

"You look, but you don't see"

So with the recent increase in armed robberies in my little home-town (About 2km wide and 3km long), many people have been making statements like: "they never saw it coming", "It happened so fast", "there was nothing I could do" or questions like: "How are we supposed to feel safe?" or, "how will you ever see something going on inside a premise/shop unless you just walk into it and realize its too late now?"....

While these are good questions and valid statements, it just emphasis on me the importance of awareness and continuous training. What makes this subject so difficult, is the fact that it is neglected so much, especially by civilian life. Most people simply continue with their everyday routines not giving even a brief thought to observing their surroundings and relating to themselves the possible risks and threats that are constantly around them. And what is more tricky to training awareness is that while your reading this post, you probably already started thinking and looking around you to see what I was talking about. This sub-conscious thinking forces your brain to look for specific details that you mentally picture it to see. But, being in this state of mind constantly is where the trick comes in. I bet not even 30 minutes from reading this post, you will most probably neglect to see the same threats you just saw. That does not imply that something is wrong with you, that's just how our brains work.

Think about it

Years ago I met an ex SAS operator and special forces instructor who now spends time training executive protection details. What was interesting to me, is that this seemingly calm man never carries a firearm in any detail anymore. That was impressive to me until he started drilling the next phrase into our minds: "You look, but you don't see". Then I realized, he was able to do that by simply observing and mentally picturing a set of outcomes, based on what he can not only see but perceive to be, realistically of course. Then he could most probably keep an attack from happening, by simply not giving it the power to happen. Reaching such a level of awareness and knowing you don't need a weapon to be powerful, is quite humbling.

But how was he able to do that?

Think of the following scenario which is quite common in the protection industry, military and law enforcement environments:

A well-dressed man, with no obvious signs of aggression, even a smile on his face, walks up to a police officer. This may seem normal right? Now, from a trained officer's mind, there are lots of things happening, for instance: Who is this man? Did he identify himself? Why are his eyes red? Why would he have one hand in his pocket? Are that bloodstains on his sleeves? And why would a man dressed like him be in a place like this, which seems to be out of order for a man so well dressed?.... Do you see it yet? This elaboration is still simple to see right?. Yet so many things happen all around us that are completely out of place and most of us miss it completely! I'm certainly not saying everyone and everything is a threat, but everyone and everything should be questioned! And constantly as well! With such a huge lack of emotional intelligence in society today, anyone can simply "snap" and whoever is at the wrong place at the right time, will be the one to face the full blow of it!

Coming back to a scenario that occurred in my home town, how could you possibly know that something is wrong inside a shop or premises that you wish to enter? It's simple to me, I never go around sharp corners - I make sure there is enough space for me to jump back behind cover if need be. And, as far as I can, I take a brief moment to observe the parking space of any premises I approach. Is any vehicle strangely parked? Heck maybe someone is outside the door with a shotgun in hand?. Even if the parking seems safe, another brief moment just before I enter the door helps to let me see inside, and again give me those precious seconds I need to get out of there. Is this realistic for everyone and every situation? No, of course not. But I have a lot more training than most people, I know what to look for and how to read the signs.

As I sit here and write this piece, I start to wish there was an easier way to transfer the knowledge of awareness, but it simply cannot be taken that lightly. I mean, even scriptures teach of awareness! So clearly it must be something important right?

How to start using awareness:

First of all, its something you have to go into a deep understanding of if you want to be able to use it effectively. What I mean by that, is that you have to look at everyday things into more detail and understand what they can be telling you. When you drive down the street towards your home for example:

  • how many cars can you see?
  • What are the colors?
  • Are the license plate numbers relevant to your geographical location?
  • Are there occupants sitting in any of the cars?
  • Are any of the trees leaning, indicating that it might fall over at any moment?
  • Are there any small children playing dangerously close to the street?
  • What about flying balls in the neighborhood?
  • If you walk up to a door, are there any signs of intrusion?
  • Is anyone around you acting strangely?
  • Is someone dressed incorrectly for the current weather?

This list can go on and on and on! The principle stays the same, what or who is out of place? So you need to know how to identify that, and if you cant, then you need to learn how. I certainly do not wish to instill paranoia under anyone, and I have met many clients who seem to be living in paranoia, they think gang members come running down the street when a car back-fires 2 blocks down, or they assume someone is going to be breaching their home when the electricity unexpectedly turns off! This is paranoia, simply coming to terms with what you can control, identifying what you need to give attention to and then training your mind how to do it key to awareness. You don't need to be able to count the number of people around you or be able to identify someone by the color of their skin tone or hair-color a few days after you walked past them in a grocery store. That way of thinking will have you burnt out by halfway through the day! Instead, look for key indicators!

President John F Kennedy once said - "It is an unfortunate fact that we can secure peace only by preparing for war". So go out there and prepare your mind for war. I will be posting some more awareness training advice soon.

For more reading on awareness follow this link: https://bigthink.com/artful-choice/dont-just-see-observe-what-sherlock-holmes-can-teach-us-about-mindful-decisions

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Choosing your armed response

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Choosing your armed response

With armed robbery being a credible and constant threat not only in South-Africa but all around the world, it comes as no surprise that more and more armed response companies are popping up. Although I do not mind the number of manpower available to combat crime. The more armed response officers we have driving around, the quicker response times can become (client to vehicle ratio). But naturally, the influx of companies makes it somewhat more complicated to choose the correct one. It's simply not a price comparison that dictates the ultimate decision.

So I compiled a guideline for you:

  • Cost - Obviously you need to pay a realistic price.
  • Company portfolio - You need to make sure the company has relevant experience and has been around for some time, younger companies might not have the expertise and resources needed to provide an effective service, where some older companies again might be overstretched and ill-developed.
  • Is the company properly registered at the relevant authorities? - For example in SA, a company has to be registered with PSIRA and SAIDSA (South-African Intruder Detection Services Association, and, each of the armed response officers also must have relevant PSIRA registration and firearms training as per the Firearms Control Act.
  • What is the companies client to officer ratio? - Too many clients and not enough response officers could cause a back-log of alarms and have a dramatic impact on response times, usually when you will be needing it the most.
  • Supervisors - Does the company have sufficient supervisors on duty to handle break-ins, reports and client complaints?
  • Vehicles - Is the company using relevant vehicles for your area - Rural areas or areas prone to heavy rain might require more rugged vehicles. And do they have enough vehicles up and running to get to all clients in a reasonable time?
  • Equipment - Is the company using relevant equipment? Armed response officers should have relevant equipment necessary to complete their tasks, such as flashlights, body armor, ladders, etc. (SAIDSA, By-law no.3)
  • Technology - Is the company utilizing new technology on the market that may better their overall services? Now and then the equipment is upgraded and new technology rolls out that help companies stay on top of their game.
  • Training - Probably the most important aspect of any company. Generally, any officer should go through relevant training to be able to register as an armed security service provider, but refresher training is not controlled at all. Is your company developing training to improve its officers, such as firearms training, first aid, vicious dog training, fire training, crime scene contamination and criminal law?

Conclusion:

So I would like to say that all companies are good, but just like every other industry, money talks and shortcuts work. Following these guidelines should keep things in order. Selecting the right response company does not have to be a daunting task, but it most definitely should be a careful decision! What complicates things more is the fact that not all the same companies can be found all over the country, nevermind across borders. So it's not a clear decision from town to town. What's more is that some smaller or up and coming companies will likely be the best fit for you, even if only for the next few years or so. Make a wise choice.