In our most recent posts over the past few weeks, we have gone into additional detail relating to some of the fundamental concepts we cover during our Critical Incident Response Training (CIRT) course. So far, we have stressed the importance of obtaining both environmental awareness and situational awareness when in new and crowded places. The final fundamental concept we will be discussing is the importance of developing response options while you are in those environments.

How do you develop effective response options? Very simply, it is taking that information you gathered during your initial environmental assessment and continue to monitor through your situational awareness efforts to answer the following question: “If this happened, what would I do”?

We encourage you to run through some simple scenarios when asking yourself the “what would I do” questions. For example:

  • Where would I go If I needed to leave here in a hurry?
  • What could I grab if I needed to defend myself?
  • What is the best and closest location if I needed to find shelter?
  • What are the materials I could use to either cover or conceal myself?

When answering these questions, we want you to visualize yourself carrying out the movements associated with each answer. For example, picture yourself moving to the nearest exit, then imagine yourself moving to a secondary exit. By doing this, you will not only have reinforced your knowledge of the location of these exits, but you will have also developed the appropriate response option if one of these two exits is inaccessible to you.

This practice is commonly referred to as mental scripting. As we mentioned in one of the previous posts on this topic, critical thinking and decision-making can become very challenging during an extreme emergency. That is why, whenever possible, it is important to think and make decisions before an incident occurs. By visualizing yourself performing those actions associated with the answers to your “what if” questions, you will be providing your brain with a script that can be more easily accessed during the actual emergency.

As we close out this topic, it is essential to remember that extensive training and years of experience are not the only factors that can successfully enhance your ability to navigate a critical incident. What we believe is equally, if not more, important is maintaining motivation to effectively respond and developing consistently good habits that will allow you to do so. If you believe it is possible, maybe not likely — but possible, to be exposed to a critical incident, you will probably be able to retain your motivation to stay prepared. This motivation will allow you to consistently practice good habits associated with the acquisition and maintenance of environmental and situational awareness and the development of effective response strategies.

Running through test scenarios and asking yourself, “If this happened, what would I do?” is an excellent habit to get into, as this can be crucial in formulating a response to a critical incident.

As always, safety is our top priority. If you would like more information, please reach out to us at [email protected].

In our most recent post, we discussed the importance of obtaining environmental awareness to increase your capabilities to effectively navigate a critical incident which we teach in our Critical Incident Response Training (CIRT) sessions. At SEC, we believe it is equally important to develop consistency in maintaining an appropriate level of situational awareness. What’s the difference? For us, environmental awareness is having a solid understanding of the different elements, such as physical design features, of the environments in which you find yourself. Situational awareness is simply being aware of what is happening in and around these environments.


For example, say you find yourself in a 10′ x 10′ room. The room has plain white walls. Its contents are limited to only a cot, a sink, and a simple chair. The walls are made of cinder block, and the only way in or out is through one door. The recognition of these elements is your environmental awareness. Shortly after your arrival into this room, the door opens, and another individual joins you. Nothing about the environmental elements of that room has changed due to the addition of another person. Still, your situation has changed dramatically because you are no longer alone. To help protect yourself in different scenarios, it is essential to develop and maintain an awareness of both the environments and the situations you are exposed to.

 

We suggest thinking about the levels of situational awareness as if they were on a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum would be being oblivious. The opposite end of the spectrum would be being on high alert. Neither of these extremes is ideal. Being oblivious does not allow you to identify threats that have entered your environment. Continually being on high alert is unsustainable due to the physical and mental toll intense focus places on your body. When practicing situational awareness, if you can remain calm and relaxed while still being in tune with what is going on around you, you have probably landed on the right baseline level for you.

 

When practicing situational awareness, it is also important to remember to trust your instincts. Most of us have experienced a sense of unease about a situation or person even though the data our senses are sending to our brain in the moment are not providing an obvious answer as to why. That sensory data you are processing in that particular moment is being compared to the sensory information you have collected and stored throughout your lifetime. When your subconscious self warns your conscious self, don’t ignore it, especially in situations that don’t allow further information gathering or deliberation.

 

Finding the right point on the spectrum of situational awareness is crucial in achieving an excellent response to a critical incident. Be on the lookout for our next blog, covering the third topic of our Critical Incident Response Training (CIRT) sessions, Developing Response Options.

 

As always, safety is our top priority. If you would like more information, please reach out to us at [email protected].