Situational awareness is being able to identify, process, and comprehend information to help you survive a crisis situation. To put it more simply, it’s knowing what is going on around you and being mentally prepared to respond to the situation.
The late Jeff Cooper, who was a U.S. Marine and a firearms instructor, developed a color-coding system to help describe the different situational awareness conditions that you could experience. Here is a summary of that system.
- Condition White: You are relaxed and unaware of your surroundings. For example, you are probably in condition white while you are sleeping. If you were attacked while in condition white, you would be completely surprised.
- Condition Yellow: You are still relaxed but are paying more attention to your surroundings. For example, you could be in condition yellow if you are noticing who is around you while you are out jogging. If you were attacked while in condition yellow, you would not be completely surprised and would likely have a plan to deal with the situation.
- Condition Orange: You think that something is wrong, and you pay more attention to the situation. For example, you are in condition orange if you are focusing on a person whom you believe could be a threat. If you were attacked while in condition orange, you would have already decided what you would do to defend yourself.
- Condition Red: You know that what you thought was wrong is wrong. For example, the person you thought might be a threat in condition orange begins to attack you, but you are not surprised. If you were attacked while in condition red, your attacker might also become a potential target as you follow your self-defense plan for the situation.
Although it is not part of Jeff Cooper’s color-coding system, condition black is another possible situational awareness condition that is sometimes included. In this condition, you panic, overreact, and/or hesitate when you are faced with an emergency situation because you did not plan ahead and mentally prepare yourself before you were attacked.