Virginia Reporter Shooting is a Stark Reminder of the Myth of Situational Awareness

Executive Director of Personal Defense Network

Just hours after the breaking news and posting of Live Video from murderous shooting event in Roanoke, Virginia, it seems like everyone in the self-defense community has something to say about the event. Unfortunately, many of the posts and comments I’m seeing in social media are lamenting the lack of “situational awareness” displayed by the reporter, cameraman and interviewee just before the vicious attack.

Virginia Shooting
Here at PDN, we’ve addressed the problem with the way many people have traditionally misunderstood issues of awareness outside of training environments repeatedly. In light of this morning’s events, it is worth re-reading PDN Contributor Grant Cunningham’s excellent article on the “Myth of Situational Awareness”.

I’ve spent a major portion of my waking hours over the last 25 years with people who believe in (or even preach) the traditional “Color Code” approach to being aware of one’s surroundings. I’ve seen them all, students, instructors, combat vets, street cops, housewives, keyboard commandoes and everyone in between, fail miserably to maintain complete awareness of their surroundings. They focus on people they are talking to, bump into things, stumble over obstacles, get task fixated, look at menus, miss very obvious things that they are actual looking for and demonstrate numerous other failures of Situational Awareness. I do as well… it’s human nature. While you can take a moment or two to devote your limited attention to your surroundings, the second you refocus on anything else, the situation you just saw can change and make everything you previously noticed irrelevant.

I accepted a long time ago that we all can be caught off guard and shifted the nature of my approach to training and program development to a Counter Ambush perspective. That perspective doesn’t denounce the importance of paying attention to your surroundings, it simply acknowledges that it is impossible to know everything about your surroundings at all times. It is not only possible to miss things, when it comes to someone who is trying to attack you and catch you off guard, it is very likely that you will miss things. This doesn’t mean you can’t defend yourself, it simply means that your training should focus on recovering from being startled, surprised and reacting naturally before executing your learned responses and planned tactics. The graphic videos posted from the attack this morning clearly exemplify the type of natural reactions that you can expect to experience if you are truly ambushed.

Rather than take the safety blanket approach to situational awareness and fooling yourself about the universality of your attention to your surroundings, I suggest you take a look at the Divided Attention model I first read about in Keith Code’s book on Motorcycle Racing , “A Twist of the Wrist” , which I share in my book Counter Ambush. This model uses the analogy of having a total of $1 of attention to spend and needing to divide it up. If you are really focused on anything (a conversation, a menu, your phone, a potential threat, etc.) you quickly run out of change everything else.

This topic, and its ramifications on how we should train for self-defense are covered in great depth in the Counter Ambush Home Study Course, available at the PDN Online Store.

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3 Responses to “Virginia Reporter Shooting is a Stark Reminder of the Myth of Situational Awareness”
  1. mark grenoble
    mark grenoble

    No one can be 100% aware 100% of the time. BUT having said that the suspect waved the gun around within 5 ft of them for almost 20 seconds in plain sight before he lowered it and then raised it to fire. That is flat out tunnel vision. I am sorry call me paranoid but that was just impossible to miss.

    • Customer Service Techs
      Customer Service Techs

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