Situational Awareness: Scanning and Assessing Your Environment

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Two facets of situational awareness are often misunderstood: scanning and assessing the environment. In this video, Rob Pincus clarifies how you should approach them.

What Not To Do

Scanning the environment does not mean making a superficial scan or moving your head around in random directions and hoping you see something. This is not situational awareness, but perhaps people do it because it’s what they think “scanning” means. That’s why Rob prefers to say “assessing” the environment. It has two components: collecting and processing information, and we do it in the immediate aftermath of any defensive critical incident.

We need to stop focusing on the thing that was a threat, which we have been very focused on during the fight, and start focusing on other things. This is one of the critical self-defense concepts we should develop. There are four primary categories of things to look for when assessing the environment:

Other Threats

This is imperative. In armed defense, it means someone you need to shoot. If you look around and see someone who can immediately hurt you and you can stop them with your firearm, do it.

People You Don’t Want To Be Shot By

For example, law enforcement officers. You don’t want to shoot them as they are not threatening you, yet you do not want them to shoot you. This is where processing information becomes critical to your situational awareness and assessing the environment. Hone this skill during self-defense training and practice.

People You Can Help/People Who Can Help You

This can include someone who needs medical attention, and people you can give instructions to such as calling 911 or closing a door.

Position of Advantage

This changes depending on your location and circumstances, but it means putting yourself in the safest spot — perhaps moving against a wall instead of standing in the middle of a room.