Identifying Vulnerabilities

If you are going to be more aware while moving around in your environment, it makes sense to take stock of areas where you are more vulnerable and your mind is otherwise engaged.  I recall Hock Hochheim saying in our seminar recently that it is impossible to be on high alert all the time because you would completely burn yourself out.  He said that you have to have a place you can go to let your guard down and recharge.  I do agree with this, though I sort of agree with Al Peasland when he says that you have to be in Condition Yellow (360 degree awareness at all times) whenever you are awake.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, awareness does not have to be a state of paranoia, though some folks can and do take it to this extreme.  Learn how to tune into the world, being in the here and now, in a relaxed state.  Ensure that your area is secure before going into a profound state of quiet reflection.  🙂 

Back to taking stock (and I got a lot of these ideas, again, from Kristie Kilgore’s Eyes Wide Open (she got them from security specialists and bodyguards).  Can you think of times when you are distracted or at a disadvantage?  Keep in mind that criminals will strike when it is most advantageous for them and the least advantageous for you.  Here are some possibilities, and the list is by no means exhaustive: 

  • Running or walking with an mp3 player
  • Running or walking in a wooded park in the evening hours
  • Visiting an ATM, especially at night
  • Making overnight deposits at the bank
  • Outdoor recreation in a public space
  • Walking with your hands full from a store to your vehicle
  • Talking on your cell phone
  • Moving into a low light area
  • Going into an area where the entrance and exit are the same (funnel)
  • Riding in elevators or using stairwells in public buildings and parking decks, especially at non-peak hours
  • Unlocking a door
  • Traveling in unfamiliar territory
  • Whenever you are in a stressed state
  • Very noisy environments
  • Crowds
  • At the gas station pump
  • Entering a convenience store
  • Stopping your car in a high-risk area
  • Securing a child in a car seat
  • Entering or exiting public restrooms 

What precautions might you take during these moments to be more aware of your surroundings and to make yourself a harder target? 

I’ll go a little further.  When you return home, do you secure the premises and look around to see that everything is as it should be?  Do you maintain good security while you are home, both day and night?  How visible are you and your loved ones at night, looking in from the outside?  How visible are the contents of your home during the day, or whenever you are away?  These are all very reasonable considerations that many of us overlook because of our psychological-barrier notion of security—home should be a haven for us to get away from the world and bring down our defenses.  It all kind of reminds me of my cat.  It runs halfway under the bed, with its hind end visibly sticking out, and it thinks it has made a slick, safe escape from the world.  Poor thing has the brain the size of a walnut, so I guess it is not such a great comparison.  But the point is this: we have to make the extra effort to go beyond the veil of security and physically batten down the hatches. 

Consider times when you go into high-risk environments.  Perhaps you have not really considered what these might be, and you might even be surprised.  This is also not an exhaustive list: 

  • Wherever competition is high for resources and/or women
  • Wherever people have reduced inhibition through use of alcohol or drugs, like a bar or party
  • Places of known terrorist activity
  • Places with a high volume of drug trafficking
  • Airports, airplanes, travel (either foreign, or to any unfamiliar place)
  • High crime areas
  • Places where large sums of money are exchanged
  • Convenience stores
  • Funnels (one way in or out) 

By the very nature of the opportunistic and/or volatile personalities that frequent these environments, you are immediately more vulnerable upon entry, hence the name high-risk.  We all have to accept a certain degree of risk in our lives, lest we adopt a lifestyle that keeps us hunkered down in an underground compound waiting for the apocalypse.  But again, we can take precautions and be on the lookout for breaks in the pattern.  I recall talking to a woman a few months ago who worked security in a bar AND drank alcohol at the same time.  Not really a recipe for success when the drunk (or buzzed) are called upon to deal with the drunk and disorderly.  Very risky business!  

One time, a few years back, I was taking a class in the Buckhead region of Atlanta.  Parts of this area are high-risk, especially at night, and I tend to be on my guard whenever I go over there.  But on this particular afternoon, I tread mindlessly out of the class and down to the convenience store to grab a soft drink and a candy bar.  I was on a mission and in a fog, because I walked right into an altercation between a customer and the clerk behind the bullet-proof glass.  How could I have missed the shouting on the way in?  The argument escalated, and yet I stood frozen, torn between a sugar fix and the exit.  Indeed, it was not one of my finer moments.  The customer punctuated his angry tirade with this sentence: “I will f****** blow this place up!!!”  Luckily, he stormed out and went away.  It could have been much worse, and I am glad it was not.  Lesson learned. 

I encourage you to look for your blind spots.  Be HONEST with yourself.  Predators look for us in a state of cluelessness or weakness, and the perps hope to gain the upper hand while we are fumbling around in oblivion.  Check your six!



  1. How about McDonalds?

    I just got back from a trip to Alabama last night. On my way back I stopped at McD’s for a quick break. As i’m approaching this McD’s in Montgomery, I notice a big dude walking down the major street in my direction on my side of the road. He seemed to be walking with no purpose. I noted as I pulled into the parking lot he was wearing baggy clothes, big winter jacket, had some sort of cane in his left hand, a book bag strapped over both shoulders and i couldn’t quite make out what was in his right hand.

    I simply took a quick mental snapshot of the area(this was discussed in one of your previous posts).

    I ended up parking away from the other cars in front of the playground. No one else was in the parking lot at the time and I start putting away GPS and high value items before exiting…then i notice movement to my hard left.

    This dude has got to be 6’4″ at least 230lbs…he’s completely changed direction and is now walking with more purpose towards my car nearing my blind spot. He had taken a hard left into parking lot after i turned in. I make eye contact with him and stay in my car as i’m at a disadvantage. He’s mobile with a cane in his hand which is basically a weapon and I’m seated in the car.

    He changes direction again and now walks up and stands about 6ft to the left of the front of my car facing my direction…waiting…for me to get out i guess. I play with my phone and act busy while watching him discreetly. He stands there still as a statue…and starts speaking to himself(pretty good sign of a psycho). He never looks directly at me but i can tell he’s focused on me and the car.

    I wait…he waits…like we’re in a standoff. I really don’t have to take a leak that bad and decide no matter what i do he would have the advantage. I realize the advantage i have is my car and i’m in control of it. So i say screw it and drive off.

    So why am I rambling?

    An earlier post you mentioned about situational awareness and one way to practice is to take a snapshot of arranged items on a table then close your eyes and recall them…

    well, this is a similar scenario only i took a snapshot BEFORE i entered the parking lot and another AFTER i parked…what changed. Clearly the homeless guy honing in on me.

    Also, the great info above you’ve posted…don’t forget it’s not always the locale. I agree sometimes it does have alot to do with it but more often than not it doesn’t.

    How are you perceived?
    What do you have that they may want?
    How much risk are they willing to take in order to take forcibly what you have?

    so it’s not always location based. I have a nice car, nice watch, dress nicely and I guess I look like an easy target LOL

    It’s all about the patterns and what doesn’t fit…this homeless dude didn’t fit.

    thanks for the info…i have alot to learn

    • John,

      Thank you so much for your comment. I am not certain how many people read comments, so I wanted to put your story in a post. I think this is great, and you most likely saved yourself through your actions. Even if nothing happened if you had decided to hang around–no harm, no foul!

      Thank you so much for reading the blog and for your comments! Stay safe!

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