We as Americans are predominantly a reactive nation. Unlike other cultures we do not plan for our long-term goals as a community at either the federal or local level ten, seven or even four years from now.

Most of us don’t even know what we’re going to have for lunch. This perspective does not bode well when applied to the universal laws of cause and effect referencing burgeoning physical violence. We Americans can at least observe what’s going on around us and make an educated decision based on observation.

Placing politics aside, we can readily observe a border crisis where, aside from the handful of displaced families corralled by the cartels, a staggering influx of illegal entry, originating from 65 different countries with 12 of them being special interest countries.

As part and parcel of being a clear and present danger to our national security, such an influx lends itself to the development of terrorist cells or networks, increased robbery, homicide, drug and human trafficking, home invasions and property damage.

Awareness is the currency that buys you time. If you can
hear it, see it, smell it coming then it places you that much
more ahead of the action-reaction power curve.

 



 

The “defunding of police movement” attenuates both law enforcement and community protection program interoperability further compromising public safety.

To further exacerbate matters, the number of mental health issues continues to increase exponentially post-COVID. Unsurprisingly all of this contributes to crime surges in cities across the country.

Given all the above what can we, as average John Q. Public citizens do to weather these surges? The answer is two-fold: maintain and enhance your environmental awareness and adopt the mindset to not be a victim.

Awareness is the currency that buys you time. If you can hear it, see it, smell it coming then it places you that much more ahead of the action-reaction power curve.

In the world of personal security, experience teaches that when something is observed to be an anomaly, then brace for impact.

Members of the defense intelligence community are trained to observe items that appear to be out of place. How we are alerted to these actionable warning signs is by first establishing, and then reading, a “baseline.”

 



 

SETTING YOUR BASELINE

You walk into a quiet coffee shop in the middle of a hotter-than-usual summer day. You order your coffee, you sit down and scan the room while waiting for your order to come up. Looking around you observe a few businesspeople, a couple of students, an elderly couple, all sharing a relatively quiet atmosphere. You notice some folks are in conversation, while others are typing away on a laptop or cell phone. Elevator music is playing in the background and the vibe is mellow. Consciously or subconsciously you “establish a baseline” for all these things you consider to be “normal” in your immediate environment.

Suddenly, a military aged male between the ages of 18 and 32 shuffles in with his hands in his coat pockets and sweating profusely. You notice he seems nervous and agitated as he keeps looking wide-eyed at the cash register and the video cameras. His body language and non-verbal signs are observable indicators that are present that shouldn’t be there—or what is commonly referred to in the defense intelligence community as “above the baseline” and may be considered potential threat indicators.

The opposite of this scenario is the next time you walk into that same coffee shop you look around and observe that you are the only human being in the entire building. Raising an eyebrow as this seems unusual, you look behind the serving counter where you expect to see baristas and even though you’ve been waiting for more than fifteen minutes there is nobody behind the counter.

You glance behind the windows of the aluminum doors in the back and still you see nobody. If you expect something to be there and it isn’t—or what is commonly referred to in the defense intelligence community parlance as “below the baseline,” these missing pieces may be considered potential threat indictors.

 



 

 

BASELINE RHYTHM

Another way to effectively use your baseline skills is to set a baseline for your environment and then allow yourself to “feel the rhythm” of that baseline.

Hailing from the world of professional protection, with a little practice, you can sense when a baseline rhythm changes. Try this next time you’re out and about in the big city: walk down a main thoroughfare and set your baseline. Just stand there, people watch for a couple of minutes, and allow yourself to “feel” what that baseline rhythm feels like. Then walk away from that busy main street a considerable distance and take a seat at a quiet little café off some side street. Observe your new environment. Set your new baseline. Feel its rhythm.

Now compare the baseline rhythm you felt on the main street with that of the one you felt at the café. You may notice a contrast. It is your ability to sense this contrast that may one day save your bacon should you find yourself facing down the barrel of an active threat.

What can you do to best prepare for an active shooter at a crowded outdoor venue or vehicular attack in open public, especially when you are on foot?

Imagine yourself walking down that same main street, setting your baseline and feeling its rhythm. You then get engrossed in a conversation with someone you may be walking with, when you sense a change in the rhythm. It causes you to redirect your attention from your conversation to your sensory input whereas you observe a vehicle increasing speed as it plows through the crowd killing and injuring people in its path and it’s heading in your direction.

It wasn’t your sensory input that provided your earliest possible warning. It was your detection of the change in baseline rhythm—a most valuable personal security tool should you opt to include it in your tool kit.

To increase your odds of avoiding a violent physical threat, it is critical to maintain visual control of your surroundings by applying your awareness. Situational awareness must be part of your everyday carry (EDC). Stay alert and maintain both visual and mental connectivity with your immediate environment allowing you rapid identification of either potential or active threats along the pathway to violence.