A little extra vigilance will help to keep you and your property safe, and help you to have a better day.

Walk down any street, into any coffee shop, or onto a train or bus these days and you’ll see any number of people talking, texting or playing on their smartphones, and listening to music or a movie with earbuds in. Personal technology, among other things, can make it easy to “zone out” from our immediate surroundings. But isolating yourself from your environment can leave you vulnerable to attacks upon your person and your property.

One of the best ways to make sure that you keep yourself and your belongings safe is to practice some Situational Awareness. Modern urban environments are busy and rapidly changing. To protect yourself you need to regularly assess your surroundings. Remaining alert and vigilant (“staying frosty”, in US Marine parlance) needn’t be a chore, though. Just develop the habit of actively observing your surroundings.

Things to check for include:

Physical Hazards
Aside from possible threats from other people, it makes sense to take a moment to assess whether there are any other hazards presented by your surroundings.

Are there obstacles at head height? Are there trip hazards present (e.g. cables at floor level)? Is there potential for a fall from height or into water? Just noting such things is often all that’s necessary to stop them becoming a problem.

Entrances and Exits
From where are “new” people going to arrive in your vicinity? Being able to observe people as they arrive in your environment lets you quickly assess them for risk. What is your preferred (and first alternative) route of egress? You may need to leave the area quickly (and your primary route may be obstructed) – Check out how to get out!

Field of Vision
Can you see what is going on all around you? Can you be approached from behind? If you’re sitting or standing (rather than walking) find a location where there are as few blind spots as possible, particularly behind you – sit in a corner booth; stand against a wall.

Body Language
Be aware of people’s appearance and behaviour. Depending on your surroundings, people can often look out of place due to their clothing, posture or actions. Their intentions may be entirely benign, but it won’t hurt to keep tabs on them. Watch out for loud, uncontrolled or aggressive behaviour – people who may be under the influence of intoxicants can be unpredictable and exhibit exaggerated responses to things happening around them. Move quietly away.

Where’s Your Stuff?
Be sure exactly where your valuables are at all times. Don’t hang your bag over the back of your chair; Don’t leave it on the floor where you can’t see it clearly. Make sure your wallet or phone isn’t obvious in an outside pocket, and keep bags securely closed.

Don’t become paranoid about the world – everyone is not out to get you. A little extra vigilance, though, will help to keep you and your property safe, and help you to have a better day.