Situational Awareness Part 2 – I’m about to punch you in the face!

By Jonathan McKee, President/CEO

of Stonewall Protection Group LLC. 

In Situational Awareness Part 1, we talked about ways to gauge your overall environment and make informed and rational decisions based on the totality of what you observe. We discussed how the OODA Loop works (how your brain goes through the process from observation to action) and how to speed up that process to put you one step ahead of the game. The suggested approach focused on learning what is normal for your given environment and then spotting the anomaly as a signal that it’s time to leave the area. In this article, we will focus more specifically on individual human behaviors that should send up a big red flag that things have the potential to quickly take a turn for the worse.

Wouldn’t it be nice if, like the title, people were kind enough to loudly announce their bad intentions in advance?! Well, if you are personally either in enough or study enough video-recorded incidents of violent encounters, you will find that most of the time they actually do – if you know what to look for. While it may not always be as blatant as verbally announcing “I’m about to punch you in the face!” (although this does happen) there are other verbal and physical pre-attack indicators that are very common, and some that are not so common but should definitely be paid attention.  Below is a list of indicators that you should be aware of and take into consideration when evaluating the totality of the situation.

Verbal Indicators

  • Overt threats
  • Repeat questions/statements
  • Monosyllabic dialogue – “THIS…IS…THE…LAST…TIME…I…WILL…TELL…YOU!…DO…NOT…MAKE…ME…SAY…IT…A-GAIN!” – Most of us have probably said something along theses lines to our children and they know that when mom or dad have reduced their speech to one syllable at a time, an action is soon to follow. When a grown adult begins to speak with you this way, take notice. The primal brain has taken over and action is likely to follow.
  • Nonsensical
  • Praying or Chanting – Praying is perfectly normal. But is it normal for your environment? Is someone standing in line quietly praying that God will help them with the terrible day they are having? Are they spreading out a prayer blanket in the middle of the store? Are they loudly praising Allah at the top of their lungs in the Baptist Church? Are they repeating the same short prayer over and over again while displaying physical indicators as well?
  • Foreign language– By no means, is this an indicator of an attack in and of itself. This should be taken into consideration with other verbal and physical indicators.

Physical Indicators

  • Fighting Stance/Bladed Body
  • Clenched or clenching/unclenching of fists
  • Clenched jaw
  • Thousand-yard stare – When people have decided to take a violent action, it is very common for them to get tunnel vision causing them to fixate on their intended target.
  • Rapid breathing
  • Profuse sweating
  • Trembling
  • Exaggerated movements/pacing
  • Removing clothing
  • Constant looking around – Especially while communicating with you
  • Consistent presence – You continually see this person an uncommon amount for the location or you continually notice their presence at numerous locations.
  • Repeat entry/exit – It is common for persons planning an attack such as an active shooter event to rehearse their plans before carrying them out. You could be observing the rehearsal.
  • Repositioning clothing – Common amongst people carrying concealed weapons trying to ensure that their weapons have not become exposed.
  • Clothing not appropriate for the weather – Example: bulky jackets when it is warm outside – could be used to conceal larger weapons.
  • Undue attention to carried objects/Weapon reassurance – It is common for people who are planning to use a weapon to touch the weapon in order to reassure themselves that it is still there and to mentally rehearse pulling the weapon from concealment. I would also add to this: concealing a hand inside of a bag or like object where they could potentially be holding a weapon.

Always be aware of what your surroundings are telling you. If something doesn’t feel right, then it’s not and it’s time to leave if you can or to take action. Again, while everyone may not verbally announce their ill intentions, they may be sending signals of what’s to come through any combination of the above pre-attack indicators. Don’t ever be afraid or embarrassed to leave a location because you have that gut feeling that someone may be dangerous. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Be aware and stay safe.