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  • Situational Awareness

    I just sent this out to all our staff in all our stores.

    This past Wednesday, in the Wayne store, we were hit by a team of two shoplifters around 8:30pm. Fortunately on Friday, when I became aware of it, I was able to identify the parties and have them arrested. The same happy couple hit a Bottle King here in Wayne a few weeks ago. With the help of our video we were able to match photos and a license plate with the Wayne police file.

    At the time of the theft, I noticed that both the AM and MOD were up front ringing sales. The one cashier on that night was on break and that left only one stock person on the floor and one in gourmet.

    Nobody noticed the two enter the store. Nobody noticed them in the spirits aisle or the female stuffing her shoulder bag with five bottles of spirits. Nobody noticed the ‘gangsta’ walking up and down the spirits aisle as a lookout. Nobody notice when the female came back in the store and took two 1.75’s of Hennessey.

    This brings me to an important point I would like to stress. It is called Situational Awareness.
    Many people go through their day in a total tuned out state; some may call it clueless. In addition, the recent phenomenon of IPhone addiction has not helped the situation.

    Please take the time to read the following piece on Situational Awareness. Developing this mindset will not only help us at here to identify potential threats but it can also have an everlasting positive effect in your personal world.

    From Stratfor.com

    More Mindset than Skill

    It is important to note that situational awareness -- being aware of one's surroundings and identifying potential threats and dangerous situations -- is more of a mindset than a hard skill. Because of this, situational awareness is not something that can be practiced only by highly trained government agents or specialized corporate security teams. Indeed, it can be exercised by anyone with the will and the discipline to do so. Situational awareness is not only important for recognizing terrorist threats, but it also serves to identify criminal behavior and other dangerous situations.

    The primary element in establishing this mindset is first to recognize that threats exist. Ignorance or denial of a threat make a person's chances of quickly recognizing an emerging threat and avoiding it highly unlikely. Bad things do happen. Apathy, denial and complacency can be costly and even deadly.

    A second important element of the proper mindset is understanding the need to take responsibility for one's own security. The resources of any government are finite and the authorities simply cannot be everywhere and cannot stop every potential terrorist attack or other criminal action. The same principle applies to private security at businesses or other institutions, like places of worship. Therefore, people need to look out for themselves and their neighbors.

    Another important facet of this mindset is learning to trust your "gut" or intuition. Many times a person's subconscious can notice subtle signs of danger that the conscious mind has difficulty quantifying or articulating. The discipline part of practicing situational awareness refers to the conscious effort required to pay attention to gut feelings and to surrounding events even while you are busy and distracted. At such times, even obvious hostile activity can go unnoticed, so individuals need to learn to be observant even while doing other things.
    It is critical to stress here that situational awareness does not mean being paranoid or obsessively concerned about security. In fact, people simply cannot operate in a state of focused awareness for extended periods, and high alert can be maintained only for very brief periods before exhaustion sets in.

    Because of this, the basic level of situational awareness that should be practiced most of the time is relaxed awareness, a state of mind that can be maintained indefinitely without all the stress and fatigue associated with focused awareness or high alert. Relaxed awareness is not tiring, and it allows you to enjoy life while rewarding you with an effective level of personal security. When people are in an area where there is potential danger (which, in reality, is almost anywhere), they should go through most of the day in a state of relaxed awareness. Then if they spot something out of the ordinary that could be a threat, they can "dial up" to a state of focused awareness and take a careful look at that potential threat (and also look for others in the area). If the possible threat proves innocuous, or is simply a false alarm, they can dial back down into relaxed awareness and continue on their way. If, on the other hand, the potential threat becomes a probable threat, seeing it in advance allows a person to take actions to avoid it. In such a case they may never need to elevate to high alert, since they have avoided the problem at an early stage.

    People can hone their situational awareness ability by practicing some simple drills. For example, you can consciously move your awareness level up to a focused state for short periods of time during the day. Some examples of this can include identifying all the exits when you enter a building, counting the number of people in a restaurant or subway car, or noting which cars take the same turns in traffic. One trick that many law enforcement officers are taught is to take a look at the people around them and attempt to figure out their stories, in other words, what they do for a living, their mood, what they are focused on and what it appears they are preparing to do that day, based merely on observation. Employing such simple focused-awareness drills will train a person's mind to be aware of these things almost subconsciously when the person is in a relaxed state of awareness.

    This situational awareness process also demonstrates the importance of people being familiar with their environment and the dangers that are present there. Such awareness permits some threats to be avoided and others to be guarded against when you must venture into a dangerous area.

  • #2
    Great post......
    Retail Security Consultant / Expert Witness
    Co-Author - Effective Security Management 6th Edition

    Contributor to Retail Crime, Security and Loss Prevention: An Encyclopedic Reference

    Comment


    • #3
      I'd say a guard SitAware factor on a given post will be much determined by how his "real job" (most guards had a other career of some sort) is or isn't close to his post's.

      Take me, I've done a bunch of construction, so when I'm on a construction site or 'yard' post, I'm confident I'd know what is 'normal' and OK, and who is a real construction worker, and what isn't normal and who might be a phony. Is that loud crashing sound OK, or need to call 911?

      But I wouldn't know what was up as security for large food canning factory. I wouldn't be able to 'sniff' the regular workers from maybe gang extortion collectors in the parking lot.

      And I wouldn't know what was normal at some high tech office or auto dealership as far as most things go. Do mechanics take customer cars home overnight or on long drives or not?

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Squid View Post
        I'd say a guard SitAware factor on a given post will be much determined by how his "real job" (most guards had a other career of some sort) is or isn't close to his post's.

        Take me, I've done a bunch of construction, so when I'm on a construction site or 'yard' post, I'm confident I'd know what is 'normal' and OK, and who is a real construction worker, and what isn't normal and who might be a phony. Is that loud crashing sound OK, or need to call 911?

        But I wouldn't know what was up as security for large food canning factory. I wouldn't be able to 'sniff' the regular workers from maybe gang extortion collectors in the parking lot.

        And I wouldn't know what was normal at some high tech office or auto dealership as far as most things go. Do mechanics take customer cars home overnight or on long drives or not?
        Squid,

        The loss of "institutional knowledge" when people with on-site experience walk out the door is one of the greatest hidden costs related to the high turnover rate in our industry. We tend to think "Oh, well...ho-hum. Another one bites the dust" - but they take a lot of knowledge with them that they've accumulated over time, and it would be impossible to put a price tag on it.

        Site training for their replacements can only compensate for this loss to a very limited degree. We all know too many sites where almost everyone is a "newbie" - and when they get a little experience they're replaced by yet more "newbies". Everyone on the site is perpetually in a state of inexperience or very little experience. How can we expect them to be effective or efficient in their jobs?

        One of the problems is that we don't even really know how to measure this practical knowledge. If we did, it's a sure bet that we'd stop being so indifferent - even cavalier - about losing it. If they drove off in one of our patrol units when they left, we'd know how to measure that loss, wouldn't we! And we'd go after the unit and recover it, wouldn't we! Well, what these people do take with them is something that we can NEVER recover and might actually be worth much more if it's information that might have prevented a catastrophic loss.

        We're more worried about retrieving their uniforms (probably the smallest cost of turnover) than we are about why we're losing experienced people - and the enormous direct and indirect, seen and unseen, costs associated with such losses.

        This problem makes security - and in particular contract security - much less effective than it can be when you have a stable staff that remains in place over a long period of time. Unfortunately, the very structure of our industry mediates against stability in staffing.
        Last edited by SecTrainer; 08-08-2013, 11:18 AM.
        "Every betrayal begins with trust." - Brian Jacques

        "I can't predict the future, but I know that it'll be very weird." - Anonymous

        "There is nothing new under the sun." - Ecclesiastes 1:9

        "History, with all its volumes vast, hath but one page." - Lord Byron

        Comment


        • #5
          Squid,

          Your SA sucks. Doesn't matter the job. You SHOULD be able to figure out what is what.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Soper View Post
            Squid,

            Your SA sucks. Doesn't matter the job. You SHOULD be able to figure out what is what.
            There are a lot of subtleties with respect to SA that people can ONLY pick up over a period of observation - for instance, an employee whose customary behavioral pattern changes. Maybe they're always the first one out the door at 5 PM, but now they're staying late. It might be nothing alarming (maybe they were given extra work), but it's something that should attract your attention. Of course, it won't raise any flags in your mind at all if you have no way to recognize that something has changed.

            The ebb and flow of activities at a facility forms a "normal pattern" because both organizations and people are creatures of habit. Variations in the pattern do occur for very innocent reasons, but when they do occur you need to be paying extra attention to what's going on. That's SA - and that's the kind of thing that you can't know unless you've been observing the patterns of behavior over a period of time. It's NOT the kind of thing that you "figure out". It's way more subtle than that.
            Last edited by SecTrainer; 08-09-2013, 09:40 AM.
            "Every betrayal begins with trust." - Brian Jacques

            "I can't predict the future, but I know that it'll be very weird." - Anonymous

            "There is nothing new under the sun." - Ecclesiastes 1:9

            "History, with all its volumes vast, hath but one page." - Lord Byron

            Comment


            • #7
              SA and problem solving

              My site is the poster child of what this thread is about - in a bad way. The other problem with a constant stream of new staff is that you simply can't "script" every problem that is going to come up - either because it only happens once every five years, or because a working crystal ball doesn't exist yet.

              Experience gives you a reference point - you fall back on your training to deal with the immediate issues (protection of life, protection of property), and your mind figures out what to do next based on what this situation is most like, i.e. "well, this is similar to that probelm we had way back when, and we solved that one by doing XYZ."

              Our training manuals and site training program is one of the most thorough I've seen, but you can't cover every thing that could come up. (My former boss joked that the only thing the emergency manual doesn't cover is alien invasion and zombie apocalypse.) At some point experience and logic have to be used - two things sorely lacking at a lot of places...

              Squid has a good point - on one of my previous jobs the best auto claims adjuster in the office was a former mechanic. We used to send him out to the shops when we knew the repair estimates were way too high. He was "good cop, bad cop" rolled into one - watching him take a crooked mechanic to task was better than reality TV...

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