By Spc. Daniel Bowen
Well before the War on Terror, the security industry increased ten-fold. As part of that expansion, the equipment that supports our industry has adapted and evolved to accommodate the challenges that we face. In fact, equipment that was once only conceivable as part of a Hollywood movie is now commonplace. The problem is, as we increasingly rely on more and more technologically advanced and even intuitive equipment, many of us in the security industry are slowly losing touch with our training foundations. Without the underpinning skills that may be replaced by this technology, any technological or equipment failure becomes a weakness if there’s not the competence to fill the void until the equipment failure is rectified.
One of the key skills that’s diminishing in the technology shuffle is Situational Awareness (SA). Situational Awareness is the keen ability to see and understand what is going on around us. It is being able to balance physical abilities and cognitive reasoning skills simultaneously to keep tabs on our surroundings.
1. COMPLACENCY IN THE INDUSTRY: IT'S ALWAYS THE LITTLE THINGS
Those of us with military backgrounds may recall how situational awareness was drilled into our everyday lives. Many question why former military personnel are so “nitpicky,” or “detailed” in their everyday work. Though we take pride in keeping things clean and organized, this desire for order isn’t the only reason we act this way. Breaking it down, we are trained from day one to notice and understand the little things.
2. LACK OF SITUATIONAL AWARENESS (SA) DUE TO RELIANCE UPON TECHNOLOGY
Look in today’s car market. There are many vehicles that have back-up cameras and GPS navigation as standard features. Many of us have become so reliant on GPS in our cars that we never pay much attention to the landmarks & road routes we travel on every day. Relying on this technology can erode our basic sense of direction, meaning without GPS we are lost.
Back-up cameras look to be the new normal. It seems that having the bumper view, with lines and tick marks makes backing up a vehicle easier. Unfortunately, there have been many incidents of drivers backing into things, because they are in the habit of reversing using only the rear-view camera, assuming it filled the gaps. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released data between 2008-2011 on incidents involving backing up with cameras. Becoming over reliant on advanced equipment can lead to complacency.
3. THE BARE BONES: WHY THE BASICS?
Hands on training and receptive drills help to both hone reactionary skills and exercise cognitive thinking for use in any scenario whist under duress. When security personnel train, they train from the ground up. Each time they go on the range they start from the beginning with the basic safety rules. This reminds us of the value of situational awareness.
4. LACK OF BASIC TRAINING AFFECTING (SA)
It can be difficult to maintain cognitive reasoning skills under duress after losing use of advanced equipment. In some cases, the inability to maintain our cognitive reasoning could have been the reason mistakes were made. Maintaining good basic skill levels builds confidence, which in turn helps maintain a clear head and an effective level of situational awareness.
For example, a police officer deploys their taser, and it has little effect on an assailant. Because the department has stun guns for every officer, combative and defensive tactics training is provided only once or twice a year which in turn leaves the officer out of practice in defensive tactics.
Remember, everything security personnel do, routinely or under duress, is underpinned by good basic skills which are directly supported by situational awareness. Without consistent focus on basic skills and situational awareness, everything from our reactions to our follow-through, falls apart.
About the author:
Daniel Bowen has over twelve years in the security industry and is a six-year combat veteran of the war on terror, spanning multiple years of experience in Executive Protection, Federal Law Enforcement & Instructional Training. Daniel specializes in instructional training of “Off-duty Police Survival” and “Jet Etiquette & Protection” for the Executive Protection Agent.