Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Assessing situational awareness

Did you see the story out of Norfolk yesterday? Michelle Washington at the Virginian-Pilot wrote about a couple who was beaten:
Two weeks have passed since reporters Dave Forster and Marjon Rostami - friends to me and many others at the newspaper - were attacked on a Saturday night as they drove home from a show at the Attucks Theatre. They had stopped at a red light, in a crowd of at least 100 young people walking on the sidewalk. Rostami locked her car door. Someone threw a rock at her window. Forster got out to confront the rock-thrower, and that's when the beating began.
Fortunately, neither victim suffered grave injuries, and they've since returned to work. But in reading the article, some thoughts and questions came to my mind.

First off, times have changed. People need to adjust for their own safety. If someone in a crowd puts a rock through your car window, seeking confrontation probably shouldn't be your first reaction. People who throw rocks through windows probably aren't prone to civil discourse. A wiser response might be to flee if possible. Begin driving forward (or in reverse) if the path is clear. Run a red light if necessary.

Then there's the attitude displayed by police. How many other similar crimes are as under-reported as this one apparently was? And how about the newspaper? Was the public interest served by holding back two weeks before reporting the story? What are the chances those carrying out such an attack only become more bold when seeing no public response after crimes like this are committed?

And one more question: What can be done so people are more aware of dangers or threats that they may encounter, and have a better grasp on how to respond?

A couple years ago, Stratfor published a primer on what's called situational awareness. Among the most elementary advice presented:
An important element of the proper mindset is to first recognize that threats exist. Ignorance or denial of a threat -- or completely tuning out one's surroundings while in a public place -- makes a person's chances of quickly recognizing the threat and avoiding it slim to none.
Maybe the Virginian-Pilot and other mainstream media will consider publishing public service stories with  situational awareness themes. And let's hope police and media make a concerted good-faith effort to accurately report what crimes are taking place in our communities. It's a whole lot easier to cue in on situational awareness if you know some of the scenarios that have already played out near you.

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