I feel like we are settling into a "new normal" and its very frustrating on multiple levels, but most significantly as a father who happens to also be a security professional trying to help keep people safe. The pattern seems to go like this: there is a mass shooting or major security incident, people are concerned, outrage grows, we discuss and debate the "best" way to fix the problem. At some point a stream of professionals show up on TV and the speaking circuit (myself included) sharing concepts and tactical strategies like OODA Loops, Survival Mindset, Lockdowns, Active Shooter, Barricading, Cover vs. Concealment, Workplace Violence Prevention, "See Something, Say Something", applying tourniquets, recognizing the warning signs and many more concepts, including Situational Awareness, and then things go back to "normal". I can track the rise and fall of attention based solely on the dramatic increases in phone calls, web searches and questions, and then things go back to "normal".
As I travel from state to state or simply drive to the grocery store, I see the same thing. People seem to be ignoring each other on a regular basis, and certainly not paying attention to what is going on around them. There are many times that I have stopped to look at people around me, and every single person will have their heads buried in their phones. I was recently visiting the Texas State Capital and had the same experience. I was very surprised that in a city that just experienced a serial bomber a few days before that there was not a greater sense of people paying attention. Some people even seemed to be a bit taken back when I would say "hello" or greeted them in some manner. Its like we are losing our desire to interact with each other.
This is also where I really think we can all make a MAJOR difference in what seems to be an increasing level of violence. We have to get back to talking to each other, we have to interact with each other! The next time you are out in public pay attention to how much we seem to ignore each other. All the concepts I mentioned earlier are important in helping creating a safe environment, but I strongly feel that one of the best ways to help understand if a person is dealing with a crisis, struggling to make it through the day or contemplating some level of harm, is to talk to them. Just saying "Hello" to a person can make a major difference in their lives (and yours). At the same time, if you get into the habit of greeting people you are also much more likely to be actively paying attention to what is going on around you.
Situational Awareness is about interacting with the environment around you and being in a position to respond if something changes. Is it overly simplistic to suggest that talking to each other can help keep you safe, change our communities or maybe even the world? I really do think it starts that easily! So I issue a friendly challenge. When you are done reading this, share it with somebody else, then put your phone down and say hello to somebody you don't know. And if we haven't meet yet..."hello".
About the author:
Mr. Alvarez is the founder of Alvarez Associates, a workplace threat management firm specializing in workplace violence prevention. Having been both a security director for a major national critical infrastructure and a city police officer, he has built over 25 years of experience. He understands the challenges organizations and communities face addressing the threat of violence. Hector has the honor of working with organizations, both corporate and community based to build safer communities through keynote speeches, workshops, security assessments, trainings and behavioral threat assessments. www.wvpexperts.com