Mental Preparedness and Situational Awareness
This is an excerpt from my book Emergency Preparedness and Off-Grid Communication.
For emergency preparedness to be successful, it must become a lifestyle and not just an occasional thing you think about a few times a year. It’s a mindset that should affect the decisions you make on a daily basis. How well-prepared you are for a crisis will depend on the decisions you’ve made and the habits you’ve developed over the previous years. Habits that will help you in a crisis are developed during times of peace.
Half the battle of getting ready for the unexpected is mental preparedness. Many people first consider preparing for a crisis after being made aware of a potential future problem. Concerned that they might be caught off guard, they wonder if they should take steps to deal with the potential problem. Concern can motivate us, but excessive worry can interfere with rational thought. Preparedness is best done with a clear mind and a sober, realistic outlook. A primary goal is to recognize and address legitimate problems while discarding unrealistic concerns that do not require preparedness.
Ask any member of a military special operations team what the key is to surviving adverse conditions and achieving difficult goals, and they’ll tell you that nothing they do is possible without proper mental preparedness. You can have the best gear and years of training in how to use it, but without the right mindset, you will not use your equipment effectively.
With our minds focused on the issues of daily life, many of us are unaware of the dangers that surround us. When faced with a sudden threat, we go from a mental state of unawareness to a state of panic in a matter of seconds. When our mind is filled with fear, we can’t think rationally. We make errors in judgment or freeze when we should be reacting to a threat. Situational awareness is our ability to recognize and respond to threats.
Jeff Cooper developed a system that describes the different levels of situational awareness based on color codes. Cooper’s color codes are divided into five categories: white, yellow, orange, red, and black. Level white is when you’re not aware of what is going on around you. You’re unaware of potential threats and unprepared for an assault. In condition yellow, you’re aware of your surroundings—prepared but relaxed. In level orange, you’ve recognized a possible threat and are prepared to act on it. In level red, you’ve engaged a threat, and your focus is on dealing with it. While focusing on the immediate threat, a secondary focus is on other possible dangers and potential help from strangers, friends, or law enforcement. In condition black, you panic, freeze, and shut down. This is the worst possible state. Condition yellow is where we should be most of the time. Our eyes are scanning the environment, looking for potential threats, but we’re physically relaxed. Maintaining proper awareness is helpful during times of peace, but it’s critical during a crisis.
Adverse environments and difficult tasks present physical and mental problems that can overwhelm us. No one thinks of giving up when life is easy, but when adversity comes, we face the temptation to quit. When times are hard, the thought of giving up must be opposed by a reason to keep going. If the reason to persevere is stronger than the reason to quit, one will generally continue fighting. Before beginning a difficult pursuit, it helps to find a compelling reason to see the task through to its completion.
Why do you want to prepare for a potential disaster?
Your motivation may be as simple as wanting to be prepared for a power outage caused by a hurricane. Some have pragmatic reasons for prepping, but others have ideological reasons. Perhaps you value liberty above all else and feel a need to fight against the forces of tyranny. Maybe you desire to pass along to your grandchildren the values and lessons you’ve learned in life. Whatever your motivation is, think about it every day during a crisis. Continually reminding yourself why you are doing what you are doing will drive out the temptation to quit when times are hard. Mental preparedness is the most important asset you have. Nothing can force you to quit if you’re mentally prepared for adversity.