Situation awareness: increasing personal safety

FRESNO, Calif.

As Action News Anchor Christine Park found out, feeling safe and actually being safe are two different things. She introduces us to a Fresno man who's empowering everyone from law enforcement to average citizens with the simple yet powerful concept of "situation awareness."

A soldier on the battlefields of Afghanistan... and a housewife shopping in the suburbs. Worlds apart, but both practice a concept called "situation awareness." SA is defined as being able to "read" people and situations so you can react appropriately and avoid any threats.

RJ Pierini: "It forces you to engage your environment and live in the moment."

RJ Pierini is the founder of "Advanced Tactical Methods" in Fresno. He's been teaching safety skills to the special operations and law enforcement communities.

RJ Pierini: "So this class is learning what it is, how it works, and how to develop it."

But lately, his classes are made up of a very different group. Mostly women, a high school student, an elementary school teacher, a marketing professional, a deputy-in-training, and a news anchor.

Paige Natsues: "I'm a little scared about how oblivious I am and how overconfident how I am in my own safety just because of where I live."

Pierini says "situation awareness" is not about being paranoid or scared all the time. Just more aware and prepared.

RJ Pierini: "The more you have the ability to see things, that affect you in a negative way, how quickly you can see them, how good your planning is, gives you more options, and the more options you have the better it is for your safety and security."

This means: Look and listen -- notice what's going on around you, instead of being lost in your own world. Be aware of existing security measures, for example, any security cameras and people on patrol. Identify exits and routes of escape.

Avoid giving out personal information while in public, including while you're talking on the phone. Finally, if you notice a potential threat, do your best to avoid it.

RJ Pierini: "I need you to use it and you're not gonna use it unless you personalize it."

He told us, practice makes perfect. So we went to a Northwest Fresno shopping center to apply some of what we learned about what to do and what not to do.

Within the 30 minutes, sitting outside a café... I heard one woman's schedule for the next morning, which included a visit to the dentist, which she announced while on the phone. I found out where another woman banked and what type of account she had there -- all valuable information to a potential criminal.

But even in the privacy of your own home, not applying situation awareness, can turn you into an easy victim. That's what prompted Dr. Ely Lawson to contact Pierini.

Dr. Ely Lawson: "My car's been broken into twice in my driveway. Just recently. And we actually had a home invasion a few houses down. I think people start thinking about it too late, the thing that brings it into your mind is after the home invasion, after you've been attacked."

Pierini showed him, being safe at home, goes beyond setting an alarm and locking doors and windows.

RJ Pierini: "Force yourself to be a little more in tune with your neighborhood when you leave and as you approach your house, will give you the opportunity to greatly increase your overall home security. Pick out what doesn't look normal, or things that stand out. At night because of the big redwood trees and the streetlights, I bet that's a pretty dark spot over there."

And he says criminals are always looking for clues -- for example, stickers and decals in a window are an easy way to find children's rooms.

RJ Pierini: "Tell-tale signs that people may see when driving through looking at your house, don't give that away."

He says a little common sense goes a long way. And it all starts with situation awareness.

RJ Pierini: "Just all part of that multiple layers of security you should have in place."

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