Situational awareness is very important for being prepared to defend yourself and your loved ones. This can make a huge difference in your performance in a fight if you’re aware of your surroundings. People tend to concentrate more on shooting than they do the other things that will actually make you better at employing those shooting skills. Without situational awareness, you will not know the vital information that using your eyes or hearing will show you. There is a reason soldiers and combat veterans in general come back from combat quiet and are always looking around. It is simple situational awareness that they got in the habit of employing.
Soldiers are taught that security is 360 degrees and 100% of the time. This means that your entire surroundings are a threat and you need to watch them. This is to help with spotting a threat before it has a chance to hurt you. When you are watching your surroundings it is important that you keep quiet and quickly scan your surroundings with intense attention to detail. Watch the little things like the location of hands, where eyes are pointed, how people carry themselves, what they are wearing, etc. There is also location scanning that you must be aware of like sources of sound, camera locations, blind spots, locations of exits/entrances, etc. No detail is too small when you are looking around, and you need to be very thorough in your visual scanning.
When looking around, there are four positions that you can use for aiming your head. The first two are 45 degrees to the left and right which will give you a little more than 180 degrees of coverage you’re your eyes. The other two are looking over the shoulders which cover your rear quadrants. This is a very obvious method of checking your rear. Looking around can be as discrete or as obvious as you wish. I employ peripheral scanning in public in order to not make it obvious that I am watching. If I want to look behind me, I will walk past something and pretend to have passing interest in it and use that split second to glance at what is behind me. I highly advise that you not stare since that is all it can take to start a conflict.
Listening to your surroundings is about as important as using your eyes. It gives us good perception of our surroundings such as distance of the source of noise. We must remain quiet and tuned into our surroundings in order to hear those little things that normally go unnoticed as background noise by others. You can learn a lot about your surroundings by just listening to the different sounds. You will find that obnoxious noises will attract attention from everyone, such as a loud rattling cart in the store, revving engines, or crying children. You have to learn to analyze every sound and judge their origin. I typically find that I can use my hearing to cover most of what goes on behind me. This isn’t always feasible, but it is an added method of security that must be used in conjunction with your sight.
With these two senses alone, you can have a pretty good defense from your surroundings. If you take your safety and your families’ safety seriously, you will maintain your situational awareness. There is little to no disadvantages to this, unless you are the one whipping your head around from side to side with your hood up. You can be very discrete and inconspicuous to those around you by using your peripherals and quick passing visuals in order to acquire your visual information. The important thing to remember is that it is not being paranoid, it is being aware and alert to activity around you. This is probably the most important thing you can practice if you want to give yourself the best chance of surviving a fight.