NEW: How to Teach Your Teens to Save Themselves

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Staying Safe through Situational Awareness Training

It’s not an overstatement to say kids are distracted by their phones. We all are. But what does this do to their ability to take care of themselves? In terms of personal safety, it creates a perfect opportunity for them to stumble into very dangerous situations.

Why? Because they’re not paying attention to their immediate surroundings. Teaching your teens the fundamentals of situational awareness can undisputedly save their lives.

is situational awareness?

It is a tactic used by professionals whose jobs involve controlling dangerous, dynamic environments, to keep themselves and others as safe as possible. Developing good situational analysis capabilities allows your child to become completely engaged in their own safety. It is far different than just “paying attention.”

Situational awareness is a complex interplay of the following three concepts:

  1. Active perception of our environments
  2. A full comprehension of our situation
  3. A projection of what might occur next

For example, if your kid is walking in an empty parking garage, first he or she needs to know where they are in space. Are they near an elevator or next to the stairs, and on which floor? Secondly, they need to pay attention to what is happening around them and how it is different from normal.  Empty should mean quiet. Is there noise — a door opening, or footsteps nearby? That’s not normal. Third, they need to establish a plan for what could happen next. This might include pulling out their phone and calling a friend to notify them of their location, thereby possibly spooking the predator or remotely opening their car door, and moving quickly to the vehicle.

That’s why putting away the phone is so important. They need to think on their feet. Encourage your son or daughter to walk with their head held up, eyes scanning the environment and a mindset dialed into the present. Dangerous people target individuals who are easy prey — distracted, unaware, lost — and vulnerable.

How do personal safety skills fit in to this training?

In the simplest terms, practicing basic personal safety is the foundation to building excellent situational awareness. In our new digital age, it’s easy for kids to rely so much on their phones, they don’t prepare ahead of time. Basic personal safety steps include:

  1. Study your environment before visiting a new city or part of town. Know where you’re going and what the safety issues are.
  2. Blend into the surroundings so you don’t become a target.
  3. Pay attention to the possibility of being followed by one or more persons.

It’s possible to teach your kids how to figure out who’s the bad guy.

According to Tim Kennedy, former Green Beret and founder of “Sheepdog Response,” if you see someone who is a possible threat, there are four parts of a person’s body to watch:

Look at:

  1. Their hands to see what they are holding.
  2. Their eyes to understand intent. Are they staring at you?
  3. Their waist as this where hands are held, as well as weapons.
  4. Their body’s direction. Which way is this person moving? If it’s a straight line, it might be at you, as this the shortest distance between each of you.

If you’re targeted and alone

Personal defense is a whole world of training, but the bottom line is by staying alert, you can think ahead and mitigate a  dangerous situation by adjusting and responding. Common defensive tactics include manipulating your keys to serve as a weapon, being prepared to yell or call for help, switching directions, or crossing the street. These simple maneuvers can change the dynamics of the situation and project an air of confidence and awareness. is a good place to start teaching kids basic safety.

The Boston Police Department through its website publishes a “Your Safety” page. Among the published articles is “Ensuring Personal Safety,” which illuminates fundamental situational awareness tactics. Although simply written and driven by common sense, reviewing this bullet list with your children may crack open the door to a discussion that could be a lifesaver.

The Hundred Club — Serving the Community

At The Hundred Club of Mass., we care for those who care for us. When these everyday people-turned-heroes lose their lives in the line of duty, we are here for their families. We have helped beneficiary families since 1959. Our assistance encompasses college scholarships, financial and legal support, counseling, and enrichment programs. Help us help those who dedicate their lives to serving and protecting our communities.

When a police officer or firefighter dies, in many cases, their paycheck and insurance stop before their death benefits begin, which is where the Hundred Club steps in to help. Your generosity provides immediate support to the families of these everyday heroes; funds they can rely upon to pay rent, groceries, and other bills. Help us continue the tradition of caring for those who care for us. Donate to the Survivor’s Fund:

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