Situational awareness is a topic that is preached a lot in the preparedness and outdoor community. This is the act of paying attention to one’s surroundings to avoid possible threats and dangers. Emphasis is given to things that appear out of place.
Situational awareness has become a hot topic in modern times because of technology and its ability to draw our attention away from what is going on in our surroundings.
Everyone can do this but with practice, some people are better than others. This task can be easier to do when one is alone or accompanied by a few people because there are fewer distractions. There is also more opportunity to be proactive in your approach to maintain safety when less people are around.
But large group settings have the potential to turn chaotic very quickly.
I wanted to discuss some ways that you can avoid becoming targeted in a group if a situation was to become dangerous. But first, let us briefly go over a few of the reasons why being in a large group can be dangerous.
Top 4 Dangers of a Group
There are going to be many more distractions in a large group that will take your attention away from or limit your ability to pay attention to singular aspects of your surroundings.
These could be loud noises such as music, someone giving a speech, cheering crowds, television screens, or it could simply be from so many people talking at once.
There is also more visual information to take in and process. This can take the form of signs, banners, what people are wearing, how they are acting, and what everyone is doing.
Between just these two characteristics of group settings, there is a lot of information that must be filtered, processed, and assessed. This takes more time and effort.
If you have ever been in a large crowd you know that getting around or through it is a slow process. Obviously, this depends on the group size. The more people there are, the slower it will be to move through it.
But mobility also depends on the surrounding environment. Is the group confined indoors where everyone is standing shoulder to shoulder? Or is the group outdoors where there may be more space and movement is hindered less.
Have you ever been with a group of friends and someone suggests doing something that may not be the best idea? At first everyone kind of mutters undecidedly as to what to do but then one person agrees to do it. And then another person agrees, and then the next, and before you know it everyone is on board with the idea.
Herd mentality is like peer pressure. When something happens in a large group, a person reacts. Then the people around them react, usually in a remarkably similar manner and a chain reaction occurs that spreads throughout the crowd.
The fewer people there are in a group, the better the chances are that individuals will have the time to think through what is going on rather than merely reacting to it.
Target of Opportunity
It is an unfortunate and sad fact of life that there are bad people in the world that wish to harm others. The motivations behind these acts are numerous and can include money, political ideology, or because they simply desire to hurt others.
When a person or group is intent on hurting others, inflicting the most damage at once is often the goal. This means that anywhere there is a large gathering of people can become a target of opportunity.
6 Ways to Avoid Being Targeted in A Group
If a person wishes to remain as safe as possible in these situations, then the best solution is to avoid crowds altogether.
Of course, there are times when crowds cannot be avoided or are just a part of life. A person running their daily errands who suddenly finds themselves confronted with protesters in the street is an example of one that was difficult to avoid.
But then there are crowds that we choose to be a part of such as in movie theatres, sporting events, concerts, plays, and the like.
These everyday crowds of people are relatively safe. However, crowds that gather with other specific agendas are best to stay away from.
Know the Exits
Knowing where the exits are is a practice that should be done whether a person is in a large group or not.
This is incredibly simple to do and can be an effective way of quickly distancing yourself from harm’s way. Whenever you enter a restaurant, movie theatre, sporting event, or anywhere for that matter, make a mental note of where the exits are.
Throughout the time you are at a venue, periodically check for the exits as being in a crowd can be disorienting. It is also helpful to know what is beyond certain exit points.
For instance, one exit might lead to an alleyway which could quickly become a bottleneck when people flood into it. While another might lead to a wide-open space.
Stay on the Perimeter
Being in the middle of a large group of people is like being in a traffic jam. Once you are in it, it is next to impossible or at least extremely difficult to get out of.
For this reason, it is best to position yourself along the perimeter. It is better yet to be outside of the group entirely. This gives you space and mobility options that would otherwise be limited when surrounded by people.
Be Aware of What You Wear
Becoming a target based on what you are wearing might seem like an odd concept. But when groups become targets of opportunity it is not usually a personal vendetta between two people.
Clothing that is brightly colored displays logos or statements, or just looks different from what everyone else is wearing will cause a person to stand out from the crowd.
A doctor wearing a white lab coat standing in a crowd of people wearing everyday clothes will certainly catch a person’s eye. Dress accordingly or even plan on bringing an extra set of clothes that can be changed into if the need arises.
Mind What You Say
Just as your appearance can cause you to stand out in a crowd, so can what you say. Nefarious individuals are not always on the outside of a group but are often among them, watching and listening.
It is important to be mindful of what you say so as not to draw unwanted attention. The volume of your voice can also be a factor you may want to limit. Being overly loud will again, cause you to stand out and draw attention to yourself.
This piece of advice may sound counterintuitive because when something dangerous happens our first instinct is to get away from that threat quickly.
When safely possible, a speedy escape is always recommended. But a person needs to be able to analyze the situation and decide what the best course of action is.
Sometimes that is to run away quickly and sometimes it is not to move at all. This is not a general rule to go by as every situation, threat, and environment is different.
But movement above all else pinpoints a person’s location and they can remain a target if they are visibly active.
Unless you stay in your home all day, every day, then being around groups of people is just a part of daily life.
We are around groups of people when we are at work, go to the store to buy groceries, or are at a venue attending some event.
Nothing bad ever happens at most of these gatherings and the goal of this article was not to scare you into thinking so.
Instead, I want to encourage people to be more present in the moments going on around them and how to be able to make safer decisions. It only takes a moment of not being situationally aware in which a person’s life can be changed.
Thanks for reading and stay safe!
What are some of your tips for staying safe in a large group of people? Sound off in the comment section below and let us know!