On Point: Patterns of Awareness
There are many approaches to what we call security, and these approaches are generally dictated by what a client demands and what a situation—any situation—necessitates. The security specialist must be aware of both, both what the client needs and what circumstances require. That’s the basics, the bare bones of what a security specialist must consider. Furthermore, the specialist must accomplish this as a representative of his or her firm, which is not to be neglected, given that a specialist is a professional extension of the said firm. That’s where I started when I began training with and working for Invicta some months ago. The more I trained, the more assignments I took, the more the world got interesting. Due to circumstances of my living abroad, I was able to train and work with Invicta only for a short period of time. However, from a security perspective, what I learned during that time retains applicable value. Considering this, I wish to discuss two basic aspects of security that fall along a singular line of awareness. Awareness, to be clear, may be the most important skill we can develop in security, either professionally or personally.
Anyone who has taken a self-defence course or participated in martial arts training, such as Jiujitsu, kickboxing, or some other form of combat or defensive technique, is at some level instructed about situational awareness. We learn, for instance, concepts of risk assessment, behavioural cues, like body language and voice patterns, distance control, and a number of other factors to consider when assessing a situation. We are taught to ask certain questions. Questions such as, does an individual possess or potentially possess a weapon? Are there other people involved? Can I avoid a physical conflict? Is there an escape? All of these can apply to a private individual, as well as a security specialist. A difference, however, is that the security specialist is very present in a situation, particularly if they are in uniform. The specialist then must constantly make assessments. The simple fact is that circumstances, and thereby questions, can change very quickly.
Ultimately, a security specialist is looking for patterns. There is a classic example of someone wearing obviously too many clothes on a warmer day or night. Cliché though it may seem, I witnessed this firsthand. It is true some individuals get colder than others, even in warmer weather, and while we are not present to judge an individual’s clothes, hygiene, accent or tics, we are there to notice. We can notice, too, an individual who is aware of us, who positions themselves in relationship to where we stand and where we move. In such circumstances, we can indicate our awareness. If an individual becomes aware that we are watching them, we have, in effect, exercised a degree of control. We are not threatening the individual, but we can represent a potential threat. Threatening someone and being a potential threat are very different personas. And again, there are questions we can ask. Does a vehicle keep circling the premises? Does someone continuously enter and leave a building or retail shop? Is someone trying to distract us? All of these questions, especially when paired with certain behavioural modes, lead us to pattern recognition. At the same time, we must be aware of our own tendency for establishing patterns. If we are required approximately at every hour to inspect some area under our watch, then we should pay attention to the word “approximately”. If permitted, we should break up that hour. Otherwise, if we leave our post at exactly hour on the hour, we have established an identifiable pattern for anyone who might be watching us. So, too, we might notice if we go the same direction every time we leave our post.
We might notice how much time or attention we give to one area or another. If we become aware of ourselves establishing a pattern, then we should change what we are doing. This is not being unpredictable to ourselves but to others. Also, there are patterns around us. I sometimes worked in the snow. I made a point of remembering where there were tracks and where there were not tracks. If there were warehouse doors that, for whatever reason, remained slightly open, I tried to notice how wide the gap between the door and the wall stood. While working in a warehouse district, I tried to keep track of who worked at what hours and what vehicles they drove—not solely for the warehouse I was protecting but for those in proximity to the one I guarded. These are fairly obvious patterns to look for, yet it is pertinent to realize when protecting practically anything or anyone or any group, we might be doing something that makes us, as security specialist, predictable.
I wrote at the beginning of this essay, that in my time with Invicta the world got interesting. Because of the odd hours and locations where I worked, I could practice necessary and active vigilance. There were occasions, too, when I was a deterrent to a potential crime. These were circumstances in which I needed to be responsible, aware, and willing to intervene. These things are what give life an edge. I like that edge. Time spent with Invicta helped to sharpen it.