Monday, March 1, 2010

The Five Stages of Awareness

The concept of the Five Stages of Awareness, and the Four Stages of Awareness was developed by Marine officer Jeff Cooper during the Pacific campaign, who later developed the Pistolcraft concept. (Author’s note: I don’t suggest the Pistolcraft concept, but rather the Stressfire method developed by Massad F. Ayoob). He later reduced the five stages to four, which works well for the military, but not so much for law enforcement or civilians. I will explain both here today. The first three stages are identical for both concepts, but differ after that.
Stage 1 (Condition White) Little or no awareness of one’s surroundings. The ultimate example of this is being asleep. However, most people in the United States are in this condition most of the time. Their Ipod playing loud so they can’t hear anything, they’re texting on the phone so they can’t see what’s around them, etc. Anyone carrying a firearm while in condition white is ill prepared for a conflict and will inevitably walk blindly into a deadly situation.
Stage 2 (Condition Yellow) Relaxed Awareness. An example would be someone who can tell you where they are without looking around, or who is behind them without looking first. You need not be armed to be in condition yellow, but if armed, you certainly should be. In condition yellow you are basically keeping your eyes and ears open for a potential threat, so that you can be prepared for it before it happens. A well-adjusted person can spend all his waking hours in condition yellow with no ill effects.
Stage 3 (Condition Orange) You feel, see or hear a potential threat, but are not sure it is a deadly threat yet. Example: You hear glass breaking downstairs at 2am. It could be a burglar or it could be the family pet knocking over a vase. In this condition you should be acutely aware of all sights and sounds. Your weapon may or may not be drawn, but if drawn, should be in a safe, ready position. After all, breaking a vase is not a good reason to shoot the cat!
Stage 4 (Condition Red) You see an eminent threat. Weapon must be drawn by now, but this is where we see the difference in the five stage method and the four stage method.
In the four stage method you next action is to fire or attack. This serves the military well as it is common practice in war to attack your enemy on site. This does not serve law enforcement or civilians because, brandishing the weapon quite often is sufficient to stop the threat, therefore using the weapon is not necessary. As a civilian this is in your best interest as it will greatly reduce your chances of being arrested, charged or sued.
Stage 5 (Condition Black) The fight has begun either because they attacked first or you felt you had no choice but to attack first. In condition black you must stop the immediate threat in front of you, but once that threat is neutralized, you must fight the stress induced tunnel vision and loss of hearing and start scanning the immediate area for another attacker.

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