Shotguns & Situational Awareness

Apr 29, 2012 by

Nurse Jane was telling me a little story the other day that I’d like to pass on to you. The moral is about situational awareness, which, in layman’s terms, just means paying attention to your surroundings. It’s a little bit more than that though – it’s a habit, a constant. You’re always noticing things other folks don’t.  Folks with high situational awareness tend to notice exits when they walk into a restaurant, and prefer to be seated with their back to the wall so they can keep an eye on who is coming and going. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not paranoia. It’s just keeping an eye out for your safety and those you are with.

So here’s Nurse Jane’s little story…

One day, not so very long ago, she and several of her nursing school compatriots are returning to the hospital after lunch break. They’re walking through the parking lot back towards the main building, chatting happily along… And Nurse Jane looks around, as she usually does, and sees something very much like this:

Police Officer in Parking Lot with Rifle

Right there, in the midst of the afternoon, was a man dressed all in black, with a shotgun (the fellow in the photo above looks like law enforcement or military – the person she saw did not).  Jane stops, eyeballs the fellow for a few moments, and says to her fellows, “…Hey guys? Anyone notice the guy with the shotgun?”.  You can imagine their reaction.

Fortunately for them, they knew from their morning shift that a state prisoner of some notoriety was being treated in the hospital, and deduced that this fellow in the parking lot must belong with the multiple armored guards inside the building. But he wasn’t wearing a uniform or any insignia that would make that obvious.  If you didn’t know he was a guard / law enforcement, you might think he was an irate shooter lurking in the parking lot, waiting to pounce on unsuspecting patients, families or medical staff.

But no one in her group noticed.  No one looks around much these days. Sometimes it’s because they are so glued to a cell phone, they don’t even think about their surroundings. But most of the time it’s just the sheer lack of situational awareness, or the concept of paying attention to your surroundings.  Folks who have been in combat, folks who have lived in the woods, and folks who have lived in the inner cities tend to have a highly developed sense of situational awareness. But if they’ve lived a happy suburban oblivious life, they might not notice the guy with the shotgun in the parking lot.  And that’s a terribly dangerous way to live. What if he had been an active shooter?

Pay attention to the world around you. What you see might just surprise you, like it surely surprised Nurse Jane’s companions.


  1. Rhode Island Chick

    Wow. I can’t believe they don’t notice, but most people just go around with their ear to a cell phone and stare at their feet. If I had noticed, I would have called the police and you’d better believe it!

  2. Niami

    It’s scary what people don’t notice around them.

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