Something interesting has happened not long ago. I’m already a member of the security team at my church. Recently I was approached with the idea of taking over from the current director.

Sounds like a lot of fun, and it looks like it will be. In addition to recruiting, I’m beginning to lay out a training curriculum for our security detail. First, not everyone on my detail comes from a military combat or emergency response background. And in some cases, even those that do have gotten into some bad habits.

Let me start to explain it with a story. Years ago when I was going to MPI school, we covered VIP protection. In one scenario, we had a team of investigators escorting a congressman (make believe). One of the investigators had come to us from Sierra Army Depot. We have a name for the MPs that do this kind of work. We call them “Tower Rats.” You can almost always pick them out because they watch the ground exactly two feet in front of them.

While they’re escorting their charge, and there’s a crowd, all of a sudden, someone in the crowd pulls out a handgun and points it at the congressman. The trainee’s reaction was classic. He saw the confusion in the crowd, looked up, and found himself looking at the business end of a weapon. His mouth dropped open as he realized that in a real world setting, he, his charge, and possibly a fair number of his team might be dead.

He was guilty of breaking a cardinal rule. He failed to stay aware of what was going on around him. We call this “situational awareness.” It doesn’t matter if you’re a soldier, a police officer, security guard, or just Joe Citizen, knowing what’s going on around you can save your life.

Staying aware means not just looking straight ahead. In most cases, people will focus exactly two to three feet ahead of them. Today we make this worse with text messaging. We see it everyday, people walking down the street, texting. We’ve all heard about the person that stepped in front of a car or ran into a post because they were texting, but also being distracted makes you an easy mark.

Our ancestors knew this. Humans came out of places that were anything but safe. In the jungle there’s all kinds of things waiting to eat you. Same on the plains, mountains, or wherever. Any outdoorsman will tell you that seeing a threat in the wild beats having it surprise you. After all, if it surprises you then you’re probably already lunch.

While not very many of venture into the wilds anymore, we have replaced that threat with something worse. It’s called civilization and it breeds the feeling we’re safe, when in reality we might not be. There’s still plenty of wolves among the sheep.

With the supposed feeling of safety, most of us forget that and either choose to ignore it, or we simply become complacent.

We have another name for this. It’s called running at “Condition White.” What does that mean? It means you’re oblivious to what’s going on around you. You’re not looking and, if you have earbuds in, you’re not listening. That’s a recipe for disaster.

My wife recounted a story to me following a trip with my daughter to New Orleans. They were going to dinner, and my daughter had a map on her cellphone and was busy following it. My wife is very street smart, and it didn’t take her long to realize they were being followed. My wife does what we call “checking her six.” In other words, she knows what’s going on behind her. She looked at reflections in store windows, and in some cases, checked behind her. We call this “clearing your six” and you should do it often.

She started taking action to confirm the tail and to evade him (in this case a gentlemen on a bike). My wife took my daughter into a drugstore, and confirmed the tail stopped outside. When they left, he picked up the tail. My wife finally spotted some other tourists and acted like she knew them. She whispered to the leader of the group they were being followed.

Now with numbers not in his favor, and his prey alerted to his presence, he broke off and went looking for easier pickings.

I’m not sure what he had on his mind but my wife and daughter are both beautiful women, so I’ll leave his intentions up to your imagination.

Had my wife been like my daughter and glued to her cellphone, they could have been in much more danger.

When walking down the street, even as a private citizen, put the phone away. Doing church security is even harder. You can’t let yourself become distracted. Everyone who comes in could be potential trouble, and awareness is 95 percent of the game.

In a building or on the street, you should always be watching. Be aware where people are and what they’re doing. I’m scanning constantly, even in places that I feel safe in (you never know when that’s going to change).

When I’m in public, and it doesn’t matter if we’re talking going to Wal-Mart, a restaurant, movie, or whatever, I’m running at what can be called “Condition Yellow.” That means I’m observing. I want to know who’s around me. I walk past an aisle in the store, I look down it. I see someone, I check them out. I’m looking for bulges that might indicate a hidden weapon. I listen to voices around me.

That brings me to an important point. There’s a difference between seeing and observing. I see someone with a bulge in their shirt. Observing means I’m now questioning what the bulge is. Chances are it’s perfectly innocent, but then you never know. Being aware is key. That gives you a lot of options to include running away or being ready to fight.

At that point, our situational awareness level changed to “Condition Orange.” We perceive a possible threat and we do something to either distance ourselves or get ready to fight.

The final step would be “Condition Red.” For instance, a man walks into my church carrying an AK-47. I’m going through all the steps in less than a heartbeat. At Condition Red, I now go into fight or flight. Either I run like heck and hope I don’t catch one in the back, or draw my pistol (yes, we encourage Concealed Carry) and do something about about it.

None of that would be possible if I didn’t know what was going on. If I were looking at my phone for instance, I’d be dead before I knew there was a problem.

I know this all makes it sound like a person might be a little paranoid, but a little paranoia has never hurt anyone. After all, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.”

Look around. It might just save your life.