Situation Awareness for the Holidays

Situation awareness is necessary throughout the year, but especially during the holidays.  For instance, a few years back, a directive was released by the U.S. Department of Defense urging members and dependents to be especially vigilant against possible threats to their personal safety during the holiday season.

At about the same time, the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, which is involved in protecting Department of Defense personnel and property, also released an advisory regarding situation awareness.  This instructed all their employees around the globe to “be vigilant at home and work, during travel and in their communities, by using individual protective measures.”

These advisories were made not due to a specific threat at the time but were aimed at increasing situation awareness. “It is at this time of the year our guard is lowered while we spread holiday cheer and joy,” said Mance Clark, JBSA-Randolph anti-terrorism officer.

“There are criminal and terror elements who seek targets of opportunity, taking advantage of the unexpected. So, as we enter this festive season, please, let’s not forget your situation awareness and remain vigilant, reporting suspicious activity and maintaining sound security practices.”

Situation Awareness is for All of Us

While these directives were for military personnel, they do apply to all of us. In fact, situation awareness is something we always must be aware of. We all must be much more aware of our surroundings during the holiday season, probably more than at any other time of the year. In fact, some believe that the holidays are the most dangerous time of the year.

Crime Spikes and Situation Awareness

Among the types of crimes that usually spike during the holidays are the following:

Property theft. Thieves steal packages from people walking on the sidewalk, walking in a parking lot, or using public transportation much more frequently during the holidays. Because it is not that great of a problem most of the year, many of us let our guard down, and are not practicing proper situation awareness. The result is we often become victims.

Assaults. It does not take much for people to become angry or violent in today’s world. Assaults increase at this time of year because more alcoholic beverages, and likely drugs as well, tend to be consumed during the holiday season. According to a study published in Beverage Daily, the average American sees a 100 percent increase in their alcoholic drinking from Thanksgiving to New Years.

Road Rage. Something we may not realize is that road rage goes up during the holidays. The increased drinking just mentioned probably has a lot to do with it, along with seasonal stress. 

Financial Crimes. Financial crimes, especially credit card fraud, jump during the holiday season. Spikes typically occur on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and for some reason, December 21. That’s when one in 85 transactions was a fraud attempt, according to DataProt, which focuses on cybersecurity issues.

Oh, and one more thing about credit card fraud. Fraudsters really like to take advantage of the option to “buy online, pick up in the store.” By the time someone realizes their credit card has been compromised, the fraudster has already picked up the goods from the store and disappeared.

So what can we all do about this? Among the things TAL Global recommends are the following:

  1. Know what situation awareness is. Many of us have never even used this term. Situation awareness refers to using our sensory system – eyes, ears, nose, even gut feelings – to scan our immediate surroundings for the purpose of identifying possible threats.
  2. Avoid carrying packages. You’ve heard the term “low hanging fruit.”  Well, packages become easy pickings and low hanging fruit for thieves that want to steal something quickly.
  3. Charitable donations. Be especially wary of people soliciting for charitable donations. Before you give, ask them for identification.
  4. Avoid wearing uniforms. If you had told us five years ago that wearing a nurse’s uniform could potentially lead to violence, we would have thought you were crazy. But right now, police, fire personnel, nurses, doctors, and security officers should avoid wearing their uniforms when off duty.
  5. Purses and wallets. Carry your purse under your arm. Keep your wallet in an inside jacket pocket, not a back trouser pocket. Also, cash is out. Pay everything by credit card. In most cases, if you are the victim of credit card fraud, you will not be held responsible for the charge.

Finally, business owners and office administrators must pay extra attention to their staff during the holiday season. We know stress runs high during the holiday season. In the past, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released statistics that indicate workplace violence and violent acts in general increase in work settings during the holiday season. Effective situation awareness can help prevent these acts from happening.

Situation awareness

© TAL Global, 2019