Over the next few issues, it will be my goal to; make you more aware of your surroundings, help you understand the mind of a criminal and how these relate to your safety as a Realtor. 

In law enforcement, extreme awareness of our surroundings is a critical part of the job. Safety is always a top priority. From walking up to a door wondering if a bullet will come through right after knocking, thinking what the car next to us can possibly do while sitting at a stop light and picking the back booth at a restaurant so we can have a better view of the door. We call this constant vigilance “situational awareness.” To help explain this, the late Jeff Cooper’s “Color Code” has been taught to law enforcement for years.

We have seen a lot of Realtors in the news losing their belongings or worse case, getting hurt while doing their open houses or “door knocking.” As a Realtor myself, applying this training has been very helpful.

The Basics: The Colors

White is the lowest level in the chart. In this condition, you are unaware, not alert, and oblivious to your surroundings. In this state, you would be safe at home watching TV with your doors locked. Unfortunately, some people walk around in “condition white.” Out in public, this condition could be labeled as preoccupied or spacing out. People in this condition white walk with their heads down, looking at their phones, as they walk to their car in a parking lot. They do not notice the impending danger until it is too late.

People in condition white are typically those who will be victims of violent crime because criminals target the inattentive, the complacent, the preoccupied, and distracted. Why? Because criminals are looking for easy targets.

When you leave your residence, you should be in condition yellow.

Yellow is a general state of awareness but relaxed. You are alert and aware of your surroundings. You are difficult to surprise, and although you do not expect to be attacked, you recognize the possibility exists.

In Yellow, you would not walk down a dark alley if another option is available. If walking past a dark alley, you would take a few steps away from it as you walk past. You know where people are as you walk to your car in a parking lot. This enables you to spot trouble coming and either be ready for it or avoid it altogether. If you can’t avoid it, you move to Condition Orange.

Orange is a heightened state of alertness with a specific threat. The entire difference between Yellow and Orange is that there is a specific target for your attention. It might be the fact that he is wearing a heavy jacket in the middle of summer. It might be that you have been in five different stores and have noticed this person in each one. His or her actions have caused you to take note of them. Therefore, you must assess him/her as a potential threat.

Criminals typically display subtle pre-attack indicators, which are obvious once you learn to look for them. We will discuss that in future.

When reaching condition Orange, you are focusing on the individual that drew your attention, but you do not get tunnel vision by focusing only on that threat. You need to continue to scan the area for additional threats that may be associated. Most of the time, you will note after a few minutes of observation that there is a reason for the behavior. Once the potential threat is gone, you will de-escalate back to condition Yellow.

So, what about the threat that is not gone? He is the predator, the criminal who would have gotten you if you weren’t paying attention. Now that you are aware of him, you are in less danger because of your awareness.

As you assess this threat, you notice things that convince you he had bad intentions. You now play the “What if….” game in your mind and begin formulating a basic plan. With a simple plan already in place, your reaction time is improved and gives you a much better chance at surviving or avoiding injury. If, after assessing him/her, you believe he/she is an actual threat, you then escalate to Condition Red.

In Red, you are ready to fight! You may or may not actually be fighting, but you are MENTALLY PREPARED to fight. In many instances where you have gone to condition Red, you will not physically do anything at all. The entire process of escalating from Yellow to Orange to Red then de-escalating right back down as the situation is resolved can happen in a matter of seconds.

When you have escalated to “condition Red” and believe a threat is real, you are waiting for a mental trigger. This trigger is a specific action on the part of the criminal that will result in an immediate defensive reaction from you. By having a pre-made decision set up in your mind, you can physically move fast enough to deal with the situation. 

Your main enemy is reaction time. If you are not aware of your surroundings and fail to see a threat, the threat may overwhelm you before you can react and mount a defense. If you are in “Condition White,” you will need six to seven seconds to realize what is happening during an attack. You do not have that amount of time when you are potentially fighting for your life.

There are a couple of mental tricks you can use to help you prepare for condition Red. To help with this, each morning, when you wake up, remind yourself that “I may have to use my training today.” This reinforces in your subconscious mind, which controls 90% of your life. There is a reason the police train the way they do – they may need the training to save lives. When you pick up on that potential threat and escalate to Condition Orange, tell yourself, “I may have to defend myself today physically!” If you have internalized that a specific person(s) is a threat to your safety, and you can stop them, it becomes easier to process mentally. Be safe!