Awareness is the foundation of personal safety in any given environment. One must always be aware of one’s surroundings in order to maintain one’s safety.




The model shown here is used extensively in aspects of law enforcement training and is designed for you to understand the escalation of a threat to yourself leading up to an attack.

The model uses colour coded levels for ease of use and it enables you to maintain a proactive approach to your safety. To maintain awareness you must always be observant and decreasing your awareness does not detract from maintaining a high level of observation.


Levels of Awareness

We use a reverse traffic light system for our model of awareness:

Any situation can develop very quickly. The escalation of awareness level can occur within a matter of seconds so you have to be prepared to act instantly to maintain your personal safety. Onto the levels in more detail:


This is the state when you are aware of your surroundings and anticipate rather than expect something to happen.


This is the state where you are now aware of something specific in your surroundings, and are assessing the possible threat. The object of your attention can be a perceived threat, should you not be happy with the object of your attention then escalate your awareness level to red.


This is the state when you now act in light of the identified/perceived threat. You determine the appropriate action and execute it before the threat initiates any action against you, this enables you to be proactive rather than reactive in a situation.

You actually utilize this awareness model during every day activities. Here are two real life examples of how you may currently be using the model of awareness without realising it:


GREEN - you are aware of other road users and the driving conditions at hand.

AMBER - you become aware there is a hazard to you from a slow moving vehicle in front of you, a fast moving vehicle behind or a vehicle that pulls into your lane.

RED - is your action to the hazard whether that action is to brake, accelerate or manoeuvre your vehicle into another lane before you have an accident.

If you weren’t using this model you would constantly be crashing. Driving conditions in South Africa are amongst the worse in the world with an average of over 13000 road deaths per year over the last eight years.


GREEN - you are window shopping in a shoe shop window in a mall.

AMBER - you see a pair of shoes that catches your eye on sale.

RED - you decide whether or not to buy the shoes.

If you weren’t using this model you may miss out on some great shoe bargains.

All you have to do to maintain your personal safety using this model is to ensure that you constantly change the focus of your awareness to the environment around you where a possible threat may exist.




To answer the question as to what distance you must execute your plan we look at the concepts of the macro, median and micro environments. Macro meaning bigger, median is middle and micro meaning smaller in this case bigger, middle and smaller refers to the distance from you.


The problem is deciding on what those distances should be and that is dependent on the type of environment you are in and how congested the environment is. As a guide for the minimum distance it is advisable to use the personal defence circle used in firearms training. The personal defence circle is the minimum distance required for a person to draw a firearm and use it before an attacker reaches them at a running pace.

Through research and testing the personal defence circle is defined as 21 feet or 7 metres. This is a good distance to use as it approximately equals 1.5 car lengths which is an easy distance for most people to judge. The time it takes a person at a run to cover this distance is approximately 1.5 seconds. So you can see if you wait until a threat; potential, perceived or real is in your micro environment you have virtually no time to take action.

Below is a diagrammatic representation of the macro, median and micro environment:

To make the macro, median and micro environment easier to understand we look at it like a reverse traffic light:

Macro Environment - GREEN

The threat is a safe distance from you at this point in time, greater than 20 metres, on your awareness level you are in AMBER. If you wish to raise your level of awareness to RED at this point and execute your plan is up to you.

Median Environment - AMBER

The threat is now approaching closer to you they are between 7 to 20 metres; here you must increase your level of awareness to RED and execute your plan.

Micro Environment - RED

The threat is at your personal defence circle distance of 7 metres this is a position where you have almost no time to take an action if required.


Levels of Awareness and LIFE


The following flow diagram illustrates how the Model of Awareness and LIFE integrate:


The personal defence flow chart outlines the escalation process of the model of awareness in order to prevent an attack thereby maintaining your personal safety.

Using the levels of awareness and LIFE is a way you can proactively maintain your personal safety. In the next section we will look at how to identify potential threats in THREAT IDENTIFICATION.