Some years ago, Col. Jeff Cooper began to use the “Color Code” to signify conditions of awareness as it pertains to potential threats. White referred to a total lack of awareness. Yellow was used to signify relaxed alertness. Orange referred to having identified a potential threat. And Red was used when the potential threat was identified as an actual threat.
Condition White should only exist when a person is sound asleep. However, we see people operating in total oblivion every day. The person who walks down the busy sidewalk with all of their attention focused on their smart phone. Even worse, we see drivers paying more attention to their phones than to their driving. Others will answer a knock at their front door without first having looked out to see who is there. I would even suggest that the person who gets caught in a police radar trap is not being as alert as they could, or should be.
For these people, their first inclination that a criminal attack is about to take place is when the criminal gets right in their face. These folks don’t have a personal defense plan and, even if they have one, it is generally way too late to put it into practice by the time they realize they’re in trouble. Their only hope of avoiding the confrontation is if the crook is so inept that he leaves them an opening to respond defensively. This really doesn’t leave a person much hope of avoiding the conflict.
To begin to live in Condition Yellow (relaxed alertness) usually requires a real-life change for many people. They learn to function with their heads up, actually observing what is going on around them. They learn to prioritize what they are doing so that minor distractions are dealt with in an appropriate manner. They are not the people who stop in the middle of a busy sidewalk to send a text message; they are the ones who step out of the foot traffic and stand against a building to return a short text. Or they don’t respond at all until they are in a more secure location.
When we practice relaxed alertness, we are able to see the suspicious group of young men while they are still a block away, and we have plenty of time to cross to the other side of the street. We also observe that the freeway traffic is becoming congested and are able to slow down and make the proper lane change long before we get to the accident that has caused the problem. We also notice that something is just not right in that late-night convenience store and we are not going to go inside until we know more about the situation.
I am always entertained by the Internet Commandos who claim that they are always in Condition Yellow. They are either trying to fool us or fool themselves. We all have times and circumstances where we are not as alert as we should be.
Consider that you have had a difficult, tiring day at work and now you have to stop and do some serious grocery shopping before going home. You are mentally fatigued, your feet hurt, and all you really want is to relax in your favorite chair with your favorite beverage. Do you really check out that dark grocery store parking lot like you should? Do you really pay attention to the other shoppers and those just hanging around in the store? No, I didn’t think so.
Just recently, I stopped at a local ATM to get some cash. After completing the transaction, I stood by my vehicle counting my money. When I finally looked up, it was to see a man standing some 10 yards away from me. I have no idea where he came from, nor how long he had been standing there. Fortunately for me, he was a peaceful fellow. I could try to make all sorts of excuses for my oversight. However, the simple fact is that I was in Condition White. I simply wasn’t paying attention.
By being conscious of the need for relaxed alertness, we are able to maximize the times that we are in Condition Yellow. And this should be our goal. It’s isn’t about “living in fear” any more than a good driver lives in fear of getting in an accident.
One of the best ways to increase our understanding of a need for awareness is to spend time in a busy shopping mall. Sit down, have a cup of coffee, and just watch the crowds. Make note of the number of people who are clearly in Condition White and the various things that they are doing that distract their attention. What should they be doing to correct this mistake? What would you do in their place?
Another good method is to discuss the Color Code with a friend, spouse or co-worker who is also interested in increased awareness and alertness. Share ideas and observations on a regular basis. Keeping the subject in your conversation and thoughts will encourage you to stay in Condition Yellow for longer periods, and to recognize those times when it is most important.
The more that we are in a state of relaxed awareness, the more problems we can avoid entirely. Criminal attacks, car wrecks, even traffic tickets, are really nice things to avoid completely. The ability to avoid them depends upon your ability to alter your habits and lifestyle and become more aware of what is going on around you. It is a life change that is worth making.