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Prioritizing the Threat in an Emergency Situation

As a person who carries concealed, you should already be fully aware that prioritizing a threat will be one of the most important things you can do in a life or death situation. Prioritizing the threat can be divided into two parts: 1. That you have an awareness state high enough to be ready if an emergency should arise, and 2. That you decide if the threat is big enough for you to intervene once such a situation happens.

The human brain is very complicated and involved, and as a result it consistently picks up literally everything that happens in our environment. But if that’s the case, then why don’t we all have superhuman abilities to pick up on every last detail or nuance around us?

It’s because our consciousness filters out seemingly irrelevant information. Examples of ‘irrelevant’ information would include a street light that changes colors three blocks away… it’s not relevant to what we are doing now, so our consciousness doesn’t pick up on it (or we didn’t notice it) even though our eyes saw the light change in the background. But on the flip side of the coin, if we were driving a car and stopped at a street light, our consciousness would immediately pick up on the light change because it’s relevant to what we are doing.

This presents a major challenge to the first part of threat prioritization, because our consciousness hasn’t been tuned to self-defense mode, aka, it hasn’t been trained to pick up on different pieces of ‘irrelevant’ information. The last thing you want is for a life-or-death situation to suddenly take you by surprise without warning. That’s why it’s critical that you develop the skill to take notice of and put together different pieces of ‘irrelevant’ information together so that you can develop a gut instinct or goose bumps that something bad might be about to happen.

In other words, you should avoid a trap by being aware that you could be in danger without having to act on it yet. This type of awareness requires that you dedicate yourself to looking around and taking notes mentally of the little things happening around you. You don’t always have to be on ‘high alert’ mode (as in where you believe that every little nuance in your environment, such as a bump against the door, is a threat) but you should still be actively observing your environment.

In any kind of a life-or-death situation, your adrenaline will be pumping. Things will be happening quickly. Seconds will feel like minutes. Fortunately, if you were able to detect that something bad was about to happen, you wouldn’t be taken so much by surprise and your reaction to the situation would be faster and clearer.

But now the second part of prioritizing the threat begins: deciding if it’s worth putting your life in harm’s way to stop the threat once an emergency situation presents itself.

Just think about what your basic needs are in life. You need food to sustain you, water to hydrate you, and shelter to protect you. If you go without one of these things for long enough, you’re dead. Nonetheless, it’s very rare that any of these three things are at risk for extended periods in a public environment. But should they be threatened, you would go into a defensive mode on instinct.

It’s more likely that your car or your other physical belongings will be at risk than your food, water, or shelter in an emergency situation that occurs in a public environment. You have to ask yourself, are these physical objects life necessities like food, water, or shelter? No. You can survive perfectly without them and they can also be replaced.

Therefore, when you are assessing the threat in an emergency situation, someone that is threatening your physical belongings (or those of another individual) is not as big of a threat as someone who is threatening your actual life or the things that you need to survive. Your assessment of the threat has to reflect this.

Now let’s apply this logic to an emergency situation. Let’s say you detect and then see two armed men in masks who are stealing your or someone else’s car.

We’ve already established that cars or things like it are not necessities to survive and they can be replaced. So it’s probably not wise for you to draw your CCW and risk your life, knowing that the men are armed and would likely return fire possibly killing you or an innocent bystander. Instead, in this kind of emergency scenario you should observe the men and call the police.

Only when a threat is jeopardizing your life, your family, or your life’s necessities should you intervene. In another scenario, such as if an armed person has walked into your location and begins shooting at people (thus jeopardizing people’s lives, including you), then it would be worth it to you to draw your firearm and risk your own life to try to stop them.

The number one factor in prioritizing the threat is deciding if the threat is a big enough one that you would risk your life in an attempt to stop it. The second you draw your CCW and try to stop a threat, you are risking everything you have to survive. You should ask yourself for what purpose you are doing so. This is why it’s usually better to get out of an emergency situation without having to exchange gunfire. But if the threat is big enough and things go south, then it’s up to you as a person who carries concealed to stop the threat until the police arrive.

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