Mama Bear: Practical Situational Awareness


Mama Bear: Practical Situational AwarenessI have never been in a hostile, dangerous situation with my children present. However, I hope that for the protection of my kids, my mama bear instincts would kick in and I would have super-human strength if I were to find myself in a dangerous situation with them present. It has become commonplace to see violence across the world in the news, and even more disheartening, to see violence so close to home. Even deeper than that, it’s terrible to see violent situations involving everyday people and those close to us: our neighbors, family and friends.

I can recall times in which I have been in a vulnerable situation with my kids and in which I wasn’t completely aware of my surroundings. For example: when the time changes and it’s dark outside after grocery shopping and I have bags and kids in tow heading to the car; when I’m in a large crowd focused on a phone text; sitting a little longer in a parking lot listening to music before heading home; or my four-year-old heading over to the next aisle out of my sight in the grocery store.

All these scenarios are relatively common for moms. I think most of us complete our everyday tasks without thinking about potential threats.

Situational awareness is defined as “knowing where you are and what is going on around you.” I think this concept is something we feel that we naturally do, but in this day and age, you can never be too careful when it comes to your safety and that of your children. No one wants to consider themselves vulnerable in a dangerous situation, but having the right knowledge coupled with our natural mama bear instinct will help if faced with a threat.

I sat down with Aaron Yeargan, head of school security at St. Jude School. Aaron has years of extensive military and police experience. Even more importantly, he is a husband and father of five. He also is a current gun safety instructor at ZirkOps Security and Training facility. He has some practical advice that can help moms be aware and present during particularly dangerous situations.

Q: “What are some common security mistakes you see with moms and kids?”

A: “Complacency is the big one. Complacency and routine, and it’s hard to not fall into, especially, when you’ve been working all day and if you have multiple kids you have to provide for. You’ve got to go back and forth between school and practice and the grocery store. It’s easy to fall into a complacent routine, and really, with all the uncertainty in the world today, there’s a certain comfort in routine, but you have to work really hard to stay out of that mindset because once you get lulled into a false sense of security, [because] that’s when you’re in danger and things can happen. It’s my profession, and it’s happened to me, but we have to work really hard to stay alert with an offensive, proactive mindset, not a defensive or reactive mindset. Never let yourself think, ‘Oh, it couldn’t happen here.'”

Q: “What are some practical tools or advice you would give to moms?”

A: “A big one is to vary your, what we call, pattern of life. By that, I mean, know more than one way to your house, or to your children’s school, or places that you normally visit around town. And don’t just know those things. From time to time, actually practice those things, and if possible, vary times that you leave to go places and return from places. Because just like the military law enforcement, predators are investigators as well. A true predator will try to learn what route you normally take to certain places, what time you get home, and who’s home when you get there. You have to keep them guessing. By developing someone’s pattern of life, that’s the easiest thing for a stalker or sexual predator to do in order to get close to you. Predators naturally look for weak links, so another aspect is that you need to portray yourself as someone who’s not to be messed with. You need to have a certain confidence and always have your head on a swivel. Keep your head up, make brief eye contact with people. Don’t stare, but let them know, ‘Hey, yeah, I see you.’

Also, I want to talk about something called open-source intelligence. It’s a way people gather information about others from public sources. One of the best sources of open-source intelligence is someone’s vehicle. For example, based on what may be on your vehicle, as far as details and bumper stickers, I can find out someone’s religious beliefs, political views, family structure, how many children they have, where the kids go to school, whether they may have a gun in the car, their hobbies, and if I’m a culturally competent predator, I can take a well-educated guess as to their race and ethnicity. Be mindful of all of these things when you start putting stuff on your vehicle. All of these things help a predator build a victim profile. Don’t ‘check-in’ in real time on social media. If you post pictures of locations or vacations, do it after the fact. Also, moms: if you’re posting pictures of your children, make sure your security settings only allow those to be viewed by people you trust. Case studies of pedophiles have revealed that they key-in on these images.”

Q: “How about little ones? Is there more to be explained than the ‘don’t talk to strangers’ we all learned as kids?”

A: “Yes, especially in the age of social media. We don’t want our kids to be forced to grow up too quickly, but with the advancement in technology, as our children get older and especially with our daughters, we need to have those conversations. I personally recommend limiting social media access or using security apps to monitor your kid’s social media. I advise staying away from SnapChat, and it is my opinion, not as a parent, but as a security professional and former law enforcement officer, NO minor should have access to Discord.”

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