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September 25th is National See Something Say – Something Awareness Day. We think that would make Jeff Copper (the pioneer of situational awareness) very proud.

In this post, you will have the opportunity to test your situational awareness, learn about Jeff Cooper’s Color Codes, and see how you can apply some simple training to improve your situational awareness.

Ready for the situational awareness test?

Watch the video from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and see if you can track how many times the yellow backpack is passed.


What was your level of situational awareness? Want to do better?


Don’t worry. We’ll help you improve. 


What is Situational Awareness and Why is it Important?

Jeff Cooper, a Marine and innovator of tactical training, pioneered the concept of levels of awareness. As is the case with most abilities, there are varying levels of awareness. His system, “Cooper’s Color Codes,” has been used to train military and law enforcement for decades.

Situational Awareness is one of the most important elements of active shooter response training – which is why our system is called “AlerT.”

The term Situational Awareness is one that is commonly referenced in active shooter response training and the Homeland Security “See Something – Say Something” campaign; however, the actual phrase is rarely explained.

SA is the ability to observe and interpret what is happening around you – enabling you to project potential outcomes.

Cooper’s Color Codes and What they Mean



Yellow is the goal for maintaining optimum SA. By being prepared, alert and relaxed you are best able to observe your environment and notice changes that may pose a risk. Sometimes these observations are subtle and identified via intuition.

The Three levels of Situational Awareness

More than just seeing or observing something, true SA requires an understanding of what you are seeing and how it pertains to your environment. The three levels of SA are:

Level 1:         Observation

Level 2:         Interpretation

Level 3:         Projection


SA Level 1: Observation

Observation is the core of SA. It is also the first step of the Observe-Orient-Decide-Act (OODA) Loop developed by military strategist Col. John Boyd. Staying in yellow improves observation, making it a priority, and avoiding Focus Lock ; which is limiting your awareness to one specific area or thing (like looking only for the yellow backpack).

SA Level 2: Interpretation

This is where the SenseMaking process begins. You have observed something. Level 2 is where you interpret what this something means. Interpretation requires context and is improved through training on and understanding what you are observing.

SA Level 3: Prediction

Maximum situational awareness allows you to forecast or predict potential outcomes. For instance:

  • Observing a car approaching an intersection is good.
  • Interpreting that the car is not slowing at the same rate as other cars is better.
  • Predicting that the car is not going to stop saves lives.

Prediction draws heavily on schema, or mental file folders, that retain your knowledge or expertise. Prediction is improved through training and the development of schema. But that is not all, detailing the schema promotes mental awareness (yellow) – initiating situational awareness.

Get Training to Improve Situational Awareness

National See Something – Say Something Awareness Day is a great day to start improving your SA. If your organization could benefit from spending more time in yellow, we’d love to help!

Contact us to discuss your active shooter defense training and preparedness needs.

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