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Situational Awareness Continued with Col. Jeff Cooper’s Color Codes of Awareness.

Situational awareness is defined as being aware of your surroundings by knowing where you are, who is around you, what’s going on around you and what changes are happening in the environment that you are in.

It is a self-defense skill to use once you understand that evil exists in our world, that no one is coming to save you and that you must be your own first line of defense.

Col Jeff Cooper May 10, 1920 – September 25,2006 was a U.S Marine, writer and firearms instructor.

The late Col Cooper founded what is now known as the Gunsite Academy in Arizona. Col Cooper introduced the color codes of awareness as a means of having a mental alertness to discern between threats and when to escalate as well as de-escalate as situations and circumstances change.

The color codes are a system to help you develop a mindset of awareness, safety and readiness as follows:

Condition White = unready, unaware, having blinders on, unprepared to handle the problem. Being in condition white has led to unnecessary deaths simply because they were not paying attention. Don’t get too comfortable in your daily routine, Stop leaving home at the same time going in the same direction every day. Walking down the street with your face in your phone or headset in your ears with the volume loud are considered being in condition white.

Condition Yellow = a relaxed state of being alert. In condition yellow you know what’s going on around you, you have taken your blinders off and you are now paying attention to who's around you and to what’s happening around you. Bad actors are looking for people or places that are considered soft targets or easy prey. When you are alert and paying attention, you have taken yourself out of those categories.

Condition yellow is where you live if carrying concealed and / or if you are in the presence of people you don’t know. Keep your head on swivel, that simply means pay attention to your surroundings.

Should something or someone makes you uncomfortable, your gut starts feeling funny, or you have identified something out of place and context that threatens your safety and security then you go to condition orange.

In the words of Col Jeff Cooper, “the difference between yellow and orange are, in yellow you are at the mindset of I may have to shoot today, but in condition orange your mindset changes to I may have to shoot HIM today”, I'll add, I may have to shoot HER today.

Condition Orange = a specific alert – someone or something has captured your attention as a threat to your safety and security and you must decide how to respond, and a quick OODA loop happens in your mind. (For more info on the OODA loop see blog post

Be mindful that when in condition orange and have identified a potential threat you must pay attention to everything else going on around you, you will pay more attention to the hands, eyes and body language of your potential threat and watch your own back (Keeping your head on a swivel). Paying close attention to something that makes you uncomfortable doesn’t necessarily make them a threat, you must take in the entire situation and after a bit of time you will know if you can de-escalate back to yellow or escalate to condition red. Stay focused until you are 100% sure it is a threat or not.

Moving from condition orange to condition red, a decision has been made!

Condition Red = fight, Fight does necessarily not mean draw your firearm and shoot; it means you have made a decision on the course of action that you are going to take to secure your life. By this time a predetermined action should have has been decided. unready, unaware, having blinders on, unprepared to handle the problem.

Fight: facing any perceived threat aggressively.

(Without a premade decision, you could lose your life trying to decide what to do)

In condition red there are decisions that have been made and there is also the aftermath of the decision that you have made. Handle the decision and the threat first and then the aftermath that could have a negative effect on your family, freedom, and finances second.

How long do you stay in each condition:

White – when you are sleeping

Yellow – All of your life

Orange – when you have identified a threat and have to de-escalate or escalate

Red – as long as you have to when you are in a fight

Simply describes your acute threat responses as the body's natural physiological reaction to stressful, frightening, or dangerous events. It is activated by the perception of threat, quickly igniting the sympathetic nervous system and releasing hormones, preparing the body to face the threat or run to safety.

  • Fight: facing any perceived threat aggressively.

  • Flight: running away from the danger.

  • Freeze: unable to move or act against a threat.

  • Fawn: immediately acting to try to please to avoid any conflict.

As mentioned, the aftermath of a self-defense situation and the effect on your family, freedom, and finances can be detrimental and confusing. As a proud USCCA Official Partner, we encourage every gun owner to take advantage of what the USCCA offers. Click the link below to get your FREE Concealed Carry Guide for more life-saving knowledge

references: Fight, Flight, Freeze, or Fawn: What This Response Means by Mia Belle Frothingham, published Oct 06, 2021


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