December 17, 2017

Levels of Alert; The Cooper Color Code

This week I am going to cover some different types of awareness. You might be thinking; “What does this have to do with preparedness?” My answer is simple; everything. 

Proverbs 27:12:

A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.”

You can’t avoid the danger if you aren’t aware of it and you can’t be aware of it if you’re not watching for it.  This is a skillset that I developed young.  I was horribly picked on from grade one though grade nine.  I learned that being unaware got my books dumped, got me punched or found me as the target of some other torment. This is a skillset some people are born with and others have to learn.  The information I am going to cover this week is important, especially for my female readers. 

Today I am going to talk about the Cooper Color Code, which was developed by Col. Jeff Cooper, USMC.  Col. Cooper was one of America’s premier firearms instructors, forming the American Pistol Institute.  There have been many variants and this will be my take of the Cooper Color Code.

Condition White

White is the lowest level of awareness.  This is the level you are at when at home and relaxed.  If you are in Condition White out in public, you may be startled by someone as they pass in the grocery store or cut someone off in traffic and not realize it until they’re in your rearview mirror being unfriendly in your general direction.

Condition Yellow

In condition yellow you are relaxed but fully aware of your surroundings.  This is the place where you spend most of your day.  There are no specific threats but you are aware that there could be and you are scanning for them.  I think of it like the Terminator movies; the Terminator would scan every person or target it came into contact with.  If the target was deemed safe, it stayed at Condition Yellow and moved to the next target.  If the target was deemed a possible threat, the Terminator continued to scan the same threat or moved to Condition Orange.

Condition Orange

In condition orange, your mindset changes from relaxed and aware to “I may have to defend myself”.  You are focused on a single target and continue to scan others to see if they mean to do you harm.   You also draw a mental line in the sand; telling yourself “if they do ‘x’, I will do ‘y’.  If they prove not to be a threat, you move back down to Condition Yellow. If they do ‘x’, you move to Condition Red.

This might be the most important part of this entire exercise.  You have to decide right now how you will handle a threat so that when you are in Condition Orange or Red, you already know how you’ll respond.  Your heart will be racing and your mind will be taking in too much information to decide in THAT moment.  In Condition Orange, you just draw the mental line in the sand and already know how you will respond.

Condition Red

You are ready to fight.  You may or may not have to but you are mentally ready.  Most of the time you won’t actually have to.  Mr. Dirtbag is often a coward and the simple act of you being aware will be enough to stop him. If Mr. Dirtbag does move to do you harm, you have already decided your action.  Now you must act with as much force as is needed to stop the threat.

Here is an example:

My wife and I are at home in condition white, getting ready to go to the mall for an errand.  We are both armed.  We leave the house and switch to Condition Yellow.  We remain there until we walk into the mall and three thug-looking guys stare us down as they enter right before us.  We are now in Condition Orange, with all of them. 

We have discussed this previously and agreed that if there was ever the need to draw on a single person, I would be the one to draw.  If there is need to draw on multiple people, I draw on the right person, she on the left.  This isn’t to say that this is our first action, just what we would do if the situation dictates it.

Since we have both moved to Orange, we are both making mental lines in the sand and waiting for one of the three to cross them.  If the three continue into the mall and keep to themselves, we move back to Yellow.  However, if they turn around, we move immediately to Red. 

At this point, we haven’t drawn on Mr. Dirtbag and friends but we are ready to if they take us down that road.  If they turned around because they remember they forgot their receipt in the car and are going back to get it, we move back to Orange until they are out of sight.  If they start to move toward us and clearly mean us harm, we would act according to them and stay in Condition Red until they moved on.  At that point, we would de-escalate, eventually back down to Yellow.

For those of you who don’t have this skillset, try using this today.  It will take more effort in the beginning but will become second nature soon.

Situational Awareness and Training Situational Awareness are two related articles you might be interested in.