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  • Writer's pictureJohn Cote MSSI

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like A Terror Attack!!!!

The Berlin terrorist attack of December 19, 2016, a truck was deliberately driven into the Berlin Christmas market, leaving 12 people dead and more than 70 victims. One of the victims was the truck’s original driver, who was found shot dead in the truck. The perpetrator was a Tunisian national inspired by ISIL propaganda. Four days after the attack, he was killed in a shootout with police near Milan, Italy. The event was classified as a terrorist attack.

'' I think everybody thought was a terrorist attack happening.'' she said. ''People dropped what they were carrying and ran for cover... It seemed like the truck just jumped the curb and took a wrong turn and barelled through the crowd.'' (1)

Witness Emma Rushton told CNN that the truck didn’t slow down. She said the truck was traveling about 40 mph through the crowded pedestrian area. “There’s no way it was an accident,” Rushton said. “We saw at least 10 people” injured and lying on the ground.'' (2)

Photo by Dekler Ph on Unsplash

Your whole family is bundled up in toasty warm clothes, while you find your place in the family SUV. You're heading out for your annual walk through the Christmas Market in your town square. From behind, you hear an engine rev, wheels screech as a vehicle leaves the roadway and careens up and along the sidewalk smashing into holiday makers left and right.

It only takes a second and your whole world will change.

Terrorists take advantage of the fact that most people are not truly paying attention to their surroundings. How could you avoid being part of the terrorist attack I just put forth?

When you go on holiday you need to develop a security mindset.

Security Mindset:

A security mindset is made up of two concepts you need to keep the whole time you are on your holiday. These concepts are,

  • Awareness Level

  • Situation Awareness

Awareness Levels

Colonel William Cooper's Awareness Color Code

These colors represent your mind's awareness level. Most people are operating in the White zone during their day. White represents an unaware and unprepared state of awareness. Yellow is a state of relaxed alertness, your mind is calm, but you are prepared to take action if warranted. During Orange you are conscious of a specific alert and are ready to transition into Red. Red you are ready to fight and respond to the specific threat. Black is when you have engaged in the fight, you are actively working the issue.

When traveling and entering areas with large groups of people on holiday, i.e. lines for entering attractions and beaches with many people and even in the Arrivals and Departures halls of Airports you should increase your situational awareness to the Yellow level. Once something is out of the ordinary ie. large noise, gunshot, or explosion you need to switch into your Orange Level and prepare to go immediately into Red. Once in Red you should be ready to fight or flight.

If confronted with gunfire... you need to think in terms of Cover and Concealment.

Cover is anything which will protect you from being hit by gunfire. Concealment will keep you from being seen but not hit from gunfire.


Situation Awareness

Situational Awareness Has 3 Stages

“Mica Endsley, former Chief Scientist of the United States Air Force, and one of the most recognized experts in situational awareness (SA), defines it in three stages: perception of your environment and its elements; comprehension of the information you've perceived (in your current situation), in other words, analyzing and assessing the elements; and finally projection of how those elements may affect the immediate future and beyond. In brief, SA is paying attention to what is going on around you and your surroundings, while continuing about your normal activities. It’s about noticing dangers and opportunities.”(4)

In today's world our attention is almost a commodity. Everyone has a phone on their person these days. Next time you are on a bus or public transportation have a look around at how many people have their heads tilted downward engrossed in some app, social media or game. All these fight for our attention, the very attention which could save our lives if we were just more aware of our surroundings.

Every environment has a baseline, in other words, what normal looks, sounds, smells, and feels like for that locale or setting. When you know the baseline, then you can be on the alert for anomalies. SA is about spotting red flags — recognizing abnormal, unusual, or inconsistent occurrences, behavior or things that don’t belong in that time and place. Don’t ignore the little things. It can be fun to practice SA when you are walking in a crowd. Try to notice things about the people around you, such as what they are wearing and carrying.

What is their emotional state — are they relaxed or nervous? Observe their mannerisms; are they normal, quirky, or aggressive?

Make your people-watching purposeful; situational awareness is a mindset that you must intentionally develop. Make it fun, and turn it into a game: When you are out and about, pick certain things to look for such as the exits in a restaurant, and then give yourself points for finding them.

Last year I was in an auto accident. If I had noticed the driver coming up in the lane beside me in my side-view mirror a few seconds earlier, I would’ve seen he was driving too fast. Unfortunately, I didn’t see him until he tried to avoid rear-ending the driver in front of him by cutting in front of me. He overestimated the space in front of me, and both of us ended up in a fender-bender.”(Ibed)

One way of helping you make the correct decisions in crisis situations is called the OODA loop. This tactical decision making process was created by John Boyd, an Air Force fighter pilot. He developed this process to help him make critical decisions while flying a fighter jet at war.


  • The collection of information or data by means of the senses.


  • The analysis and computation of the collected information and data observed to form a real-time mental perspective.


  • The course of action to be taken based on your current orientation.


  • The physical play out of the decision.

You are Christmas shopping at your local mall with your sister and you just exited the Bed Bath and Beyond just in time to see a man all dressed in black lock eyes with you, he tosses something in your direction. The object rolls to a stop about ten feet in front of you. What do you do?

If you find yourself in the above situation Clint Emerson* has some advice on what steps you should take in order to survive just such an attack.


Hopefully you will never have to use this information, but if you do, now at least you have some tools which you can use to help you survive. Emergency situations seem to spring out of nowhere. If you apply situation awareness and monitor your awareness levels, you will have a fighting chance to survive a terrorist attack should the situation arise.


[1] CNN. 2016. Berlin Christmas Market Attack ruck/index.html

[2] BBC. 2016. Berlin Lorry Attack

[*] Simon & Schuster. 2017

*Written instructions are taken from 100 Deadly Skills: The SEAL Operative's Guide to Eluding Pursuers, Evading Capture, and Surviving Any Dangerous Situation by Clint Emerson.

[4] Psychology Today. 2023. Situational Awareness Has Three Stages 2012/situational-awareness-safety-creativity-and-truth

[5] Ibed

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