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The Gift of Fear: Harnessing Intuition for Public Safety Strategies

Pragmatic wisdom dictates the warp and weft of policy and practice in security providing public safety. Yet, there are skills that tend to be undervalued, if not outright ignored: intuition. The behavioral patterns that signal criminal activity, provide data, and the actions we take are those that take into account human nature and the frequently ignored warnings they offer.

I appreciate the pivotal role of individual autonomy and the perils of overregulation. This framework aligns with the security tenets that champion the preemptive power of intuition in threat assessment. Intuition, or the 'gift of fear', as the author Gavin de Becker writes is the spontaneous insight that arises not from an irrational place of panic, but from a subconscious synthesis of environmental cues and experiential learning.

In training security personnel, the emphasis shifts from a sole reliance on procedural training to a balanced approach that incorporates the intuitive faculties of the human mind. Security strategies must evolve from static protocols to dynamic, adaptive methodologies. In this regard, intuition becomes a crucial element of a security operative's toolkit. My role is to stretch the minds of my students and introduce them to learning "How" to think, not what to think.

These teachings converge on the premise that optimal security is achieved not through the mechanistic application of rules, but through a nuanced understanding of risk, human behaviour, and economics/consequences. The market of safety, much like any other, operates most efficiently when not burdened by excessive control. Thus, empowering security personnel with the autonomy to use their judgment is pivotal to their success.

I am an advocate for the analytical approach to security training, wherein intuition is honed through scenario-based learning. The deconstruction of previous security incidents to find patterns and markers that typically precede a negative event is a strategy that I've promoted for half a decade. Such training enables security professionals to discern the signal in the noise, so to speak, and react preemptively.

Intuition is particularly potent when it comes to identifying 'pre-incident indicators' or subtle hints that foreshadow an imminent threat. These indicators are often overlooked in conventional security training, which tends to focus on reactive measures rather than proactive identification. This is where intuition, informed by the economic principle of spontaneous order becomes critical.

Furthermore, security personnel must understand the context-specific nature of threats. The idea is that different environments call for different security considerations, which requires an agile, flexible mind capable of quick adaptation. In this sense, the security officers role is akin to that of a behavioural economist, predicting potential risks and allocating resources where they are most needed based on informed intuition.

The application of the 'gift of fear' in public safety strategies also aligns with the principles of individual responsibility and limited government intervention. The community wants the government to play a smaller role in their personal lives. This idea can be seen in the area of security, where too many rules can actually make people less careful and dependent on themselves, which are two things that keep them safe.

To operationalize this approach, security training has had to undergo a paradigm shift. I must imbue security personnel with a keen sense of observation, a robust understanding of human behaviour, and the confidence to trust their instincts. This does not mean a wholesale abandonment of protocol, but rather an integration of intuitive vigilance with best standard practices.

The use of the 'gift of fear' techniques is not an antithesis to the calculated strategies derived from economic and philosophical doctrines, but rather a complementary force. It embodies the culmination of an individual's experience, the subtleties of human behaviour, and the unspoken language of the environment.

For those charged with the mantle of public safety, it is this intuition — informed, not unbridled — that can often mean the difference between prevention and calamity. As security personnel and as a trainer, it is incumbent upon these skills to foster vital instincts in our personnel, enhancing not only their efficacy but also the very fabric of public safety itself. I was motivated to write this article after rereading Gavin De becker's book recently. If you are looking to buy a copy, you can order it online at the link below. From the author.

The opinions and statements are those of Sam Wilks and do not necessarily represent whom Sam Consults or contracts to. Sam Wilks is a skilled and experienced Security Consultant with almost 3 decades of expertise in the fields of Real estate, Security, and the hospitality/gaming industry. His knowledge and practical experience have made him a valuable asset to many organizations looking to enhance their security measures and provide a safe and secure environment for their clients and staff.

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