How to have Situational Awareness while Shopping in the Holiday Hustle and Bustle

Here’s a List of Situational Awareness Tips you should Check Twice.

So the naughty don’t prey on the nice.

Is it just me or do the stores and malls seem more crowded than usual, even for the holiday season? Retail foot traffic has been increasing week-over-week since mid September, so without a doubt, the season is upon us. Maybe it’s because I haven’t really spent much time in stores since Covid hit. Walking through the aisles, it feels like I’m not the only one who’s been living in a world of ordering online. According to, almost 63% of US consumers plan to do some of their holiday shopping in brick and mortar stores this year. That’s a 58% increase from last year. 

Shoppers seem happy to be out in the real world again, but also carry an aura of wide-eyedness. I don’t think it’s just the Christmas lights. After two years of being cooped up, it feels like we’re all teenagers whose parents are finally letting them wander the mall unsupervised with a crisp $20 bill in our pockets. Ok, maybe I’m dating myself acting like a $20 bill is going to get us anything other than some Auntie Anne’s at the mall, but you get the idea. It’s easy to forget that just a year ago schools and stores were still requiring masks to be worn. It’s so wonderful to have this return to normalcy, but at the same time it feels like we’ve forgotten how to do it.

Definition of Situational AwarenessSituational Awareness ExplanationWorking at Status Solutions, situational awareness has become a part of my everyday vocabulary, but I also know that if you’re not military or police it’s not necessarily a part of yours. So what is situational awareness?  For the multiple markets we serve, situational awareness is the act of being aware of the location and condition of individuals and products. Being up to date on the environment, facilities, and any potential risks. 

But what does that mean to the average consumer like myself heading out to my favorite mall to tackle gift buying? It quite simply means that I need to be aware of my surroundings and any potential risks.

Here are Status Solutions’ tips and tricks to stay situationally aware this holiday season!

  • Know Before You Go – Check your mall’s social media pages and even local news channels before heading out to your favorite destination. Make certain everything is as it should be so you’re not unknowingly putting yourself in a situation where your safety could be in jeopardy. In the unlikely event that where you’re headed is experiencing an emergency, you’ll know to stay clear. 
  • Shop with a Friend – Shopping with a friend isn’t just more fun; it’s safer too. Criminals are less likely to target a group of people. There is always safety in numbers.
  • Purse Protection –  When possible wear a cross body purse that can’t be easily pulled off your shoulder or out of your hands. But in addition to that, keep your purse organized. Having to dig through your purse looking for an item puts you in a vulnerable situation where your head is down and your focus is elsewhere. 
  • Park Smart – Park in well lit areas whenever possible and have your keys in hand as you walk to your car (again digging through your purse makes you vulnerable). Take a photo of where you parked, so you don’t find yourself wandering the parking lot if you can’t exactly recall. Don’t ever hesitate to ask for an escort to your car. Most malls happily provide this service. 
  • Get the App – Some malls have apps that can be used for coupons or savings, but in addition to that, it’s also a mass notification tool. In the event of an emergency, if you have the app to your local mall you can get alerts. You can also use this to have access to the mall’s security. If your mall doesn’t have an app, bookmark their webpage on your phone, follow them on twitter, or facebook, or simply save the security office’s phone number in your contacts. Having quick access to help and/or information can make a difference when seconds matter.
  • Cards not Cash – Thieves love cash, so the less you carry on your person the better. Additionally, cards are quicker to pay with, meaning less time with your head down digging in your wallet. It can be a good idea to have a photo of the front and back of your credit card, and really everything in your wallet, in the unfortunate event that it is stolen. Keep those images in a safe at home or on secure cloud storage.
  • Just Say No to Earbuds – We’ve all seen the person in the store shopping with their earbuds in. Whether they’re on a phone call or listening to music, it’s just not a good idea. It’s virtually impossible to be situationally aware when you can’t hear what’s going on around you. In addition to not being able to hear, being on a phone call simply means your attention is elsewhere. Even if those earbuds are only pumping out music, they are dulling one of your senses, especially if they are noise canceling earbuds. When in public places it’s important to be able to hear announcements in the event of an emergency. Which brings us to our next tip.
  • Pay Attention to Digital Signs – Digital Signage can be bright and flashy and in malls is typically used for advertising, but in an emergency Status Solutions turns those signs into a mass notification tool. Pay attention to them as you walk by. They can alert you to anything you may need to know in a crisis.
  • See Something Say Something Do Something – We all know the adage of “If you see something, say something,” but people are still hesitant to report suspicious behavior for fear of being wrong or they assume someone else will do so. We have to quit fearing being wrong. It’s worth the risk when it could save lives, and that life could be your own. Additionally, you must be willing to Do Something. In the event of an emergency, be willing to Run, Hide, Fight. Do whatever it takes to get yourself to safety. 

It feels good to see the stores and malls crowded again, but it feels even better to know we’re doing it safely. These are all simple things you can do to help keep yourself protected this holiday season and all year long. Being situationally aware is a key part of being a responsible citizen and it is the perfect gift to give yourself and your community

Status Solutions is your situational awareness expert. Whether you’re an individual or a business, we can help with our suite of monitoring, alerting, and preventing technologies. Have a safe and happy holiday season!

About the Author

Laura Hartman is a former middle school and high school English teacher. Currently, she is the Director of Community Engagement for Status Solutions in Westerville, Ohio,  where she calls upon her years of experience in the classroom to aid the company’s mission of protecting the vulnerable and preventing violence in schools.

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