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Recently I’ve noticed a number of unrelated threads, both here and on other forums, in which the posters referred to “low threat areas” or “low threat locations”. This caused me to ponder: exactly how do we evaluate the threat level of a given location?

Obviously, it is fairly easy to identify potential “high threat” areas. Baghdad, right now, would certainly qualify. A family farm on the frontier in South Africa certainly meets the criteria, just as a typical inner-city slum in a big US city would. This part is easy. The confusion comes in identifying these supposedly safe, secure “low threat” environments.

For instance, you may be reading this in your den, assuming you are completely secure, in a classic “low threat environment”. At that very moment, however, three masked, armed intruders are gathering at your front door, preparing to kick it in and conduct a home invasion. Likely? No. The point is, if it were happening you would not know until the actual moment the attack begins. Thus, the actual reality of the moment and your perception of the moment are drastically different. I suggest this happens more often than you realize. As you go through your daily routine, you are at times in close proximity to those who would cheerfully do you or your loved ones harm, the circumstances just did not, for whatever reason, result in violence, that time.

My suggestion, then, is that when we are not in a “high threat environment”, we consider ourselves to be in an “unknown threat environment”, rather than in a “low threat environment”. The resulting shift in mindset will go a long way toward helping you detect, avoid, deter, or win any potential confrontation. Assuming one is in a “low threat” area leads to the relaxation, lack of alertness, and hesitation that often leads to injury or death. Instead, admit that you don’t know what the exact threat level is most of the time, and remain alert, outwardly focused, adequately armed, and so forth.

The best example of the “low threat” mindset is that of leaving your primary sidearm at home and dropping a .25 or .32 in your pocket, because you’re going to a “low threat” area. Before you do that, consider these little truths:
1. If you get engaged in a confrontation at all, you will be 100% engaged, not 50%, or 60%, but all the way.
2. Your adversary (or adversaries) will not be any easier to hit, or to incapacitate in a “low threat” location than in any other.
3. If you get killed in a “low threat” area, you will be 100% dead.

Understand that violent crime is not location specific. Career criminals, gang members, drunks, the mentally ill—all have complete mobility in modern society. If you can be there, so can they.
 

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Great point. I have always scoffed at the notion of evaluating where you are going.

Its important to remember that as a carrier of a pistol for defensive purposes, you dont choose the battlefield, your attacker does.
 

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While really nifty sounding, the known differences between the high threat and unknown threat environments are both UNKNOWN.

You perceive a high threat enviroment and you perceive a low threat environment. Contrary to opinion, until recently, NYC still was more dangerous than Bagdad. The vast majority of the time in both locations (Bagdad and NYC), specific threats are unknown. Yes, bad things happen in both places, but for any one person at any one time, the actual specific threat is much lower than what is perceived to be possible.

So moving from the overly pronounced no-brainer danger situations, most of us see high threat environments primary as bad areas where we perceive somthing bad as likely to happen. With the exceptions of the military and to a certain extent the police, very few of us remain for extended periods in evnironments where we think something bad will happen to us and very few of us stay in situations where we actually have identified specific persons or things that are definite threats to us. If we live or work in bad neighborhoods, we tend to modify our behavior as best as possible to minimize exposure to those times or places where we perceive the risk to be greatest.

While I like the idea of the .25 or .32 low threat mindset as a fine example, what I have used for the last two years as my standard to guage a low threat mindset is a scenario example. This is a scenario where a guy leaves work late at night, tired from working too many hours, driving a high risk for carjacking vehicle where the keys are necessary for the vehicle to be taken (hence assaulting the driver), and a vehicle with 'privacy' tinting that has effectively destroyed any ability for the occupant to assess the exterior environment around and behind him at night. Said guy stops by the local grocery store for some last minute shopping before continuing home. Unbeknownst to the guy, he picks up a tale and he drives directly home to where he pulls into his cul-de-sac driveway where he is effectively trapped by the house and privacy fencing. Only after getting out of the vehicle does he realize that he is not in a safe area/low threat environment as he sees the suspects coming up the driveway who apparently intend to carjack him. Things turn sour and a shootout ensues and the main actor comes out victorious and one suspect ends up dead.

This is a great story, a true story, about how a person with extensive gun training and law enforcement skills was too tired to actually assess any facets between work and home as being anything other than a low or no threat environment though many of the hazards of the journey were permanent fixtures such as the cul-du-sac driveway, high risk vehicle, and overly dark 'privacy' tinting that precluded a good view of what was going on around the vehicle. Obviously, the actor was in his comfort zone and even with some higher risk variables at play, had a low risk perception and that perception had been validated on countless trips home in said vehicle. As it turned out, he was in a perceived high risk environment if you assess the factors involved. The late night commute, stopping at a store, driving a high risk vehicle with too much tinting, and leading the carjackers to his home and becoming trapped by architecture and privacy fencing should have all been factors where the actor should have perceived the environment as high risk. Only on identifying a threat, a known threat, was action taken to mitigate the circumstances.

Unless a specific threat is identified, the risk of the immediate environment is actually an unknown threat level regardless of whether the perception is a high threat or low threat. Perception is just that, perception, and is not necessarily any sort of reality, at least not until you actually have an identified threat.

The bottom line is that you have unknown threat environments and you have known threats. Without a known threat, the level of risk is only perceived and the low versus high aspect is academic.
 

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Good topic Tom. On a related note, I've been conducting a number of force-on-force classes for several agencies and have observed a few interesting points. When the participants are aware they are entering a "high risk" situation like an active shooter or felony warrant, they actually exhibit less stress than when going into an unknown situation. This is generally because they have at least a small amount of time to come up with a plan, communicate it and decide when to execute. When presented with something that appears benign but turns ugly or even just doesn't follow their "rulebook", the whole dynamic changes and it usually turns out worse for the participant. Although private citizens operate under different guidelines than LE or the military, the human response is virtually the same as are the lessons learned. Always maintain the mindset that bad things can occur with no notice and none of us have the ability to know what is or isn't a "high risk" situation until it develops. Last I heard, we don't get "do-overs" so we better get it right the 1st time.
 

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IMHO there is no such thing as a "low threat area", for me anyways. Like David said "there are no do-overs" Violent crimes can occur anywhere, and at anytime. If anyone "feels safe" in a certain area, they're a walking victim waiting to happen.
 

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Yeah, I had someone the other day wonder at the gun shop why I actually bothered to carry extra magazines.

Sure, I may not be in a war zone (and if I have to enter one, I'm going out with more than a 1911 and in squad size if I have anything to say about it), but I know how fast eight shots goes by.

Then again, these are the same people who give me flak for once a year or so doing a very short practice regimen without hearing protection.

Since I'm not going to have earplugs if I have to shoot in the wild, I train like I won't at least occasionally so the blast and noise aren't as much of a shock.

I still have all my hearing too, and don't recommend it but on rare occasions.
 

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There are “low threat”, “high threat”, and “unknown threat” environments. Being in a “low threat” environment simply means that the probability of being attacked is lower than your criteria for “low threat”. That doesn’t mean you won’t get attacked, or that you should be armed with any less of a load than you normally are.

How do you know the probability of attack? Well, you can’t really look it up, so it is sort of subjective and Bayesian in nature. The point is you can pinpoint low threat areas just like you can pinpoint high threat areas. It doesn’t mean that you should act differently or go armed in a different manner in low threat areas (that decision is up to you). It also doesn’t mean that you are safe from attack. It simply means that the likelihood of being attacked in that area is substantially less than it is in a high threat area.

Just like your likelihood of getting lung cancer is substantially lower (“low threat” of lung cancer) if you are a non-smoker as opposed to a smoker (“high threat” of lung cancer). It doesn’t mean non-smokers are safe from lung cancer, just like being a smoker doesn’t mean you will get lung cancer. It just means that the probabilities associated with getting lung cancer are lower for the non-smoker than they are for smokers.
 

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The difference between those two scenarios is that in the smoking situation you control the threat level and in the real world, while there are areas that tend to be more dangerous and less dangerous, its not that cut and dried. Most of the time the threat level is based on your perception due to the socio-economic condition of the area rather than a present danger.
 

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OK, you can be attacked anywhere at anytime. We don't however, walk around or sleep with our hand on a weapon at all times. Why, because we know from our past experiences that there are some areas where we are much less likely to be attacked.

Dropping a .32 in your pocket to go to church is one that comes to mind. Yes, I know that attacks happen in church but they have happened, what, a handful of times in the last few years? While attacks in a bad neighborhood of a big city after a certain time of day happen daily.

There are high and low risk areas.
 

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Thank you Double Naught , for reminding me of some important points. Even I, who works in a "high risk" environment every day, and by extension, live in a high risk environment, can get complacent.
 

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BillD said:
OK, you can be attacked anywhere at anytime. We don't however, walk around or sleep with our hand on a weapon at all times. Why, because we know from our past experiences that there are some areas where we are much less likely to be attacked.
Whether or not I have a hand on a weapon has nothing to do with the area Im in.

BillD said:
Dropping a .32 in your pocket to go to church is one that comes to mind. Yes, I know that attacks happen in church but they have happened, what, a handful of times in the last few years? While attacks in a bad neighborhood of a big city after a certain time of day happen daily.

There are high and low risk areas.
Yes there are perceived high and low risk areas. And the point of the discussion here is, if a guy with a turban and an AK47 walked into your church next sunday can you solve the problem with a "low risk solution" .32 pocket pistol? Not likely. Are you prepared to deal with the appearance of an actual threat in a low threat environment?

Anyways, I thought u were a J frame guy BillD? At least thats a real gun.

;)
 

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Yeah, I am a J frame guy.

However, if 15 guys with turbans and AK's and RPG's ran into my church on Sun even the guys with 1911's and 2 spare mags are dead if they draw. So we have to look at that part of risk also.

It is always high or low risk. We think it is low risk so we carry pistols. If we really thought we would be attacked by riflemen in our churches (high risk) we would take our rifles to church or we wouldn't go.

Take this far enough and the only time you would leave your compound would be in an Abrams tank.;)
 

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I agree with that, and Im not advocating being prepared to that extreme. But I do think the unknown risk concept has some merit. The point is not to "dress down" or downgrade your awareness to the point where you cant even deal with a deadly threat that pops up in a place where it supposedly shouldnt.

And I dont know about you, but the first time 15 terrorists massacre a congregation in the US with automatic rifles and RPGs I, and many others in my congregation, will be going to church with black rifles and extra magazines.

:rock:
 

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Hempy said:
... Even I, who works in a "high risk" environment every day, and by extension, live in a high risk environment, can get complacent.
We all get complacent, in large part, due to familiarity. Our family opened a store in a part of Dallas where previously we would roll up the windows and lock the doors as we drove through, even without AC in the summer. Shortly thereafter, business was good, and I was riding my 10 speed down to work every afternoon. You gotta figure that if there was a need to roll up windows and lock doors on a moving Ford Fairlane 500 that a kid on a bicycle is as good as dead. The only thing that changed about that part of town was our perceptions of it. I still visit the same area and I don't roll up all the windows driving through, although the doors get locked, but they always get locked. Nowadays, I go armed as well.

I think the critical difference between low risk and high risk environments all pertains to the aftermath. An event in a low risk environment means there is considerable surprise, shock, dismay, and feelings of lost security. The classic example is a murder in a small town where nobody ever locked their doors and left the keys in the ignition of cars. Those are the folks that are most surprised by negative events.

Contrast that with high threat areas. If you get mugged in an area you consider high threat, it is not completely unexpected and you always figured there was a chance for such to happen, but you hoped it would never happen to you.

Regardless of what you perceive, you are always in an unknown risk environment until which time events start happening to you. Then you are in a known or partially known risk environment.
 

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Sure, in the smoking example you exert control over the threat level. In the self defense example you do too, but to a lesser extent. Where you go, when you go, and your appearance/attitude/posture (don't look like food) all affect the probability of an attack. Just because you don’t control the odds of an attack completely, they are still there and they are still different depending on what location or situation you are in.

Saying that there are no "low threat" areas is akin to setting your clock 15 minutes fast so you will be places on time. It is simply a mental trick to force you to remain more alert/vigilant than you would be if you were inclined to let your guard down in a low threat environment.

There is nothing wrong with this trick at all. In fact, I think it is probably a pretty good one to live by. But just like there are high threat areas, there are low threat areas. Whether it is wise to let your guard down is another question. Perhaps a better slant is the fact that you may do a poor job of estimating the odds of an attack. You may feel like you are in a low threat area but you are really in a high threat one. In any event, it is little consolation to you if you are attacked in a low threat environment (“low threat” does not mean “no threat”). I agree that one should not let his or her guard down due to being in a perceived low threat environment. That said; I don’t shower with my 1911 on. Is that a bad idea?
 

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If you really knew you were going into a high threat area- the best tactic would be not to go there in the first place.
 

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K1500 said:
Saying that there are no "low threat" areas is akin to setting your clock 15 minutes fast so you will be places on time. It is simply a mental trick to force you to remain more alert/vigilant than you would be if you were inclined to let your guard down in a low threat environment.

There is nothing wrong with this trick at all. In fact, I think it is probably a pretty good one to live by. But just like there are high threat areas, there are low threat areas. Whether it is wise to let your guard down is another question.
I agree, I just didnt like the smoking example because that is entirely determinable by you the user of the product.
 

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Terms like "high threat environment" are more usually associated with SOPs in the professional organizations be they public or private. While much of this might have relevence to the individual, more useful and flexible approaches avail themselves.

Col. Cooper's color codes offer a sound basis and concentrate on the individual's state of mind rather than being subject exclusively to exterior and other criteria. The necessary change from one to the next can be a matter of some deliberation and time - or it can be instant.

The example of being in one's home - in the "den" - while a team is gathered at your front door serves as a good example. In a home where proper planning and organization etc has been seen to, it can be accepted and necessary to expect that in some locations under normal circumstances one can be in condition white - or somewhat oblivious to the surroundings - and not be in any immediate peril under just about any circumstance.

A home invasion should be no exception. Measures such that sufficient noise must be created to gain initial entry, and some intermediate obstacles to delay progress are in order here. This ensures that there is sufficent time for the transition from condition white to condition yellow, then orange etc, while taking action as required. If this means retrieving a long gun etc from another spot then this must be taken into account.

As pointed out, outside the home (anywhere in the world) any "low threat environment" might suddenly turn into a "high" one in a very short space of time. The campsite on some tranquil mountain is a good example of this. Unless you plan on not sleeping, or are capable of lapsing to sleep from condition yellow, some measures much be taken to allow some element of complete mental relaxation at some time. These would be some improvisations to generate noise and delay, just enough time perhaps for a response.

Mind-set over and above the choice of tools; and I wouldn't fret too much if I were limited to a .380 pistol (or .38 revolver) and a small knife on the street. The important thing is the willingness and ability to use them to maximum effect - in addition to anything else at disposal - should the need arise.
 

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1holegrouper said:
If you really knew you were going into a high threat area- the best tactic would be not to go there in the first place.
BINGO!!! As a working class citizen, husband, and father of three, it is my primary responsibility to avoid a "high risk" area. My whole purpose of concealed carry is to have protection in the unlikely event trouble finds me and/or my family.

Here in KY, the law has been changed to allow church officers to carry concealed weapons in their church. As treasurer of a small rural country church, I choose not to exercise this priviledge. If someone wants the Sunday offering, I'm not getting into a gun fight over it and endangering lives over a couple thousand bucks (mostly checks anyway). As another poster said, if turban wearing terrorists ever attack a church, I can guarantee that our next service will have a few empty pews with the former occupants guarding the outside. I don't lay awake worrying about this one though.

Anyway, good topic! Though we don't need to spend time worrying, as CCW holders, we do need to think through these issues BEFORE we find ourselves in them.
 
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