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While it is a matter of some debate as to who actually created the Color Codes of Awareness, there is no argument as to their value. They were developed to allow us to be aware of our circumstances and options and enhance our chance for survival. Left to stand alone, however, I feel they lose much of their value.

For those not familiar with the Color Codes a quick review is in order. I have to admit that Iíve modified them slightly to make them all-inclusive. Here then is the Color Codes as I teach them:

  1. WHITE - This is a condition of complete relaxation. If we are attacked in Condition White we will die unless our opponent is hopelessly inept.
  2. YELLOW - This is a condition of relaxed alertness and is the minimal condition we should be in if armed. It is not stressful and could be maintained forever.
  3. ORANGE - This is a heightened condition where some specific individual or object has attracted our attention and something about them causes concern. They may have something in their hand or are just acting out of sync with others present.
  4. RED - The concern has turned into a genuine threat and we need to respond accordingly. If we are armed we need to respond with deadly force if we have a clear shot.
  5. BLACK - The only appropriate moral response is fatal force. You are walking through your local mall and someone produces a gun and starts shooting into the crowd. We are far beyond the verbal compliance stage of life and only fatal force will resolve this situation before innocents are murdered.

The problem with the Color Codes as they are often taught is that they are not tied closely enough to cover and that, in my opinion at least, limits their effectiveness. A far better approach would be as follows:

  1. WHITE - Obviously, if you allow yourself to stay in condition White talking to you about the value of cover is a waste of time.
  2. YELLOW - In Yellow we should be continually looking for and evaluating the value of items of potential cover. We should travel in such a fashion that available cover is reasonably close.
  3. ORANGE - When we see a specific individual that cause us concern we need to move in such a fashion that cover is a step or two away. If cover is not available, we need to increase the distance between us and the person or activity that has raised our concern.
  4. RED - In this condition the concern we developed has degenerated to a fatal force situation and we get behind cover and produce the weapon. The threat has from the time we seek cover and align the weapon to cease their hostile behavior. If cover is not available, we should be long gone before the situation goes to Red.
  5. BLACK - In Black we may need to initially engage and then seek cover, but cover should be constantly on our mind.

Combining the Color Codes and use of cover will greatly enhance our chances for survival. If we fail to include a plan of physical action with our awareness of changing circumstances, we will be caught in the open and place ourselves in greater jeopardy than necessary.

Thirty years ago I wrote that the key to survival was common sense. We do those things that enhance our chances for survival and avoid those that diminish our chances for survival. If we cannot determine if what we are about to do enhances or diminishes, it is always the wrong thing.


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