Everyone has a fire alarm in their house, most families have a fire escape plan - but very few people know how to avoid violent encounters outside the home. Considering the fact that you are more than three times as likely to fall victim to violent crime than to be the victim of a house fire, and almost 60 times more likely to be assaulted than hurt in a house fire, you may want to learn how to slant those odds more in your favor.
The ultimate goal is to try to avoid violent situations altogether if at all possible. Yes, you have the right to defend yourself, even to the point of using deadly force if justified. But, sometimes the old adage is true: The right to do something does not always make it the right thing to do. Even under the best of circumstances, dealing with the aftermath of a shooting, even if justified, could be an agonizing experience in itself. You may be arrested, you could face jail time, you could be sued civilly, and you all almost assuredly suffer the scrutiny and judgment of your community. A much better option would be to avoid all of that if possible.
Generally speaking, there are three possible outcomes for a potential violent encounter:
1. Avoid it completely.
2. Escape from it if possible.
3. Defend yourself from it if necessary.
I once read somewhere that all three of these outcomes have one thing in common: seconds count! The trick is to maximize those seconds.
If you are able to avoid the situation entirely, you will have all the seconds you need. Your worst case scenario is that you may never know if you overreacted to something or if you actually just saved your life and those of your loved ones. I can live with that.
If you need to escape a situation, you may have 30 seconds or less to figure out how to get away and what actions you may need to take to be able to do so. Tensions, and your heart rate, may be high. You may very well have to let your ego take a beating to get away.
If you are forced to defend yourself, your reaction time is likely to be in the neighborhood of 3-5 seconds. In that short span of time you will need to decide exactly how you will defend yourself, whether or not you need to draw your pistol, whether deadly force is justified, and how your actions will be viewed (read "second guessed") by the police, prosecutors, the media, etc. If you are wrong, it could cost you your freedom. Even if you are right, it could still cost you thousands of dollars to prove that.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, there is no substitute for situational awareness. In the Navy we had an expression, "Keep your head on a swivel". On the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, knowing what was going on around you could mean the difference between just another day at the office and quite literally being blown overboard. While the dangers are less obvious on Main Street, they are no less real. Simply meeting the eyes of an oncoming stranger could very well be what prevents a violent assault.
You need to decide before ever leaving your house if you are going to be focused on your surroundings or your cell phone, are you going to be more aware of the ebb and flow of the crowd or your friend's latest post on on Facebook. It is impossible to avoid a conflict if you never see it coming. That is your conflict avoidance plan.