Conscious safety

Editor's Note:

After reading this Newsline transmission, be sure to read, "How are 5%ers created?" on to find out how the same principles that enable a chess player to develop championship expertise can help a conscientious officer become what's called a "5%er"--an exceptional performer--in the policing profession.

By Dave Smith

Everyone speaks competence talk now. Unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence and finally, unconscious competence are the generally accepted levels in learning; while in motor learning it is divided into cognitive, associative, and automatic.

... it isn't enough to have safe habits; we need to constantly be aware of safety.

I have heard many trainers, including me, say we need to learn our survival skills to the unconscious competence level or also the automatic level, that is make all them habitual. I still think the skills should be learned to an automatic level but an interesting article by Dr. Scott Geller who specialized in industrial safety has me thinking about the terms we should use.

In the Street Survival Seminar we teach to constantly attend to the outside world while on the job…we call it Condition Yellow. Dr. Geller argues eloquently that the only way to maintain that "safe" mindset is to think of safety as having to be constantly something we have in our consciousness ... conscious competence.

In other words it isn't enough to have safe habits; we need to constantly be aware of safety. Don't just habitually wear your body armor but remember why you wear it, the types of threats or risks it helps overcome and that in doing this act we are taking control of our own lives.

In a day when accidental deaths are so prevalent and threats such as terrorism and WMD are on everyone's mind we need to have great habits at every level, from call takers to dispatch to the first responder to the special unit that may finally attend to a crisis. Teach your people not only what to do, but to think about why they are doing…to remember the threat. I think this is a great way to get everyone involved in officer safety and help overcome the deadly effect routine has on our safety by eroding our good practices.

Read Dr. Geller's article Psychology of safety: What's on your mind? and then apply the ideas to your own safety. 5%ers don't let others control their destiny. They take charge of their own!!

Stay safe!

About the author

Dave “Buck Savage” Smith is an internationally recognized law enforcement speaker, trainer, video personality, and author. He began his police career in the State of Arizona, holding positions in Patrol, SWAT, Narcotics, Supervision, Investigations, Training and Management. Dave holds numerous instructor certifications in firearms, defensive tactics, and human performance and is a proven expert witness and consultant.

In 1980 Dave developed the popular “JD Buck Savage” video training series and was a police instructor for the original “Street Survival” seminar by Calibre Press and was an intricate part of the company for nearly 30 years. He now writes for numerous publications, speaks internationally and is the author of the popular book In My Sights

Dave is currently the owner of "Winning Mind Seminars" and the Director of Video Training for the online PoliceOne Academy. Dave Smith is one of the most well known law enforcement trainers on the market today and is available for appearances through his website at

Contact Dave Smith and Follow Dave on Twitter

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