“Check Your Six” at Gas Stations!

check your six“Check your six” is an axiomatic phrase to live by for fighter pilots.  It means be aware of what’s behind you.  Having a “bogey” (enemy aircraft) on your six can be fatal.  If you use a clock to refer to what’s around you, 12 o’clock is in front of you, three o’clock is to your right, and six o’clock is behind you.

If you study surveillance video of robberies, muggings, or other violent crimes, you’ll notice that the victim is often completely unaware of the approaching bad guys.  This is the case in the video below.

A lot of people go about their day in a bubble of distraction.  Today, distraction often involves cell phones, electronic games, and music delivered by headphones.  It can also be as simple as a conversation, kids demanding attention, or just the task at hand (such as fueling up your car or loading groceries).

Being AWARE of your surroundings, and the PEOPLE lurking around you can be your BEST defense.  And, please… do not dismiss my suggestion (and your responsibility for your own safety) with the straw man label of “paranoia.”  You can be aware and prepared for the very real threat that exists.  It is not based on irrational “fear.”  It’s simply awareness.  It’s not difficult, though it won’t become “automatic” until you practice it intentionally.  Again… watch the videos.  Every victim was in his or her “distraction bubble” while the bad guy(s) approached in plain sight.

Hidden in Plain Sight

The man in the video was oblivious to the two guys walking right up to him.  Notice how the two split up.  If you see two or more people walking towards you, who suddenly split in different directions, that should automatically trigger “Code Orange.”  It’s time to MOVE.

Pumping Gas

“Sitting duck.”

Gas stations are the perfect place for bad guys to attack.  People are distracted.  Potential victims often have money / wallets close at hand.  Victims also usually corner themselves between their cars and the pumps.  Gas stations are often located at major intersections with multiple routes of escape, and the bad guys can easily keep an eye out for the police or other first responders.  You need to be your OWN first responder!

I have been approached at gas stations countless times.  Most were likely harmless beggars.  One case was definitely not harmless (but ended uneventfully because of my awareness).  Regardless, I do not allow any stranger to get “in my space.”

Some “rules” for awareness while pumping gas:

  1. Daytime is better than night (for obvious reasons).  Nothing good happens after midnight!
  2. Take your keys with you and lock the car.
  3. Use the lock on the nozzle (auto shut-off) and stand at the BACK (by the license plate) of your car (where you can scan your surroundings and move if needed).  If the lock is broken or missing, use a reverse grip on the nozzle, so you can stand with your back to the car.
  4. Code Yellow.  Scan.  Who’s around you?  What are they doing?  What are they NOT doing?  Head on a swivel.  Scan.
  5. If someone approaches you or begins to “interview” you (seemingly harmless questions such as:  asking for change, a cigarette, a light, directions, a “favor,” etc.), do NOT let them get close.  The interview is a technique used by criminals to get close to you.  Use a command voice and say, “No!” or “Stay back!” or “Do not come any closer!”  Gesture with your hand, palm-out… “Stop!”
  6. If they continue to get closer, use your car as a barrier.  Walk around the car, if you have to.  Yell, “HELP!”  Draw attention!  Criminals hate attention.

Check your six everywhere, not just gas stations.

Just a quick blog post inspired by the surveillance video of this recent crime.  Have you ever been approached by a suspicious person at a gas station?  Elsewhere?  Post your stories below!

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8 Responses to “Check Your Six” at Gas Stations!

  1. Michael says:

    The arm fully extended palm out works great. If I see someone “sketchy” coming up to me I’ll go ahead and put my arm out when they are 10 to 15 feet away. Don’t even have to say anything. It is like a Jedi Mind Trick. They see that I see them and give them a physical sign to NOT come into my area.

    Situational awareness starts is the first step.

  2. Michael Dunn says:

    Also, if you have your keys in your hand, most key fobs have some sort of alarm button which will make noise and attract attention! Great article.

  3. Ken says:

    This is all so sadly true and unfortunately more and more common. News stories of people being mugged and car hackings in broad daylight are more frequent to the point of almost being a non-story. (What is happening to our country???) I recently had my car stolen. No not a car-jacking or a mugging as it was stolen whilst I slept but it nevertheless points to the increase in crime. Ours was once a quiet peaceful neighborhood where nothing like this ever took place. I now urge my wife to do as Mike suggests and completely survey the surroundings before getting out of her car. It now doesn’t seem to matter where? Nice neighborhoods, upscale shopping areas, local restaurants, crowded gas stations, or wherever…it seems that muggings and car-jackings now happen any and everywhere. There doesn’t seem to be such a thing anymore as a “safe” area, so vigilance and alertness need to be the norm. It’s sad…but that is the new reality. Ken

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      I always chuckle at the mention of a “nice” neighborhood being somehow less prone to crime. Ummm… that’s where the “nice” stuff is… so, that will attract bad guys.

  4. Fantastic blog (as per usual) 🙂

  5. Larry says:

    Great read Mike. Telling someone to not get any closer at a gas station works well.

    My soon to be driving daughters will get this blog and have seen me demostrate this technique. They thought it was funny and it really is not.

    I agree nothing good happens after 12, maybe 11.

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Thanks, Larry! Teach them to not be the oblivious and weak gazelle at the watering hole… an easy mark for a predator. The alert gazelle doesn’t get eaten. Predators are essentially lazy. They go for the oblivious gazelle in “condition white.”

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