Sitting in the corner, back to the wall – the stereotypical tactical location to make sure any threats to you will be noticed and you’ll have enough time to react. That may be an ideal location, but it is often hard to achieve. Walking into a restaurant that is busy, you may not be able to get seated in the most tactical seat in the house – chances are, a 6 year old is already sitting there with her two siblings and her parents,

and until she finishes all of her chicken strips and French fries, you are out of luck. Sure you can wait for 45 minutes until that specific table and seat is open, but I would suggest you have a plan “B” for this situation.

Those who seek to be aware want to sit where they can watch the door. Congratulations – you are now at the minimal acceptable alertness level – just like everyone else is. Now, you need to take it to the next level, no matter where you might sit. Let’s review some important basics. You should never remain for long inside a facility without knowing how to get out quickly should you need to – look for the marked and lit exit signs, and indications of places to seek cover if an immediate exit may not be possible. Whether you have the perfect view or not in your seat, you’ll need to stay alert and aware for potential problems be they at the table next to you, or across the facility from where you are.

Regardless of where you sit, know where the nearest exits are – which is closest and which would be your secondary option if your first choice is blocked. You do have a “code word” don’t you? A word or phrase to alert your family that trouble is coming or something serious is happening, and they need to be prepared to make a phone call to police as you keep watch, or get out at a moment’s notice if while watching you see the situation become more critical. The code might be your children’s middle name, your spouse’s maiden name, or another word or expression that let’s everyone know the status of the situation in serious.

Decide now what you will do if something serious happens. Your first choice should be that you will leave the area – and that may mean “RIGHT NOW!” you will not wait to get a check and have them run your credit card – you will toss cash on the table and leave immediately, or exit and come back 15-20 minutes later after the police arrive, the problem has been resolved, or the danger has passed – then taking the time to settle the bill.

Don’t forget things may happen as soon as you are distracted or otherwise occupied. Your family also needs to have a clear understanding of what to do when problems suddenly occur when you are not there. What if you are in the restroom, and you hear the sound of gunshots coming from the main room. Not only will your response be delayed and your avenues of escape limited, you now need to cover distance and probably obstacles to get back to your family before you can effectively begin to direct or protect them.

As you walk to your seat, look for things that may serve as cover, allowing a leap-frog method out of a situation, or potential points where you can defend your position if you can’t get out. Keep your eyes up when entering a facility – look for “fisheye” mirrors that can let you see a wider view. Look for mirrors on the walls, or even glass windows, which with the proper lighting conditions (more light inside than outside), can serve the same function as mirrors. And if you can’t see everything, that’s OK, watch the people around you. Someone closer to the action may have a better view, and you can tell a lot by their reaction to what is going on.

Look for flammable liquids that could create a distraction or possibly become a weapon (you do have your ever trusty Zippo lighter with you don’t you?). Check for sprinkler heads that can be reached and activated by hitting the mechanism, alarm pull stations, hard wired telephones where you can dial 9-1-1 and leave the phone off the hook, or other ways to get help headed your way. Look for things like fire extinguishers as well – pull the pin and release the contents directed toward the threat, or into the air between them and you – the powder will make quite a cloud which will hang in the air and prevent a threat from being able to see through it clearly for the 10-20 seconds it takes for the dust to settle, and then you can use the empty container as a bludgeon as may be applicable.

In a booth or table, you should sit at the end of the table, so you can get out from behind the table and in to the space between the tables as quickly as possible. The last thing you want is to be stuck in the corner of a booth, with two people who need to scoot out and get up before you can get out. As you separate yourself from the confines of the table, you can take a position between the threat and your family, either offering protection as they leave the facility, or cover should the decision be to shelter in place.

Is your table bolted to the floor? This can offer options either way. If it’s secured, as are others nearby, you can use them as push-off points upon which you can move yourself, or as a place to stop your movement by grabbing the table’s edge. If they are secure, they might serve as a way to cover distance, walking on the tabletops instead of needing to get stuck between them. If they are freestanding, they can be pushed over as a distraction or possible concealment, or, depending on their size and weight, thrown at a threat, or through a window to make a rapid exit when there is no other viable alternative – likewise, a chair may be an option for such actions.

What kind of incident would cause such concern, or rise to this level of action? Well, that depends on your own experiences, the nature of the incident, and its proximity to you. Two guys start to rob the cashier at the front of the restaurant, a couple of drunks get into a fight at the bar, several gang members start verbally challenging members of a rival gang, several people at a wedding reception start yelling, and then wine glasses get thrown, and the bride gets hit by one of the glasses. You pick your own scenario – just remember in most of these and similar situations – the best action is to leave or get as far away as feasible.

Now back to our original problem – where do we sit to get the best warning of a potential problem? Obviously, in those situations where you have a choice, the more of the room you can see, the better. If you can’t pick the table you want, at least choose the seat with the best view and rapid exit potential of those available at the table you get. The closer you are to an exit, the better. The fewer potential obstacles between you and the exit, the better. Although maybe not marked as such, doorways where event or venue staff come and go (through the kitchen, or similar service areas) may be a viable route out of the problem area.

We’ve focused on simple problems that occur while we are there and may be able to see as they develop. There are other issues that you also need to be prepared and ready to react. Recent events tell us that those who would plan an attack want the largest number of vulnerable people in one place as possible (San Bernardino, Paris, Brussels, etc.). It may not be in a restaurant where something happens, it could be in church, at the local mall, or at a concert or movie theater. Regardless, use the same habits in whatever venue you visit to scope out the exits, and plan your reactions in advance. Should the worst situation happen, you will be better prepared, and you and your family more likely to survive.