Color Codes of Mental Awareness

By Tom Clarke

Understanding are Color Codes of Mental Awareness. The Color Codes are a simple way the “value” the level of threat. Keeping it simple: White, Yellow, Orange, Red and Black. Breaks a situation into five levels of the current condition. Keeping things as simple as possible. Under stress there are some areas to take into consideration, which will dictate how you must handle your current situation and also how these apply to everyday life.

Your reaction is time sensitive.  You will not know how much time you have to react, in most cases; it is going to be minimal, fractions of a second.

  1. Time allowance to react is unknown, it always will be.
  2. Each action you give will dictate the next reaction and revise your current situation.
  3. You do not know you physical or mental state for when a accident or situation will present itself.  Example: You may be injured, recovering from a surgery, sleeping, with a handicapped person(s) etc.
  4. You do not know your environmental considerations.  Example: You may be on vacation on a beach without your firearm.  You may be on a plan, 33,000 feet in the air.  You may be in a arena that is packed with thousands of people and anything to drastic you do could cause a stampede and so on.

You cannot predict the future, only prepare for it.  By keeping color codes down to three, it keeps things simple. Below is for a person and/or unit that have a foundation in a variety of survival skills.  The simple version of Color Coding, the one I like to use.

  • Yellow:  There is not a specific threat, but we are trained & prepared for the worse case situation. Examples: Applies to the common person, family vacation etc.
  • Red:      We have determined that there is going to be some type of action, strategizing rapidly. Examples: Applies to a unit, team, or even a family that knows there is a hurricane approaching.
  • Black:   Time to solve the issue, now! Do not wait; this is what you have been trained for.

Below is the history of how the color codes started and their basic outline.
We owe credits to Col. John Dean “Jeff” Cooper (Born on 10 May 1920, Died on 25 September 2006) and the United States Military for the Color Codes of Awareness. Col. Cooper founded these and in collaboration with the United States Military they added Condition Black. Col.  We only use three of these, some use four – five, I just like keeping things as simple as possible.  Use what best works for you and your unit or family.  But remember, color codes will not help you if you are not trained and stay current in your preparation to deal with a potential situation.

WHITE:  Unaware and unprepared.  If attacked in condition white, the only thing that may save you is the inadequacy or ineptitude of your attacker. When confronted by something nasty, your reaction will probably be, “Oh no, this can’t be happening to me!”

YELLOW:  Relaxed, but alert state of awareness.  No specific threat situation.  Your mindset is that you have added environmental awareness to your alert status.  Example: Today may be the day that I have to defend myself, so be aware of all my human, physical and environmental surroundings.  Eyes and ears are alert and ready to go to the next level of awareness if anticipated or provoked.  Condition Yellow is in effect when you are in unfamiliar surroundings or people.

ORANGE:  This is a specific state of alertness.  Your mindset is being prepared for the specific issues identified. Identify who, what and why there is a potential threat.  Is it a multiple threat?  During Condition Orange you have determined that this is a legitimate threat and you are mentally preparing to take appropriate action.  Will multiple engagements be needed and if so prioritize these.  What level of action will possibly be initiated to satisfy your current situation with the force to prevail?  Do not get tunnel vision on a single threat. Stay focused on your surroundings because there may be other threats.

RED:  During Condition Red you are ready to fight immediately.  Your mental trigger is ready and any and all threats have been assessed, identified and ready for engagement.  The bottom line is that you must assume that you will be taking action steps to neutralize any and all threats.  It does not confirm that you will be fighting, but ready to if need be.

BLACK:  Condition Black involves being actively engaged in combat.  Many sources do not utilize or identify Condition Black. During Condition Black your trigger is off and there are no rules.  Do not fight fair; fight to win. Prepare your engagement to be executed with the power to produce an effective and overwhelming force directed toward any and all threats.  This does not only pertain to humans, but anti-material efforts as well.

I hope this helps you better understand the Color Codes.  They are a great way to gauge the level of your current situation.  Always continuing your training / education with modern times and learn from others, never stop being the student.