More than a dozen North County police officers, firefighters and other public safety officials gathered at the Veterans Association in Oceanside July 18 through July 20 to learn how to better protect themselves and be more aware in situations.
Sentir Global — an intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and training organization — led the efforts to heighten the authorities' awareness.
Lee Wakefield, CEO of Sentir Global, said this is a type of training the participants had not yet endured. It is offered for all North County first responders, including police officers, firefighters, border patrol officers and paramedics.
"The reason we want first responders to have this knowledge is that in Syria, in Paris, in Brussels, in London... first responders are now becoming targets," he said. "We don't want firefighters and paramedics having tunnel vision without being able to look at a potential situation where they're going to become a victim."
While he did not want to detail the lessons learned in the workshops, Wakefield said the trainings are especially important today, when people possess short attention spans and attachments to hand-held electronic devices.
"We're looking at human behavior because we now have two generations of young people who have communicated with their thumbs on their phones instead of looking at human behavior and interpreting it," said Wakefield, retired in 1998 from the U.S. Marine Corps. "What we're doing is helping them look at human behavior differently than they have ever been taught before."
He said individual situational awareness is "so low" that people are easily becoming targets of thefts, attacks or not being able to observe an attack and then report accurately what occurred.
He added with the recent attacks in Paris and other events, as well as advancements in technology, those working in public safety have to be on higher alert.
Nearly 40 percent of the course is live scenario-driven events and analysis of videos and photos, Wakefield said.
Participants were shown videos from real-life situations in which a tragedy might have been prevented had the officer known what signs to look out for.
These included indicators — following human behavior-based predictive analysis — for situations where a person would harm themselves or others around them.
"You have to think like the enemy," one instructor told the crowd.
Tim Pruitt, an 11-year police officer with the Oceanside Police Department, said he was grateful training like this existed.
He said minimal training of this kind is offered at his department.
"We touch a little on that in the academy, but the academy is just basic stuff," Pruitt said. “This is definitely informative and stuff we don't talk about regularly.”
He said he was most looking forward to learning cues that could signal potential trouble or dishonesty.
Wakefield said Sentir Global is also planning to host similar workshops on threat recognition and situational awareness for local school districts and the general public this fall.
More first responder trainings in North County will take place quarterly, Wakefield said. Those interested in more information can visit sentirglobalus.com or email Wakefield at email@example.com.