Gary Quesenberry is the Real Deal

As authorities of staying safe go, Gary Quesenberry is locked and loaded. I see a lot of martial arts instructors propound their 'street smart' self-defense programs, but a lot of them have never even used their skills outside of their schools. While they might be skilled teachers, their teachings are theoretical. They haven't experienced a lot of what they claim firsthand.

Not Gary. A US Army veteran, a former prison correctional officer and retired Federal Air Marshal, Gary has seen more than his share of actual violence. He's a competitive pistol shooter who has appeared on the History Channel's gun show, Top Shot All-Stars, as well as the CEO of Q-Series LLC, a company that makes concealed carry holsters. If anyone can spot a perp packing a hidden weapon, it's Gary. He's an instructor of defensive tactics, for both Federal services and common civilians, bringing his real-world experience in the military and law enforcement for over a quarter century.

However, in Gary's latest book, Spotting Danger Before it Spots Your Kids: Teaching situational awareness to keep children safe, his pragmatic background is not what's at the forefront. What stands out here is his most role in life – that of a father. Throughout the book, he offers his personal insights, not just from being a professional instructor, but as a dad just striving to keep his family safe in a troubling world.

Being a Good Parent

As any parent knows, raising kids is fraught with challenges and worries. Gary and his wife have raised three children. To their credit, all their children followed their father's footsteps and serve proudly in the military. Gary shares many personal experiences of parenthood. These are not stories about prison riots or his experiences in Operation Desert Storm. In Spotting Danger Before it Spots Your Kids, Gary relates events that happened to his family living in the United States, including a disturbing close call where someone impersonated him in a probable attempt to kidnap his kids.

Spotting Danger Before it Spots Your Kids is the second installment of Gary's "Heads Up" series, a follow up to Spotting Danger Before It Spots You: Build Situational Awareness To Stay Safe. His first book is a general treatise on how to develop your situational awareness and increase your own personal safety. Spotting Danger Before it Spots Your Kids is more focused, taking this a step further. It teaches parents, or anyone who wants to protect the next generation, how to lay the groundwork for situational awareness in kids ages 4 to 12. You don't need to read his first book to get his second book. Each book stands on its own, just for different readerships.

What Does Situational Awareness Mean Today?

Situational Awareness (SA) has become the de rigueur label for street smarts in the realm of self-defense lately, but the term goes back to World War I. It is applied in many fields: driving, health care, aviation, law enforcement, search and rescue, cybersecurity, and even logging and nuclear power plant management. With the uptick in mass shootings, terrorism, protest riots, human trafficking and other violent threats, SA has been appropriated within self-defense circles. It's a fundamental skillset to stay safe. This is not about how to fight. It's about how to avoid fights. And when the unavoidable happens, it's also about having a plan on how to survive.

Gary defines SA within his Heads Up series as "the ability to identify and process environmental cues to accurately predict the actions of others." As adults, we all have a SA baseline that we use all the time (tip: we can all improve upon our level of awareness, which is the topic of Gary's first book). Young kids are naturally more trusting and have yet to develop SA. Every parent strives to teach SA to their kids, whether it be to 'look both ways before crossing the street' or to be cautious of strangers.

"Stranger Danger" is Obsolete

When it comes to kid safety, "Stranger Danger" was a term bandied about in the past. The implication is that all strangers are dangerous. However, this notion has fallen out of favor for many reasons. The most prominent comes from statistics. We know realize that most incidents of child abductions and abuse come from someone the child knows. It's also inhibiting when a child needs the help of a stranger in an emergency.

Spotting Danger Before it Spots Your Kids dismisses the "Stranger Danger" notion. Instead, it teaches children how to understand normal and unusual behavior. Unusual behavior is a red flag for a potentially dangerous situation. Spotting Danger Before it Spots Your Kids shows you how to teach your child to be observant. Once a potential threat is observed, your kid learns how to avoid those situations. Your children can learn how to accurately interpret and safely engage their surroundings. And parents learn how to identify your children's fears and confront them in a way that builds teamwork and opens effective lines of communication. In this way, Gary takes a more wholesome approach instead of instilling fear.

For Gary, Situational Awareness (SA) consists for three parts:  1. Establishing a baseline of behavior within your given environment. 2. Being able to spot actions that fall outside of that set baseline. 3. Developing plans for avoidance or escape based on what you see. He conveys these ideas in a simple, easy-to-access bullet point style. Instead of telling horror stories about child victims, Gary has 'Kids in Action' sections that recount real life examples of kids that responded appropriately to extreme situations using the strategies discussed in the book. He shares simple games that he and his wife played with their kids, games that build fundamental skills of good observation and proper response in your child.

Every Parent Wants Their Child to Be Safe

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, roughly 800,000 children are reported missing each year in the United States. This is a terrifying statistic whether or not you have kids. The world feels more challenging and hostile then when I was growing up. We must take the time to prepare our children, but not in a threatening or scary way. Fear is a great motivator, but it also shuts a lot of doors. Gary provides these tools for the entire family.

I wish I had this book when my kid was growing up. Being a career martial artist, I've seen so many self-defense classes for kids and even enrolled my child in several. I've looked over plenty of youth self-defense curriculums and taught kids for a while. I did my best to bring my own child up right. While reading Gary's book, I had several moments when I thought 'Wow, how did I miss teaching that?'

My kid is an adult now, but not a moment goes by when I don't worry. That's the burden of any good parent. I've passed along both of Gary's books to my adult kid. I hope that I've already shared basic SA skills with my kid, but these are important and bear repeating. Spotting Danger Before it Spots Your Kids: Teaching situational awareness to keep children safe is a book that I'll pass along to all parents or anyone working with young children.

Situational awareness skills take constant practice. It takes vigilance. And Gary Quesenberry's books remind us not to be afraid, but not to be lax either, for our own peace of mind.