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Spotting Danger Before It Spots You: Build situational awareness to stay safe

by Gary Quesenberry

Continuing on the path of The Gift of Fear (Gavin deBecker), Spotting Danger Before It Spots You is the go-to guide for anyone wanting to improve their level of awareness and strengthen their personal defenses. This book will greatly improve your understanding of how, when and where violence occurs, providing you with the tools you need to properly identify and escape violent encounters before they can happen.


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Release date: 
May 1, 2020
Paperback: 176 pages
9 × 6 × 1 in
ISBN: 9781594397370
Printing: Black and White



Release date: 
May 1, 2022
9 x 6 x 1 in


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Release date: 
May 1, 2020
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$19.86Save: $9.08 (31%)

Release date: 
May 1, 2020
Paperback: 176 pages
9 × 6 × 1 in
ISBN: 9781594397370
This item is eligible for free shipping (Conditions apply).
Average: 3.9 (7 votes)
Skill Level: 1 2 3

Spotting danger before it happens is a skill that can be developed and may even save your life.

  • Understand the threat
  • Build situational awareness
  • Develop personal defenses

A mother dropping her teenager off at the mall, a young man leaving home for college, a family about to head out on their first trip overseas. What do all of these people have in common? They all have a vested interest in their personal security and the wellbeing of those they love. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, there were an estimated 1.25 million violent crimes committed in the United States in 2018.

Make no mistake; in a world filled with crime and violence, you are your own last line of defense.

Continuing on the path of The Gift of Fear (Gavin deBecker), Spotting Danger Before It Spots You, author Gary Quesenberry breaks down the basic techniques necessary to help you develop good situational awareness and increase your levels of personal safety. Gary calls upon his extensive background as a Federal Air Marshal and defensive tactics instructor to explain these methods in simple terms that will greatly improve your general understanding of how, when and where violence occurs. He will then take the next critical step—providing you with the tools you need to properly identify and evade danger before it ever has a chance to materialize.

You will learn

  • The common traits of predatory behavior
  • How to conduct a personal “safety check”
  • How to develop strong awareness skills
  • What to do when you spot potential trouble
  • Staying safe and living life free of worry and fear

“Today more than ever, it is imperative that we pay close attention to our surroundings and learn how to interpret what’s happening around us. Tragic events can often be both predictable and preventable.” — Federal Air Marshal Gary Quesenberry


 “In my twenty years on the job, I have seen the tactics Gary teaches save lives. The world is full of victims and survivors, and he’ll show you how to be a survivor.”

—Burk Stearns, MBA, BS Criminal Justice, Lieutenant, Field Watch Commander, California Court Recognized Gang Expert 


“In the modern world, danger abounds and none of us are immune to the threat of it, but what does it look like and how do we recognize and avoid it? Gary Quesenberry has forgottenmore about how to spot danger than most us will ever know. Thankfully, he remembered the most important stuff and has put it in this book!Spotting Danger before It Spots Youis a must-read for anyone who doesn’t have the Secret Service doing their danger-spotting for them. Gary delivers no-nonsense advice on a serious and relevant topic with an engaging blend of humor, common sense, and the wisdom that comes from three decades of having lived in a world where spotting danger was a necessity.” 

—LCDR Jonathan Cleck, Navy Seal, Cohost of the Kill Cliffpodcast

“Practicing situational awareness is one of the most important things a person can do to keep themselves and others safe. I think it is the most important thing I teach in my Safety, Self-Defense, and Survive a Shooting programs. And while many books mention awareness, Gary Quesenberry actually shows you in his book how to be more aware and what to be aware of. He provides key concepts, real-world examples, and practical exercises to help you develop the attitude and situational awareness necessary to avoid most violence, and he offers solid advice for those times you can’t. The three phases—Understanding the Threat, Building Your Situational Awareness, and Developing Personal Defenses—are the keys to staying safe and not becoming a victim. Practicing situational awareness will not only allow you to see potential danger early enough to do something about it, it just may mean the difference between life and death. Yes, situational awareness is that important, and this book is that important. Read it, practice situational awareness when you are out and about, and enjoy life safely.” 

—Alain Burrese, JD, author, fifth dan hapkido, former army sniper


“Gary Quesenberry’s book is an all-encompassing guide and essential resource for understanding how to stay safe in today’s world. Gary shares proven personal safety tactics, techniques, and procedures that are taught at the highest levels of government, law enforcement, and the military. 

His proactive approach to identifying potential trouble is spot on. But he doesn’t stop there. He touches upon simple and effective defense techniques specially created to be quick and effective. His real-life stories and examples of criminal activity give the lay person a road map for how to avoid being targeted in the first place.

This is mandatory reading for those of you who wish to make yourself and your loved ones a ‘hard target.’”

—Steven M. Kinsey, police firearms and tactics instructor, US Department of Homeland Security

“There is an old saying in sports, ‘The best defense is a good offense.’ This is also supremely true when it comes to personal defense. So many peoples’ plans and preparations for personal defense begin and end with the concealed carry of a firearm, gun fighting tactics, or martial arts. This ideal is perpetuated by the booming ‘tactical industry’ with its peddling of ‘everyday-carry’ gadgets and social media videos romanticizing the CCW Instagram quick-draw.

“This is a book that had to be written. People need to understand that making it back home safe and sound shouldn’t rely on your fighting or shooting ability. The secret of self-defense is recognizing and avoiding dangerous situations altogether–which is what makes this book so brilliant.”

—Jamie Franks, US Navy chief petty officer (twenty-two year veteran), competitive shooter on The History Channel’s Top Shot All-Stars


“When I was sixteen, I was mugged in an isolated train station in Madrid, Spain. For years I felt ashamed that I didn’t fight hard enough to save my deceased grandfather’s gold necklace and cross from theft. Since then, my years of training and experience in special operations, counter-terrorism, and federal law enforcement taught me that the loss of the fight was not the true failure. It was the culmination of my mistakes which made me unaware of the imminent attack and made the two attackers view me as an easy target. 

“My attire made me stand out like a foreigner, and I was sitting in an unpopulated and dark area of the station that offered few avenues of escape. I was not aware of my surroundings, and I didn’t give credence to my intuition. Every mistake leading to the mugging was my choice; I wasn’t a victim of a random attack. In reading Gary’s book, I am reminded of these errors, but I am also reminded of the strategies I could have used to avoid them.

“I can’t go back in time to that evening and apply all the principles I learned from years of law enforcement experience. But if I had read this book as a sixteen-year-old and applied its techniques, I am certain that those two muggers and I would never have had an exchange. They wouldn’t have seen me as an easy target, but even if they had, I would have been able to see the attack coming. 

“This book is for everyone. The inexperienced will learn how to avoid being a target, spot an attack before it happens, and form a plan of action in response, while those who are experienced in these matters will come to see areas in their lives where they have become too complacent about over the years.” 

—Carlos Poysky, law enforcement physical techniques instructor, Department of Homeland Security, former airborne ranger (1st Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment 1995–1998), former air marshal and air marshal instructor 


“I have known Gary Quesenberry for over fifteen years. As an adjunct instructor who worked for me and as a credentialed federal air marshal, Gary was always a top-notch instructor and operator, a complete professional who stood out among his peers. Anything Gary puts his name on is first rate, and that includes this book, which he has written at a time when real-world situational awareness is a critical skill to have. Situational awareness is the critical skill for an undercover air marshal, and his background has no doubt vastly enhanced his ability to teach his readers about the subject. In our tactics instruction, we always preached that spotting a threat versus reacting to one was the key to winning a fight at thirty-five thousand feet in a tubular aircraft with no backup, cover, or place to hide. This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to learn the skills involved in observing their environment and using what they observe to make them safer. Written in a no-fluff style, it is broken down into learnable chunks (phases) that will make every single person who opens the cover better prepared.”

—Michael R. Seeklander, owner of The American Warrior Society and Shooting-Performance Training Systems, author of Your Competition Handgun Training Program, Your Defensive Handgun Training Program, Your Defensive Rifle Training Program, andThe Art of Instruction


“Spotting Danger before It Spots Youis a book everyone who leaves the safety of their home on a daily basis should read. His book made me realize how the way I had been going about my everyday activities was making me a potential target. I learned a lot about how to harden my defenses with the exercises Gary provides.”

—Gabby Franco, competitive shooter, author of Trouble Shooting: Mastering Your Pistol Marksmanship 


“Spotting Danger before It Spots Youis filled with crucial information that should be passed down to those you love. Regardless of how much our world changes, humankind continues to victimize itself. This information should be incorporated into your lifestyle in order to protect yourself and others from harm. The author does a superb job of drawing principles and techniques from his life experience and communicating them to the reader in a no-nonsense writing style.”

—Rod Smith, law enforcement officer, owner of SpecGear—Tactical Concealed Carry

“Over my twenty-five-plus years in law enforcement, no subject has been more important than situational awareness. For those who serve inside the walls of America’s toughest prisons, the ability to stay in tune with their surroundings is all important. This book identified traits associated with situational awareness that have become second nature for me, but I had to learn those traits on my own in the course of my career, and I wish I had had a book like this to make learning those essential skills easier. Gary’s book provides an essential foundation for situational awareness, and I plan on making it required reading for officers and staff.” 

—Darrin McWhorter, captain in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Special Operations Response Team Commander, and National Tactical Trainer


“Crime can happen to anyone, anywhere, and at any time. Spotting Danger before It Spots Youcontains solid advice that’s been, literally, proven the world over.

Gary shares his wealth of knowledge and provides real-world case studies involving personal safety and security that are applicable to the seasoned professional as well as to the average citizen. He covers the concepts involved in being aware of your surroundings and stopping a problem before it starts. Full of practical and easy-to-follow recommendations that will help keep you safe, this material Gary presents in this book will bridge any gaps in your personal planning, awareness, and understanding as either a safety professional or ordinary citizen.” 

—Jennifer N. Mitchell, US Department of Homeland Security, former police officer, Lansing, Michigan

Spotting Danger Before It Spots Youis a must-read. Gary has written themanual for the average citizen on situational awareness. The skills he teaches in this book are the same skills I have used in the US Air Force, the Secret Service, and Federal Air Marshal Service. You can practice defensive measures, fighting skills, concealed carry, and verbal judo, but without knowing how to evaluate your everyday life, you are leaving a gaping hole in your defense plan.”

—Gary J. Byrne, federal air marshal (Ret.), former Air Force security policeman, secret service (police officer), uniform division officer


“A federal air marshal offers a guide to observing and evaluating your surroundings. 

Quesenberry’s nonfiction debut draws on his nineteen years of experience as an air marshal, a job that gives him “a first-class ticket into the world of covert surveillance, surveillance detection, and self-defense.” In hundreds of settings, he has been the person paid and expected to know what’s going on and to anticipate and counter any potential dangers. By contrast, as he quite rightly points out, most people relax themselves into a false sense of security by thinking “nothing will ever happen here” or “that would never happen to me.” But even the author’s cursory listing of some of the twenty-first century’s worst outbreaks of terrorist violence all over the world should make it clear to readers that they can no longer afford such attitudes—they must take a large part of their safety into their own hands. Quesenberry’s aim in his book is not only to change those attitudes, but also to arm readers with the basic perception shifts that will help them guard their own well-being. The foremost of these is “situational awareness,” which the author describes as “the ability to identify and process environmental cues to accurately predict the actions of others.” The adverb is crucial: readers are gently admonished to discard their reflexive prejudices and assumptions and “identify and process” what they’re actually seeing in any environment (as the author points out, preset perceptions can sometimes blind a person to reality). In quick, sharply paced chapters full of well-chosen anecdotes and bulleted points, Quesenberry instructs readers on how to expand their awareness of the people and things in their immediate area, how to assume an aggressive mindset in order to anticipate how actual predators think, and even the basics of one-on-one self-defense. Much of what the author relates is elementary in nature—travel advisories all over the world urge some variation of situational awareness—but the clarity of this manual makes it stand out. 

A vigorous and memorable primer on heightening awareness to prevent or counter danger.”


USA Best Books Award - Finalist - 2020

About the Author

Gary Quesenberry

Gary Quesenberry, Federal Air Marshal (RET.) was born in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, where his parents taught him the value of hard work, patriotism, and commitment to family. His passion for the outdoors and patriotic spirit led him to enlist in the United States Army at the age of seventeen where he served in the 7th Infantry Division as an Artilleryman during Operation Desert Storm. Shortly after being honorably discharged from the Army, Gary married his wife, Kelly and began his … More »