How to protect yourself from coronavirus.
Before I get into that, I need to introduce you to a concept.
Proxemics is not new to the situational awareness practitioner. Simply put, proxemics is the study of personal space and how that space affects human interactions.
Imagine that you have four concentric circles surrounding you. Social scientists call these ‘reaction bubbles.’ Depending on how we interact with people, and who we interact with; these spaces trigger a sense of social comfort or discomfort. They can even trigger your fight and flight reaction.
The first area is your intimate zone. This is the space reserved for those closest to you, or for personal contact. This is the zone of love-making, cuddling your child and vicious self-defense. Then comes your personal zone. This is the space of close personal friends. In the personal zone, we are still comfortable about letting people within 1,2 meters (12 ft) of our personal space. At 3,7 meters, the social zone governs ‘arm’s length’ interactions. This is the proximity of acquaintances, shopkeepers, and chats with the neighbor. Lastly, we venture into public space, our outer bubble (7,6 meters or 25 feet).
While these zones may differ for individuals and members of different cultures, these unwritten human laws are about to be re-written by the novel coronavirus: COVID -19.
How to Protect Yourself From Coronavirus:
What is Safe Space
Corona is rapidly changing the fabric of our society.
Within a few short weeks, the term ‘social distancing’ has entered our vocabulary. Social distancing is simply a new proxemic dimension. It’s the space we need to maintain between ourselves and other people that prevents us from getting infected by some form of human contacts such as a cough or sneeze.
The concentric bubbles have to be amended. This distance starts at about 1.8 meters or 6 feet in our personal zone (2 meters is even better). It extends to avoiding public areas and groups of people and even working from home.
Unless a new solution suddenly arrives; the quality of our social interactions will be dramatically changed for all of us. Suddenly it may not be safe to let even your closest loved ones into your personal space. Venturing into the public space requires some reflection. Close your eyes and take a virtual walk through your local shopping center or public transport area:
- How far will you stand from people?
- What angle will you choose when someone must stand next to you, and how will this affect your ability to appraise this person? Standing in front of him may prevent his sneeze from reaching you, but not from him stealing your cell phone.
- If you have to stand next to a person, what person would be the safest choice, and what criteria will you use to choose that person?
Situational Awareness in a Corona World
In the world of personal safety, we have a range of tools that can be deployed to keep us from harm.
Police officers, security companies, firearms, and brutal self-defense maneuvers are all examples of methods developed to keep us safe.
We can’t deploy these systems unless we know the threat is there. In order to do this, we have innate responses that are triggered by visual and auditory cues.
This is the foundation of situational awareness. Our sensory system detects an anomaly in the environment and depending on the situation, we react reflexively or cognitively by choosing an appropriate response.
The body has a similar system. A microscopic intruder enters through a convenient bodily orifice. The body identifies the intruder, and it deploys its aggressive Killer-T assassins to rid us of the threat.
But it seems Covid-19 and other viruses have a way of bypassing the system. Covid-19 slips by our body’s intruder system. It likes to spend its winter vacation skiing the mucus ridden slopes of our lungs. The body will need to learn to recognize this new threat.
Likewise, the situational awareness practitioner will need to add some new social cues into his or her danger library. What new proxemic and social cues will we need in a Corona World? What incongruities in human behavior will instantly trigger your Spidey sense?
Consider the following as someone knocks on your door:
- What subtle signs will tell you that a person is sick? Is it the way they avert their mouth when they speak, the person’s listless energy levels or the unconscious touch of the throat as they swallow?
- Perhaps corona becomes a taboo in your society as HIV has become in some African societies, or maybe it’s an employee that doesn’t want to get laid off work. What would a person look like who is trying to hide his sickness?
- What are the signs that a crowd is going to go into panic mode? Will you spot this as you quietly debate the 1-ply, 2-ply choice in the toilet paper aisle?
- When you spot these signs what is your planned response?
As the great French microbiologist, Louis Pasteur said: “Fortune favors the prepared mind”.
Crime in a Corona World
If there’s one sector of human society that’s proficient at adapting to change, it’s the criminal world. A day after South African president Cyril Ramaposa’s speech outlining measures to curtail Covid-19, there were reports of criminals trying to find a way to exploit the situation.
Bogus health officials were reported to have arrived at people’s homes to take “swabs” to test for the virus and thus get in the front door. Corona World may create a new breed of threats that range from the primal to the cunning.
While the internet battles with intricate conspiracy theories, the safety practitioner must face tangible threats in the real world:
- Like the scenario mentioned above, criminals will create con’s and ruses to bypass security systems.
- Panicked people (flooded with conspiracy theories from the internet) may become unhinged and unstable.
- Minority groups could be blamed and violently targeted and people look for an outlet and or someone to blame for a death rate that will rise.
Rebuild Your Situational Awareness Library
The internet is flooded with articles and tips around corona, so I’m going to avoid those and leave you with some good ol’ fashioned Security Adviser homework:
- Reconsider your personal proxemics. Going forward, how will you use proxemics to keep you safe? Reengineer social responses that would decrease your exposure to the threat of Corona.
- Avoid the sensational press, clickbait, and emotional storytelling. Find a sensible and scientific source of information that will assist you in good decision making. Organizations like the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been specializing in this field for years.
- Update your emergency disaster kit. Every kit should have latex gloves (maybe add a few extra). It’s worth adding an alcohol-based disinfectant and even a mask (if available, remember it’s critical that medical personnel have access to these masks, so don’t buy them all).
- Avoid the microbe-infested gym. Get outdoors and get strong.
Lastly, it’s time to look for new danger cues. We need to become comfortable with change and feel prepared; not panicked. As situational awareness practitioners, we need to distinguish legitimate threats from manufactured worry. We need to be empowered so that we can positively contribute to a tough new world.
References & Further Reading
BrainyQuote . (2020). Louis Pasteur Quotes . Retrieved from BrainyQuote : https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/louis_pasteur_159478
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC). (2020). Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and you. Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/2019-ncov-factsheet.pdf
Goldman, L. (2020, March 16). What are the rules of social distancing? Retrieved from VOX: https://www.vox.com/2020/3/15/21179296/coronavirus-covid-19-social-distancing-bored-pandemic-quarantine-ethics
Hassad, A., & Purtilo, R. (2019). Proxemics. Retrieved from ScienceDirect: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/proxemics
Jahnke, M. (2019, April 18). Proxemics. Retrieved from Interesting Thing Of The Day: https://itotd.com/articles/6277/proxemics/
Lockerd Marafakis, L. (2020). Distancing and Self Quarantine. Retrieved from Johns Hopkin Medicine: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/coronavirus-social-distancing-and-self-quarantine
McCarthy, S. (2020, March 14). Coronavirus vs the human immune system: the brutal microscopic war for survival. Retrieved from South China Morning Post: https://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/3075165/coronavirus-how-sneezes-coughs-and-fevers-set-stage-brutal
ScienceDaily. (2020, March 12). Scientists identify potential targets for immune responses to novel coronavirus. Retrieved from ScienceDaily: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200312101056.htm