Situation awareness can be the difference between life and death. We practice situational awareness everyday, when we cross the street, drive in our cars, and even make when we make dinner. In a more threatening circumstance, like in the case of an active shooter or home invasion, a heightened sense of situational awareness can increase the chances of safety and survival for you and those around you.
What is Situational Awareness?
By definition, situational awareness,”involves being aware of what is happening in the vicinity, in order to understand how information, events, and one’s own actions will impact goals and objectives.” Situational Awareness allows you to identify, process, and comprehend important aspects of information about what is happening in the environment. With this heightened awareness, we are better able to anticipate immediate next steps, predict future situations, and adapt to those situations and other changes.
The Importance of Situational Awareness
When we lose Situational Awareness we increase the potential for human error mishaps. We may begin to feel confused, distracted, and make critical errors in judgement.
How to Strengthen Situational Awareness
Situational awareness begins by simply telling yourself to pay attention. When we focus our attention on different aspects of the situation, we are better able to absorb information and cues from the situation. The first part of assessing your situation is to be conscious of the “Baseline.” Every situation has a baseline, or a normal way of what things look and act like.
For example, a shopping mall would have many people, walking in different directions, it is loud with conversions. However, a divergence from the baseline would be screaming, or many people running in one direction. That would be a clue that the baseline has been thrown off and further awareness is needed, “ The key to great situational awareness is the ability to monitor the baseline and recognize changes.” It’s Tactical .
Monitoring the baseline is the foundation of being aware. Sometimes however, it may happen that we ignore certain signals or baseline fluctuations and convince yourself that is normal. This is called Normalcy Bias. To combat this, while you are practicing and developing your situational awareness, take each baseline fluctuation as a potential threat. This teaches you how to heighten your perception of seemingly normal events, while allowing you to categorize them for future reference if need be.
The last aspect of staying aware is limiting distractions. It is normal now to see people glued to their phones as they are walking, or even driving. In order to increase situational awareness your eyes must be on the people and places that are in your vicinity. If you are practicing on strengthening your situational awareness, or you find yourself in a situation in which a heightened sense of situational awareness is needed, you must put the distractions aside until you are in a safer location.
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