What is situational awareness?
A quick google search offers various definitions. Wikipedia, for example, defines situational awareness as “the perception of environmental elements and events concerning time and space, the comprehension of the meaning, and the projection of the future status.”
This definition is comprehensive and, in our view, covers the essential elements of situational awareness. If you presented this to most people, however, it would not bring clarity and understanding.
So, let’s explore the elements of situational awareness. We are also going to add a fourth element.
First, what are the four elements?
- Perceiving Your Environment
- Comprehending what is happening in your environment.
- Projecting possible outcomes
- Exploring appropriate actions.
- Perceiving Your Environment. Where are you? Are you in a vast space like a park? Or, are you on a crowded subway platform? Who else in this space? Where are the exits? Why is that man wearing a heavy coat on a hot summer day? Is there something in the area I could use to protect myself? Essentially it about observing your surroundings.
- Comprehending Situations. Why is he raising his voice? Is he joking or acting aggressively? Where are peoples’ hands? Why is that person shaking his fist? Why is she walking away from that man looking upset? Is he following her? Why are those people pointing at that person? Answering these questions gives you a sense of what is happening in your environment.
- Projecting Possible Outcomes. What can happen? Is the man shaking his fist going to hit the guy he is yelling at? The person staring as he is walking towards me on this empty street might try to grab me.
- Exploring Appropriate Actions. Do I leave? Do I run? Do I call a security guard before that man gets hit? I can cross the street and avoid being close to the person approaching on the sidewalk. Here, you are exploring actions for your safety or the safety of others.
Situational awareness is vital to safety and self-defense. Accordingly, it is a topic worthy of extensive study and practice.