What is Situational Awareness?

Situational Awareness or SA is the ability to recognize and sort out the relevant information in your personal environment using your senses, experience and knowledge to create an awareness of the location and the people around you.  Another way of describing SA is to be completely present in the activity you are involved in.  For example if you are walking 

to your car while looking at your phone or listening to music you have removed your senses from the activity (walking) that you are involved in and therefore as less attentive to changes in your surroundings. Take the time to be present observing the environment. 

How we manage the incoming information from our senses in a very simplified model used by pilots and military training to teach awareness is the OODA loop. 

The OODA loop (an acronym that stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) is a four-step approach developed by military strategist John Boyd.

The Four steps of Observation and decision making 

More than just seeing or observing something, true SA requires an understanding of what you are seeing and how it pertains to your environment. 

The Four steps of SA are:

Step 1:         Observation

Step 2:         Orientation/Pattern Recognition

Step 3:         Decision Making 

Step 4: Taking Action 

1: Observation

Observation is the core of SA. It is also the first step of the Observe-Orient-Decide-Act (OODA) Loop developed by military strategist Col. John Boyd. Observation is the key element to increase your safety. Accordingly, we are going to spend some time and give you some strategies for increasing your ability to be more observant. 

2: Orientation 

You have observed something. Orientation is where you interpret what this something is and what it means to you. Interpretation requires context and is improved through training on and understanding what you are observing and predicting potential outcomes.  Prediction draws heavily on mental file folders (aka experience), that retain your knowledge or expertise. Prediction is improved through training and the development of schema. 

3: Decision making 

In this step of the mental process you have recognized a potential problem and predicted all the possible outcomes.  The ability to quickly move into a decision we are going to give 3 general choices to guide you.   The first choice is simply to 1. Observe more – get more indicators & information. 2. Take a precautionary action – moving across the street to avoid, leave the area.  3. Call for help or prepare to defend yourself. 

4. Taking Action 

The action that you choose to take will be based upon the totality of the circumstances in which you are involved.  Many people mistakenly believe that talking action means some physical technique.  Taking action can be represented with verbally addressing the person, taking a precautionary action such as asking someone to walk you to your car, calling for help or defending yourself.  Even just choosing to observe more is a viable option if the circumstances dictate it.