What is Situational Awareness or SA?
Generally speaking, SA is being aware of your surroundings.
This can mean simple things like knowing where your office chair is when you return to your desk and sit down without actually looking back for the chair. SA can also relate to becoming more aware of your immediate surroundings while driving a car, riding a bike, walking on the street or attending public events. Becoming more aware of your surroundings is also being more aware of potential hazards. While walking on the sidewalk, you should pay attention to other people.
How many times have we seen someone in a hurry talking in their cell phone, chugging down a latte while weaving in and out of the crowd and searching their pockets for something? That is a hazard just waiting to happen. Or you’re on the road behind the wheel of your car and you notice another car with excessive lane travel? The person in that car is on their cell, digging through their work papers and holding onto their 64 oz commuter coffee mug all while in heavy traffic.
Situational Awareness was, at one time, related to members of the Armed Forces, police and fire fighters. Why should something as important to recognizing hazards be strictly contained to those professions?
SA is beneficial to everyone as long as they take the time to become more aware of their surroundings. While attending a public event, do you know where the exits are in relation to where you are? While driving, do you provide enough space between you and the car in front of you that allows you room to perform an evasive maneuver in the event that lead car does something radical?
When using air travel, how many rows are you from the emergency exit? What is your path of egress in the event you need to reach that exit?
Why is Situational Awareness even something you need to be concerned about?
Here are a few real world examples of why SA is important.
Example 1: A visiting relative comes to stay with you for a few weeks. They used to live in your area but had moved away some years previous. While with you, they decide to take their car and go visit old friends. Using their GPS system in their car, they plan their trip. Problems soon arise as some street names have changed and they get turned around and end up spending over 3 hours driving around downtown until they finally find the route to the freeway. This same person then attempts to return back to your house and ends up lost for 2 more hours because they took the correct exit but made a wrong turn and wouldn’t wait for the GPS to adjust for this error and give them the correct route back to your residence.
Example 2: An out-of-state visitor and his family drive from California to visit relatives over the holiday season. The visit is a great time for all. On the route back, the driver decides to take a scenic side trip and ends up on a one lane logging road and the car gets stuck in deep snow. He then decides to head out on foot, overland, to locate assistance leaving his wife and three small children in the car. Two days go by and finally searchers locate the car with the wife and kids, cold, hungry but alive. The driver is found a day later, not more than 100 yards from the car, and dead from exposure. Had he applied SA, he wouldn’t have attempted an overland trek but rather followed his own tire tracks back to the main road and found assistance. Had he applied SA, he would never had turned off the main road onto an obviously lesser traveled road increasing his chances of the car getting stuck and decreasing his chances of finding assistance if he did have problems.
While the above examples are not the only 2 in existence in regards to the use of Situational Awareness, they do show the extremes when not using SA for everyday use thereby complacency rears its ugly head and shows that most people walk around with a kind of neutral zone around their head, not aware of anything but their own little world.
These are the same people who need reminders to change the batteries in their smoke alarms when Daylight Savings Time arrives. And the same people the public service announcements from FEMA are directed at.
I like to call this segment of the population, sheeple. In a zombie apocalypse, the sheeple will become the human happy meals.
Let’s all try not to be sheeple. We need to be aware of potential hazards around us.
This is not paranoia, its realistic thinking.