This informal article on Situational Awareness: Re-Learning a Lost Skill was provided by Valentina Sabucco, Junior Security Consultant at Trident Manor Limited, a specialist security, risk, and crisis management consultancy.
Tight deadlines, high expectations, difficult work environments, demanding managers can all impact an employees’ focus, attention, and awareness, whilst decreasing levels of alertness. This is further increased when operating away from the office or other known environment. Unknown and unfamiliar locations should increase levels of alertness but, in many cases, individuals are too preoccupied and lose peripheral vision from their surroundings and as such increasingly exposing themselves to danger. This danger can be in the form of environmental hazards, adversarial threats or accidents caused by human error. In many cases it is not recognised until it is too late.
To better protect themselves (and the organisation) whilst at work, or when travelling on behalf of work staff should receive training that re-teaches a life skill that has shaped human behaviour for centuries, “situational awareness”.
What is Situational Awareness?
Since the prehistoric era, the first hominids’ chances of survival were based on their ability to timely identify and respond to potential adversarial threats such as wild animals, and weathering conditions. The “Fight or Flight” syndrome. Situational awareness is defined as “by using sensory stimulus an analytical process takes place which determines whether the situational that is or has been presented is one of normality or not.” In other words, it is the ability to evaluate, analyse and anticipate potential threats based on the information gathered through our senses (sight, touch, hear, smell, and taste).
To help compartmentalise different states of awareness Jeff Cooper (amongst others) created a series of Colour Codes that depict levels of awareness based upon threat interpretation. These are not static but need to change according to the escalation or de-escalation of situations.
Challenges to situational awareness
Unfortunately, over the centuries with more comforts being available, the majority of people have gradually become less aware of their surroundings to the point that they now need to be trained. In addition, factors such as stress, fatigue and health can pose an additional challenge to people’s ability of remaining vigilant.
Actions that can be taken
To help people enhance their levels of situational awareness and increase natural vigilance and alertness, proactive steps can be taken which include:
1. Training: it is important to provide employees with the understanding and basic knowledge to assess and evaluate their surroundings. Practical exercises can represent an added value by challenging people’ habits and encourage them to adopt more situationally aware approaches.
2. Practice: regularly undertaking conscious practical activities helps maintain levels of alertness.
3. Be mindful of fatigue: know the symptoms of tiredness and other factors that can impact level of alertness. If necessary, breaks should be taken any time that a role involves extended bouts of concentration.
4. Maximise your 360 awareness: actions occur anytime everywhere so it is important to think peripheral and open-minded.
5. Be Proactive: assessment, evaluation, and monitoring of the environment should be conducted regularly to proactively identify potential threats and react accordingly.
Situational awareness is a life skill that can help people protect themselves as well as their loved ones by proactively identifying possible threats and taking steps to avoid or minimise the risks posed. From an organisational perspective, if staff can be kept safe and secure the likelihood is that they will continue to be productive and fulfil their duties.
For those directly engaged in the protection of assets situational awareness is a core skills that will help proactively identify adversarial threats and take steps to reduce the impact or likelihood of them succeeding. Correctly used ‘Situational Awareness’ can have positive impacts on the safety, security and integrity of individuals, organisations, and assets whether at home, work, or whilst travelling.
We hope this article was helpful. For more information from Trident Manor Limited, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively, please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.