What is Situational Awareness?

Have you ever noticed that some people seem to know what is going to happen before it does?  Are they psychic?  No, most likely not.  While they aren’t psychic, they probably do have elevated situational awareness (SA) skills.

How often do you see people completely focused on and only paying attention to their smartphones?  Are these people walking, driving, or doing something else with total disregard for the environment around them?  Are you guilty of this? In today’s modern world, most of us are.

It is the rare person in today’s society who doesn’t at least occasionally plug in and drop out of awareness to their surroundings.  Some are obviously worse than others.  Unfortunately for us, Murphy is an expert in causing problems at the most inconvenient times.  Because of our daily distractions, which keep us from paying attention, we are less prepared for the problems Murphy drops in front of us.

First Step to Overcoming Problems

The first step to successfully overcoming any problem is to recognize it as early as possible.  Once an issue is identified, it is only then that we can find a way to mitigate the impact to us, our family, friends, and others.  Without paying attention, we are less able to identify problems and therefore less able to avoid them.

Situational Awareness Methods

Business people use a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities) to help avoid pitfalls and capitalize on the opportunities.  The military conducts ongoing intelligence gathering and pre-planning for a range of possibilities.  Public safety agencies analyze developing trends and experience to prepare for the troubles they face.  What do SWOT analysis, intelligence gathering and trend analysis all have in common? They are all systematic methods of improving situational awareness.

No Formal Training Required

SA is obviously not a domain isolated to corporations, the military or public safety.  Rather, it is an essential skill that lives in everybody.  It is the first skill and building block to mitigating the problems that all of us may face at one time or another.  While not always utilized, it is a skill that is nevertheless there for all to use.  As a skill, SA can improve through effort and training.  No, it doesn’t require formal training.  What it requires is for those of us who may not excel at noticing what is going on around us to pay attention.  We must make an effort to lift our heads up, look around and take notice.

Look Around and Notice

That act of looking, listening and taking in your environment is called observing. When you observe your environment, take a look and see what is going on.  Is everything normal and in its place, or does something not seem quite right?  If so, what is not normal? Is there a car driving erratically and heading your way?  What is that dark hole doing there?  Why is the kitchen light on when you usually shut it off?

Engage Your SA

The scenarios can go on and on.  However, one point holds true: The best way to notice potential problems is to engage your situational awareness.  While that may seem easy, we are too often distracted by our modern world.  These distractions inhibit our ability to pay attention and identify oncoming problems, but they are avoidable if we simply notice them.

Give it a Try!

So, the next time that you are out and about, try to focus less on the phone in your hand.  Instead, pay more attention to the environment around you and truly observe.  When doing so, you may avoid a troubling situation. You also may see some of the vast world that exists beyond the phone in your hand.  Try it; you might like it!


Lastly, never forget, you’re  just one prep away.


If you have any other information, suggestions, or thoughts about situational awareness, please leave a comment below.


Stay safe, secure and prepared,






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