Survival Zone

Situational Awareness: Key to Emergency Response

Issue 3 and Volume 162.

BY SCOTT REICHENBACH Situational awareness is the understanding of objects, events, people, system states, interactions, environmental conditions, and other situation-specific factors affecting human performance in complex and dynamic tasks. Situational awareness is simply “knowing what is going on so you can figure out what to do.”1 It is also “what you need to know not to be surprised.”2 Intuitively, it is how you answer the following questions: What is happening? Why is it happening? What will happen next? What can I do about it? Situational awareness is a key concept in emergency response, human factors research, aviation, and command and control—any domain where the ever-increasing technological and situational complexity affects the human decision maker. Complete, accurate, and up-to-the-minute situational awareness is essential for emergency responders and others who are responsible for controlling complex, dynamic systems and high-risk situations. Inadequate or completely absent situational awareness is cited as one of the…

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