Take a moment to look away from the screen and notice the various things, people, sounds, smells, and sensations around you.
If you noticed something new, that you were not previously aware of, chances are you were not situationally aware before. Being situationally aware would mean that you constantly know what is going on in your surroundings. It also includes using this knowledge to understand how it can or is currently affecting you and those around you.
In this blog, we will shed some light on some surprising daily use of situational awareness that you probably never noticed before. We will also see the repercussions of situational awareness on a day-to-day as well as complex and pivotal decision-making.
Understanding situational awareness through some everyday examples
We use situational awareness extensively on a daily basis. From the most mundane and routine tasks to the more novel and complex tasks, everything requires us to be aware of ourselves and our surroundings. Some of the everyday examples of situational awareness are:
1. Morning Routine
While it takes time for one to become alert and “wake up” in the true sense just after a good nap or sleep, following the morning routine of brushing, freshening up, bathing, etc., also requires situational awareness.
This is how you ensure that you are not brushing your teeth with your face wash instead of your toothpaste or bathing with your hair conditioner instead of your body wash.
You use situational awareness in various ways while you are driving. Ensuring that you don’t run on a red light or into another vehicle is one of the prime examples.
You are also aware of which road you are on, what turn is coming up ahead and what route you need to follow to reach your destination.
The immediate environment of the car, like the temperature, the music, the seat setting, and co-passengers are a few of the many other things an individual is constantly aware of while driving.
While cooking, you are vigilant about various activities at once. You ensure that nothing is burning and that all the right ingredients make it into the right pan. If any kids or pets are around, you also make sure that they don’t go near anything that might be dangerous for them.
Even before you start cooking, you ensure that you have all the required materials, including vegetables, spices, gas, appliances, electricity, etc.
4. Going to public places
If you go to public places like parties or festivals, you need situational awareness to ensure you are safe from any dangerous object, person, or animal. You also need to be aware of your belongings as well as the people you came with so that you or your stuff does not get lost.
The first thing everyone notices after getting their meal is how it looks and smells. It shows situational awareness when you not only check if your food looks and smells good but is also sanitary and fit for consumption.
You also make sure you use the right utensil for eating the right food. For example, you don’t eat your soup with a fork. It is also situational awareness when you blow on your food before eating it so that it’s not too hot and doesn’t burn you.
Even while forming simple sentences, people show acute situational awareness. They are simultaneously aware of various things like what tense to use, what names to include, how to phrase the information being conveyed in the most effective way possible, etc.
People also take note of the verbal and nonverbal reactions of the people they are speaking to. They use this as a form of feedback and inculcate various modifications based on it in their speech in real-time.
7. Playing sports
Playing any game, whether it be football, baseball, or cricket, requires the person to be aware of several things at once. You would need to know your playing position, where your team members are, where the opposing team’s members are, what is the current score, where the ball is, etc.
Losing focus for even a second could make the difference between a win or a loss.
While doing any task for school or work, you have to be aware of multiple things. The key goals that need to be met by the task, various sources that need to be referred to complete it, the amount of time you have to complete the task, etc.
You also need to keep others in the loop if this is a group project and ensure they are doing their part of the work accurately and on time.
9. Watching a show
Watching any show or movie would require you to remember all the characters, their backstories, and idiosyncrasies. It would also require you to be aware of the context that the show is set in and what everyone is saying.
Also being aware that the show content, video effects, and audio levels are not disturbing anyone in your surrounding can prove to be vital.
10. Grocery Shopping
Situational awareness while grocery shopping would include keeping track of your cart and your belongings while getting all the items on your list. Knowing the layout of the store and which aisles to go to and in what order could make the whole process much more smooth and more efficient.
Searching for your items or browsing while navigating the cart would also require situational awareness so that you don’t end up bumping and hurting someone. At the end of it all, remembering where the billing counters and exits are can save valuable time and energy.
Situational Awareness: Allowing you to make better and more informed decisions.
The concept of situational awareness is mostly used in the context of healthcare, the military, and aviation. Here the costs of a single decision are hefty and can result in life or death. So, taking all the situational factors into account and making the most viable decision possible becomes essential.
A study showed that situational awareness and decision-making training for seafarers can significantly reduce accidents. These training scenarios catered to unexpected situations which made the seafarers more familiar and apt at dealing with them, hence increasing their real-time readiness and decreasing incidences of accidents.
In the context of healthcare, a 2013 study found situational awareness to be an important contributing factor in effective patient care. It showed that failure in accurately perceiving and understanding various patient attributes and not estimating their future consequences can lead to poor decision-making on the nurses’ behalf and seriously endanger the patient’s life .
Situational awareness is an important precursor for decision-making. Knowing what the current situation is, what tools one has at their disposal and how they can be used becomes crucial when the snap decision is required. This crucial knowledge has the capacity to inform decision-making in more than just the healthcare, military, or aviation sectors. It has a lot of scope in the field of education, where being aware of children and their behavior could provide a basis for early identification and possibly even remedy developmental concerns.
Situational awareness is an essential skill, knowingly or unknowingly employed by all of us in our daily lives. The importance of training and bettering one’s situational awareness cannot possibly be overplayed.
Being aware of what’s happening in one’s surroundings and what it could lead to can not only save time but under crucial circumstances, can also save lives.
While there is no one right answer to problems in the real world. But, with situational awareness, the solution and the decision one does land on comes as close to being correct as one can get.
- TÜRKİSTANLI, T. T., & KULEYİN, B. (2019). Training Situational Awareness and Decision Making for Preventing Collisions at Sea: A Theoretical Background. Mersin University Journal of Maritime Faculty, 1(1), 10-16.
- Fore, A. M., & Sculli, G. L. (2013). A concept analysis of situational awareness in nursing. Journal of advanced nursing, 69(12), 2613-2621.