Blog by Dr. Richard B. Gasaway
Situational awareness is developed from capturing clues and cues in your environment — perception. Then you strive to understand what those clues and cues mean — comprehension. Once you have done that, the highest level of situational awareness is developed from making predictions of future events — projection. Perception, comprehension and projection are the foundation of situational awareness.
Responders seeking to develop and maintain situational awareness will benefit from understanding there are three distinctly different, yet equally important situational awarenesses: Personal, Team and Incident.
Personal situational awareness achieved by developing and maintaining an awareness of your personal abilities and inabilities, your strengths and weaknesses, your knowledge and deficiencies, your motivators, fears and phobias. In other words, making an honest assessment of yourself. This allows you to predict the future of your success and the areas where your success may be challenged.
Team (or Company if you prefer) situational awareness is achieved by developing and maintaining and awareness of the same criteria listed above for personal awareness, just applied to all members of your team. This allows you improve your understanding and expectation of success and challenges that your team may experiences.
The final awareness is incident-wide awareness. This awareness comes from understanding you, and your team, are only one component of a larger system working in unison to accomplish a common goal. This awareness helps ensure all individuals and teams are operating in a coordinated way.
Firefighters should discuss, in advance, how to develop and maintain situational awareness. These discussions should address how situational awarenesses are lost and how they are regained if they are lost.
About the Author
Dr. Gasaway is widely considered to be one of the nation’s leading authorities on situational awareness and decision making processes used by first responders. In addition to his 30+ year career in the fire service (including 22 years as a fire chief), Dr. Gasaway has a second passion: Uncovering and applying research in brain science for the benefit of first responders. He can be reached at [email protected]