Situational Awareness is a Key Aspect of Preparedness
Where do you first look when walking into a building? Maybe you look at the architecture, the people, or your phone screen. Have you ever immediately identified exit points upon walking over a threshold? If you need to exit a building quickly, awareness of your surroundings can make the difference between life and death.
Practicing situational awareness does not mean living in a state of constant fear and paranoia. Fear and paranoia are counterproductive to crisis planning. When a crisis strikes, you and your people must be prepared.
Many people are not accustomed to being involved in emergencies and dangerous situations. When we experience a potentially life-threatening situation, we do not act as quickly as normal. Our brain and body are delayed while attempting to process the information and decide on a course of action.
Before responding to a deadly situation, we must first sense the danger that is occurring. We can be alerted of danger by other people, or by our senses. When we hear a fire alarm, for instance, we are using one of our senses, possibly two. We hear the sound if we are able and may see flashing lights or other activity that is not part of a normal experience. Unfortunately, there are many barriers to sense danger. What might preclude us from being alerted? Earbuds, talking on our phones, texting and other distractions. One of the biggest barriers is people not trusting their instincts. These barriers delay immediate response.
Evaluating Response Options
When we sense danger, we must choose the best course of action to escape the situation. The human brain is not capable of coming up with new concepts when under extreme stress. During emergencies, humans don’t rise to the occasion under stress, they sink to the level of their training. If you are not prepared, you may freeze. As Firestorm Chief Security Officer, Jason Russell, says, “The worst choice in an emergency is to freeze. We suggest you make a decision based on the information you have and pursue that solution with vigor.”
To avoid freezing during an emergency, responses should be identified and trained for prior to an incident. Predict the vulnerabilities. Plan responses around the vulnerabilities. Perform appropriately when a crisis occurs. PREDICT.PLAN.PERFORM.®
Committing to an Action
Once a course of action is identified, commit to that action and carry it out as efficiently and effectively as possible. If circumstances change, adjust the response; but commit to each action. While this process may seem simple, barriers at each level delay and degrade responses and cause people to remain in danger and make poor choices.
Prevention of violent situations is a combination of awareness and assessment. Educating employees, students, staff and others on situational awareness and actions to take during situations will increase survival rate.
The tragedy of the Parkland, Florida shootings coupled with other recent attacks should motivate organizations to properly plan and prepare for like situations. Not sure where to start? Begin by taking a no-fee assessment to determine your school or organization’s level of preparedness.