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Thread: Situational Awareness

  1. #1
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Situational Awareness

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Situation_awareness

    Situation awareness, or SA, is the perception of environmental elements within a volume of time and space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status in the near future. It is also a field of study concerned with perception of the environment critical to decision-makers in complex, dynamic areas from aviation, air traffic control, power plant operations, military command and control, and emergency services such as Fire Fighting and Policing; to more ordinary but nevertheless complex tasks such as driving an automobile or motorcycle.
    It’s well established in military circles that the folks who tend to get awarded medals for their actions on the battlefield are the ones that exhibit a high degree of situational awareness. These individuals are somehow able to be both aware of the potential threats in the environment, and successfully weigh the risks associated with various courses of action and calculate the likely outcomes with lightning fast speed.

    Like the wiki article says, for most of us SA most often comes into play in other environments than battlefields or air control towers. People who have been in the car while I’m driving know that I tend not to talk much to other passengers if there’s much traffic present. This is because I’m paranoid enough about other drivers that I feel obligated to drive defensively. Similarly, whenever I enter a ‘rough’ neighborhood my ‘long range sensors’ also tend to go on, and I pay more attention to the surrounding environment than I would likely otherwise.

    Few things are more annoying than being around someone who displays poor SA. Ever been a passenger in a vehicle where the driver is more focused on their impassioned political views and feels a need to establish eye contact with you rather than the nearby car executing a lane change without a turn signal? Or the driver who is constantly fumbling with the stereo, CD’s, cell phone, ipod, cigarettes, etc.? Ladies, do you have any friends that seem not to register any potential threats and display little reluctance to walk to their car three blocks away alone at night? Are their particular environments where you notice your senses seem to instinctively heighten - say, in the woods, highway, or urban environment?

    Do you think you possess good/adequate SA? (hey, if you're alive and reading this you must have something going for you!)
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Another group of professionals where SA is invaluable is Firefighters.
    And even more so for the Safety Officer in the IC.
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

  3. #3
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JNA View post
    Another group of professionals where SA is invaluable is Firefighters.
    .
    I thought this the last time I watched the movie 'Backdraft'. Granted, that was three parts Hollywood, but the fact remains that entering a burning building and trying to constantly assess threats to ones own safety while at the same time remaining focused on the mission to save other people's lives has got to be challenging in the extreme, and you know the best firefighters have excellent SA. I'll bet First Responders as a rule are probably in the 90th percentile and above where SA is concerned.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    Cyburbian Duke Of Dystopia's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Situation_awareness

    It’s well established in military circles that the folks who tend to get awarded medals for their actions on the battlefield are the ones that exhibit a high degree of situational awareness. These individuals are somehow able to be both aware of the potential threats in the environment, and successfully weigh the risks associated with various courses of action and calculate the likely outcomes with lightning fast speed.
    .....

    That is not really how it works. There is a reason 2/3rds of medal of honor recipients receive it posthumously. That is because they ignored their SA. Likewise, when Sgt York did his work, it was scores of demoralized troops that surrendered to a guy with a bolt action rifle, ignoring their own SA instincts to make his look phenomenal.

    SA should be developed. One should know where they are at, what the conditions are, and their environment. To much SA and a person turns into a shut in with a 100 cats and afraid to leave the house.
    I can't deliver UTOPIA, but I can create a HELL for you to LIVE in :)DoD:(

  5. #5
    Cyburbian fringe's avatar
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    In Buddhist terms what you refer to is called "mindfulness", aware of the present, including both space and time.

    Ironic that the military would assimilate ideas of a peaceful teaching, tho I'm told the Samurai warriors, who invented the concept of zen, or no resistance, trained warriors to conduct themselves as if they were "already dead."

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Duke Of Dystopia View post
    That is not really how it works. There is a reason 2/3rds of medal of honor recipients receive it posthumously.
    Actually, even the dead ones displayed excellent SA. Nothing in the definition says self-preservation is an essential component, simply that they take in the 'Big Picture' all at once and act in accordance. A soldier with high SA upon seeing a grenade landing nearby might either decide to duck for safety so they can finish storming that machine gun nest, or throw themselves on it if it means saving the rest of the squad. In either case, though, their actions are driven by comprehension of the total situation where the greatest good (or avoidance of harm) can be accomplished - that or they're not very good medal candidates.

    Quote Originally posted by fringe
    In Buddhist terms what you refer to is called "mindfulness", aware of the present, including both space and time.

    Ironic that the military would assimilate ideas of a peaceful teaching, tho I'm told the Samurai warriors, who invented the concept of zen, or no resistance, trained warriors to conduct themselves as if they were "already dead."
    Good observation.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    Mrs. Otis and I have opposite levels of SA. I tend to have high SA and she tends to have low. I think she is the happier one.

    I am reminded of an old joke. "If you're not a little bit paranoid, you're not paying attention. Corollary: Total paranoia means total awareness."
    Seldom right, never in doubt

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    Cyburbian Duke Of Dystopia's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    Actually, even the dead ones displayed excellent SA. Nothing in the definition says self-preservation is an essential component, simply that they take in the 'Big Picture' all at once and act in accordance. A soldier with high SA upon seeing a grenade landing nearby might either decide to duck for safety so they can finish storming that machine gun nest, or throw themselves on it if it means saving the rest of the squad. In either case, though, their actions are driven by comprehension of the total situation where the greatest good (or avoidance of harm) can be accomplished - that or they're not very good medal candidates.
    .....
    I really think heroism and situational awareness are separate things. If SA isn't a self-preservation instinct, than in your model, knowing you are going into a bank to get your banking done, just before you know it is going to be robed by crazy trigger happy men with machineguns, is not only good SA but also receives high marks for optimism.

    If the SA does not serve self preservation, what good is it for? An informed fool is still a fool.
    I can't deliver UTOPIA, but I can create a HELL for you to LIVE in :)DoD:(

  9. #9
    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by fringe View post
    In Buddhist terms what you refer to is called "mindfulness", aware of the present, including both space and time.

    Ironic that the military would assimilate ideas of a peaceful teaching, tho I'm told the Samurai warriors, who invented the concept of zen, or no resistance, trained warriors to conduct themselves as if they were "already dead."

    Is it peaceful, or is assigning any relative term to that kind of philosophy wrong? I have so little zen or SA in my life, I'm unsure. Either way, VERY interesting...and cool.
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

  10. #10
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Duke
    I really think heroism and situational awareness are separate things.
    Yes, they are.
    Quote Originally posted by Duke Of Dystopia View post
    If the SA does not serve self preservation, what good is it for? An informed fool is still a fool.
    Situational awareness is simply an ability to simultaneously perceive where one stands in relationship to threats in an environment. How one deals with those threats is a different issue altogether. In the case of soldiers on the battlefield it may be an occasion for heroism....or not. I simply named them as a group that has tended to demonstrate possession of this quality. Performing an act of self-sacrifice is undoubtedly heroic, but not necessarily indicative of a high degree of SA.

    Air traffic controllers are another example of people who are able to perceive and process lots of data and be able to rapidly make decisions (based on awareness of the cyber-environment). In their case the lives at risk are not their own but those of the people flying on planes miles away.

    Quote Originally posted by ursus
    Is it peaceful, or is assigning any relative term to that kind of philosophy wrong?
    The term 'philosophy' suggests some sort of mental abstraction. Mindfulness in this context is another term for consciousness.
    Last edited by Maister; 23 Feb 2010 at 4:53 PM.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Plus Scout's avatar
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    Reminds me of Rumi.

    "In silence there is eloquence. Stop weaving and watch how the pattern improves."

    A friend on his 3rd tour in Afghanistan sent it to me.
    In silence there is eloquence. Stop weaving and watch how the pattern improves - Rumi

  12. #12
    Few things are more annoying than being around someone who displays poor SA. Ever been a passenger in a vehicle where the driver is more focused on their impassioned political views and feels a need to establish eye contact with you rather than the nearby car executing a lane change without a turn signal? Or the driver who is constantly fumbling with the stereo, CD’s, cell phone, ipod, cigarettes, etc.? Ladies, do you have any friends that seem not to register any potential threats and display little reluctance to walk to their car three blocks away alone at night? Are their particular environments where you notice your senses seem to instinctively heighten - say, in the woods, highway, or urban environment?

    I had a roommate like this. He never, EVER would look both ways (or even one way) when crossing a street, no matter how much traffic there was. I always had to be the one to tell him to look out. His head would always be up in the clouds..............how a person makes it 21 years of age without learning to look both ways before crossing (something taught to kindergartners) is beyond me. It used to irritate me because I used to wonder, how could someone be so stupid?

  13. #13
    maudit anglais
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    Quote Originally posted by Otis View post
    Mrs. Otis and I have opposite levels of SA. I tend to have high SA and she tends to have low. I think she is the happier one.
    Sounds exactly like me and my wife.

    One of my co-workers has extremely poor SA. I want to kiss the ground every time I get out of his car...how he hasn't totaled his beautiful BMW yet I don't know.

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