In our most recent post, we discussed the importance of obtaining environmental awareness to increase your capabilities to effectively navigate a critical incident which we teach in our Critical Incident Response Training (CIRT) sessions. At SEC, we believe it is equally important to develop consistency in maintaining an appropriate level of situational awareness. What’s the difference? For us, environmental awareness is having a solid understanding of the different elements, such as physical design features, of the environments in which you find yourself. Situational awareness is simply being aware of what is happening in and around these environments.

For example, say you find yourself in a 10′ x 10′ room. The room has plain white walls. Its contents are limited to only a cot, a sink, and a simple chair. The walls are made of cinder block, and the only way in or out is through one door. The recognition of these elements is your environmental awareness. Shortly after your arrival into this room, the door opens, and another individual joins you. Nothing about the environmental elements of that room has changed due to the addition of another person. Still, your situation has changed dramatically because you are no longer alone. To help protect yourself in different scenarios, it is essential to develop and maintain an awareness of both the environments and the situations you are exposed to.


We suggest thinking about the levels of situational awareness as if they were on a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum would be being oblivious. The opposite end of the spectrum would be being on high alert. Neither of these extremes is ideal. Being oblivious does not allow you to identify threats that have entered your environment. Continually being on high alert is unsustainable due to the physical and mental toll intense focus places on your body. When practicing situational awareness, if you can remain calm and relaxed while still being in tune with what is going on around you, you have probably landed on the right baseline level for you.


When practicing situational awareness, it is also important to remember to trust your instincts. Most of us have experienced a sense of unease about a situation or person even though the data our senses are sending to our brain in the moment are not providing an obvious answer as to why. That sensory data you are processing in that particular moment is being compared to the sensory information you have collected and stored throughout your lifetime. When your subconscious self warns your conscious self, don’t ignore it, especially in situations that don’t allow further information gathering or deliberation.


Finding the right point on the spectrum of situational awareness is crucial in achieving an excellent response to a critical incident. Be on the lookout for our next blog, covering the third topic of our Critical Incident Response Training (CIRT) sessions, Developing Response Options.


As always, safety is our top priority. If you would like more information, please reach out to us at [email protected].