Look Up! How Do We Improve Situational Awareness?
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  • Fiona Moloney

Look Up! How Do We Improve Situational Awareness?

Updated: Jan 24, 2019

We’ve all experienced having to sideways step to move out of someones way who’s busy swiping, typing or who are otherwise deeply entranced by their device when walking. It’s clear the person we’ve moved to one side for has absolutely no idea what is directly ahead of them, such is the addiction to device media, but what would happen if a sink hole were to open in their path…. my guess is they’d step right in, never to be seen again. Having a love of great content (is it that great!), should not get in the way of your safety, ever.


We have also recently been reading the steadily increasing numbers of people who’ve tragically accidentally stepped or slipped off a cliff or under a train to their deaths in the never ending desire to get more likes (loves) on Insta. It’s the desire for a beautiful photograph perhaps during an outrageous adventure that we can share with the world that has driven up these numbers and sadly, many are young people who are just out enjoying life to the full.


It’s a consequence of poor decision making, bad timing, catching that moment, a desire for the perfect shot and of course likes.


Both scenarios above share a common factor, poor situational awareness, the person has not taken those few moments to lift their head to look up or taken the time to truly understand their immediate environment and the latent dangers therein.


Culturally how do we reduce at risk behaviours, socially how to we dismantle behaviours that endanger us, what are the hazards, and what can be introduced to encourage people to assess their environment.


There are other times when having resources, to exert personal control, without falling victim and reducing your exposure to risk is critical. Being aware if someone is following you, hiding from you or stalking you and taking action in those moments, no matter how paranoid you think you are being at the time can make the difference between an attack or not. Everyone has the right to get home safely. Minimising risk without feeling a sense of doom every time you walk out the door is important because we do live in a safe world for the most part, but where there are opportunists we don’t want to be their opportunity. We cannot mitigate for psychopaths but there are some steps we can take to limit our overall risk.


There are times where you don’t have the time to get the phone out of your bag to call 000, because you are fighting for your life perhaps, or running or shaking so badly you can’t unlock your phone. Sometimes, and I know it’s happened to me, when you are being threatened, and you have your phone in your hand, you can’t take the time to look down to unlock it to make that call…. even if that’s possible under duress, you can’t take your eyes off the situation, your first reaction is for self preservation.


Situational awareness is a skill that needs practice and developing in most of us. There are a few resources you can use that will take only a few moments to gather and where in an emergency you may be more prepared:


  • Observe - be cognitive of your surroundings, simply take a broad view of where you are, be alert, look up and around

  • Intuition - be cautious and use your intuition, perhaps your best guide, if it feels wrong take action immediately

  • Exits - take note of exits and escape routes, in crowded situations you may want to position yourself closer to thoseSpeed - know how to raise an alarm quickly

  • Position - this is your position in relation to an unfolding event, in order to be better informed, assess what’s unfolding fast

  • Seek Help - have a method of identifying your exact location to first responders

  • Take Action - decide what you are going to do and how

  • Practice - people react differently to different situations, taking a self defence class helps with understanding different scenarios, in a work place do the drills, this helps avoid the fight, flight and freeze response.

  • Technology - Invokes voice activated technology allows you to raise an alarm without taking out your phone to communicate with first responders, friends, or family when you are in trouble

  • Safety first - be committed to your safety, take it seriously, enjoy life!




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