Humans are creatures of habit. We thrive on routine. Broadly speaking, we follow the same rituals for a workday. We get up, prepare for work, travel to work, arrive at work, undertake our work, depart the workplace, travel home, and arrive at home, often completely unaware of our surroundings.

However, have you considered what emergencies could arise during the day, at the distinct stages of the day, and how you would respond to the emergency?

Situational Awareness

Situational Awareness (SA) is a tool that you can use to help prepare for an unexpected or dangerous situation. SA involves understanding your environment and how you are situated in that environment. From there, you can project what could happen and ideally prepare a plan before the emergency occurs. There are three stages of Situational Awareness: Perception; Comprehension; and Projection. We will also look at the various levels of SA that we operate in.


Perception requires you to use multiple sources to gather information about your environment. What can you see? What can you hear? What can you smell? How do you feel? What time of the day is it? Where are you? What is the news saying?

In the modern age, we have access to an unprecedented amount of information. We can ‘Google’ anything and have the information within microseconds. So how do we determine what information is relevant to our safety? This is where we need to process the information and think about how it relates to us and our environment.


Comprehension is the process of understanding the information that you have gathered. You take the data that you have gathered and analyse it to produce a mental picture of your situation. To assist with analysis, it is important to establish a baseline.

A baseline in SA is a benchmark of normalcy for your environment. You use the baseline to compare your current situation and determine if it is normal or whether there is an anomaly. For example, every day at work, your colleague John greets you warmly but today he completely ignores you. The baseline is that John always greets you warmly and the anomaly is that today he ignored you.

When looking for anomalies, it is useful to look for the ‘Absence of the normal’ or the ‘Presence of the abnormal.’ In the scenario with John, the absence of the normal was that he did not greet you warmly and the presence of the abnormal is that he ignored you.


Projection is the process of using the previous stages to forecast what could happen. This is where you ask yourself ‘So what?’ For example, you ‘Google’ the weather report before leaving for work and find out that there will be heavy rain during your trip. So what? You understand that rain causes slippery roads and reduces visibility. So, you forecast that the likelihood of a vehicular collision has increased. The consequence of a vehicle accident could be catastrophic and may cause a fatality but also at a minimum it may cause travel delays. As a control measure to mitigate the consequence of a vehicular collision, you decide to take public transport to work instead. Alternatively, you accept the increased risk, and decide to drive anyway because you have told your boss that you might be late, you have car insurance, life insurance and recently completed a defensive driver course.

Four Levels of SA

At any given moment of the day, you are operating in one of the four levels of SA. The SA levels are white, yellow, orange, and red. White is when you are completely oblivious of your environment and are not prepared for anything. Yellow is when you are alert and aware of your surroundings, but you remain relaxed and calm. Orange is where you are aware of an anomaly in your environment, you are evaluating the anomaly and formulating a plan of action. Red is where the emergency has occurred, and you are now taking decisive action to respond.

SA is an invaluable tool for preventing, preparing, responding, and recovering from an emergency in the workplace. Do you feel like your workforce have an understanding of their Situational Awareness?

Contact us today to find out how we can help your workforce develop their SA today.


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