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Introduction to situational awareness

In this section you will discover how a situation should be assessed and carry out a peer review activity of a situational assessment, receiving feedback on your ideas and giving feedback to others about theirs.

We have seen the need for effective situational awareness to ensure the most effective decision-making style is adopted but how is this achieved?

According to Mica Endsley there are three crucial stages to effective situation awareness (Endsley 1995):

  • perception of elements of the current situation
  • comprehension of the current situation
  • projection of future status

These are sometimes described as ‘What?’, ‘So What?’ and ‘Now What?’

These elements appear to be very simple but in practice they each can be compromised by various elements.

  • Do we always see what we think we see, or are we capable of believing a false reality?
  • Do we have sufficient knowledge to understand what is going on and are we influenced by the views of others?
  • Have we an accurate enough perception of the available time or is time running away from us?

Although there is still much research to be done into these processes, emergency practitioners have embraced the concept with enthusiasm. For our purposes, it is sufficiently robust to complete our assessment of decision-making processes.


Endsley, M. R. (1995) ‘Towards a Theory of Situation Awareness in Dynamic Systems’. Human Factors 37 (1), 32-64

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This article is from the free online course:

Emergency Management: Risk, Incidents and Leadership

Coventry University