Do YOU or your staff have Situational Awareness?

by todaystrainingblog

March 29, 2013


                One of the many things to think about when training your employees and yourself for a potential WPV incident is situational awareness. And while most everyone has a vague idea of what that is, they can’t define it and they don’t know if they have it. So let me try to explain this to you, as best as I can.

                It is defined as, knowing and being aware of the situation around you. The situation can vary from environment to environment even within your own company. If you work in a manufacturing plant then your awareness will necessarily have you being aware of your surroundings with moving forklifts, 10, 20, 30, or larger presses, hot liquids, chemicals that are hazardous, and etc.

                Around all of these things you have to have situational awareness. You can’t just be in a daze and walk around the production floor. If you did, you’re liable to walk into a press, moving forklift, or fall into a vat of anodizing liquid (usually at a temperature of at least 175 degrees). Those can be hazardous and life threatening.

                Likewise in an active shooter situation you have to be aware of what’s happening around you as well. You have to be able to make split second decisions, after weighing all the pluses and minuses of the situation. And when bullets are flying and your internal ‘fight or flight’ (more than likely flight) is in full alert mode and the adrenaline is flowing, you may not be able to think clearly.

                Many great leaders and managers can’t think in a crisis or emergency situation. Some people are built to be able to think on their feet and do the right thing, immediately. They can size up the situation and make the correct decision, most of the time, within a Nano-second. Some of these people are not supervisors, managers, or even top management. Many times it’s the employee who has better control of their internal emotions.

                One thing I always taught my security officers is, and this does sound a bit weird I admit, is to be a little bit paranoid. And after that they have to run various scenarios through their mind, so they are prepared for such an event – no matter what it may be. I always taught them to think as a ner’do’well or miscreant to prepare themselves for a situation, and then how would they handle it.

                Sometimes my officers responded outside their comfort zone and did very well. As a matter of fact even those who were considered ‘slow and stupid’ by other supervisors and managers acquitted themselves adequately in emergency situations on post. To me it proves that at least in these instances, my method works.

                If you have employees or supervisory people who can’t think straight in an emergency, then you need to appoint someone else to lead the team to safety, and unfortunately for ego and chain of command sake, it may be an hourly employee. And this may also mean the Crisis Management Team as well. One of the major precepts of any good manager, and employee for that matter, is to know their subordinates limitations.

                As an Operations Supervisor in Kansas City I had to assist with placing officers where they best fit. Sometimes that wasn’t where they wanted to be nor the shift they wanted. But I had to make them understand that everyone lives down to their levels of competence.

                But situational awareness is as much an acquired skill as it is inborn. While you can have those instincts and have the awareness, it can also be taught. And you have to endeavor to teach your employees how to have that situational awareness. It’s not easy but it could save their lives and yours.

                So how do you teach it? Not so easy as defining it. The one technique that I told you about earlier is being paranoid. Because if they’re paranoid, then they will constantly be aware of what’s around them.

                Obviously, you don’t want employees that are paranoid and scared of their own shadow. However, if you utilize ‘team building’ and observation exercises in your monthly or quarterly meetings they will be better observers and hopefully acquire that awareness fairly cheaply for the company. And if they can acquire that skill, it will help them, their families, and the company as well.


                Want to know more on situational awareness training? Call or write Today’s Training LLC and we can help you figure it out and run them for you. 480-251-5197,, or