5 Barriers to Effective Situational Awareness

Maintaining situational awareness is an ongoing task- not something you learn once and automatically continue. Dangerous situations don’t happen to most of us on a daily basis- while this is generally a good thing it does allow our brains to easily focus on other things- leading to a dangerous false sense of security.

Here are 5 common barriers that reduce our ability to understand a situation. Understanding each of these will barriers can help you recognize them. With time and a little practice you can strengthen your own mindset to focus your awareness when you are in places or situations that require you to do so. Remember that the OODA loop is your framework for maintaining situational awareness- simply reading this article will help you Orient to these barriers. 

Perception (based on faulty information processing)

Perception is an individuals view of reality. This can be affected by these dangerous contributors:

  • Past experiences – these may or may not be helpful. If something appears similar to a past experience we are likely to respond accordingly to the situation in progress
  • Filters- sometimes we don’t acknowledge information that does not align with our mental picture
  • Expectations- sometimes we interpret new information in our environment in a way that aligns with our plan or expectations  
Excessive motivation
If one motivator occupies too much of your attention you have disrupted your own OODA loop. Don’t let your own behavior impose filters and expectations that inhibit your ability to assess and respond to your environment effectively.
Routine is a dangerous thing- it can lull you into assuming that everything is under control. Before you know it you’re fixated on the wrong things- maybe it’s your phone. Task fixation in public is bad, task fixation while parked in a parking lot is an invitation for bad guys to make you a victim. When you’re in a public place that’s familiar and mundane, challenge yourself. Ask your companions (this is great for times out with your kids) to point out nearby cover, exits, etc. Make a game out of it.

Know how to recognize your own signs of stress. When you’re overwhelmed it takes longer to perform simple tasks and you sabatoge your own OODA capabilities. Prioritize and minimize distractions as much as you can when you notice your stress levels rising.
Taking care of yourself includes forcing proper rest cycles if that’s what needs to happen. Fatigue will diminish anyone’s ability to process inputs from their environment. In fact there is not much good at all that comes from a lack of proper rest. This is one of the most difficult barrier to overcome as it requires time or someone to take your place. For that reason among many others we should all do our best to avoid fatigue.
Congratulations- reading this has broadened your personal depth of experience. Now you know what the 5 common barriers to effective OODA execution are. When you’re in public or in a potentially dangerous situation and you recognize them the best thing you can do is work on refocusing yourself. Losing your situational awareness increase your risk of making mistakes you could have avoided under more typical circumstances. Practice the mindset and it will be harder to lose it when you need it. 

2 thoughts on “5 Barriers to Effective Situational Awareness

  1. Pingback: UAV’S, UCAV’AND OTHER SUCH MATTER | lisaleaks

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