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Situational Awareness: Getting off the “X”

By Paul Evancoe

You’ve been texting with your friends and not paying attention to your surroundings. You suddenly hear commotion close by and detect rapid movement coming at you. You’re being attacked! You’re startled—but what now? You need to get off the X. Your very survival depends on it!

What exactly is situational awareness, and what is the “X?” We’ll begin with situational awareness.

In cognitive psychology, “situational awareness” refers to the dynamic mental model of one’s constantly evolving situation. It is one’s constant awareness and understanding (your picture) of the surrounding environment and other situation-specific factors from which the ability to successfully enable rapid and appropriate decisions and effective actions is based. Situational awareness means maintaining continuous awareness of your surrounding environment—and to consciously and accurately recognize a potential threat(s) and take the action(s) necessary to avoid or mitigate a potentially negative outcome.

A person with good situational awareness is often said to have a “good feel” or a “good picture” of his surroundings and the situation he is exposed to at any given time. Therefore, good situational awareness encompasses the acquisition, interpretation, comprehension and utilization of (often dynamic) available information in order to anticipate future developments, make intelligent decisions and control risk. More simply, it means knowing what is going on around you so you can figure out what to do and not do if things begin to go bad.

Situational awareness is the tool used to stay off the X, or get off the X should you find yourself on it. So—what is the X? The X is the spot where the attacker aims to strike or is striking. Remember the Road Runner cartoons? Wile E. Coyote always stands on the X. That is the spot where he always gets clobbered. The same is true in real-life. The X is the spot you must avoid or move away from immediately.

This brings us to the OODA decision process originated (circa 1960s) by Col. John Boyd, USAF (Ret), a fighter pilot and military strategist. This dynamic process consists of four overlapping and interacting progressions: Observe, Orient, Decide and Act....

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V22N6 (June 2018)
and was posted online on April 20, 2018

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