The Army is putting considerable effort into developing tools to improve situation awareness for individual soldiers and for supporting shared SA and collaboration across teams.Read our paper
Being aware of what is happening around you and understanding what the information means to you now and in the future, is the basis for situation awareness (SA.) When people are required to make critical choices – sometimes at a fast pace – the vast majority of errors that occur are a direct result of failures in situation awareness. In the operation of complex systems, the result can be catastrophic – airplanes crash, emergency response teams flounder, critical commercial systems falter – all at a great cost in lives and dollars.
There are three levels of situation awareness: perceiving critical factors in the environment (Level 1 SA), understanding what those factors mean, particularly when integrated together in relation to the operator's goals (Level 2), and at the highest level, an understanding of what will happen with the system in the near future (Level 3). These higher levels of SA allow people to function in a timely and effective manner, even with very complex and challenging tasks.
People working in critical environments are highly dependent on situation awareness. Its principles have emerged as a critical component in the air traffic control, aviation, space exploration, homeland defense, transportation, power systems, medical and military industries, where it brings insight and order to help:
- gain knowledge and optimize disparate information
- facilitate the sharing of information in real time
- develop proactive problem solutions
Systems that do not support real-time situation awareness, allow overwork, information overload and missing information to jeopardize successful outcomes. In addition, ineffective teamwork, poor judgment, and lack of coordination can lead to inconsistent and dangerous behavior by teams that lack shared SA.
By uncovering how people think and work, SA–oriented design and training creates powerful and efficient user–focused systems to:
- reduce human errors and system failures
- increase interface usability
- minimize liability