How ‘Situational Awareness’ Can Keep You Safe

How often do you really acknowledge your surroundings?

This is a question that author Dan Schilling sets out to tackle in his recent book, “The Power of Situational Awareness.” Along with being an argument for situational awareness, Schilling’s book puts forth practical advice on how to become more situationally aware.

“Situational Awareness (SA) is the perception of environmental elements and events with respect to time or space,” Schilling writes, adding: “the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their future status.”

In other words, “Situational Awareness is knowing where I am and what’s around me, what’s going on in my surroundings and my place in them,” the author notes.

Many individuals are not always aware of their surroundings for one reason or another, and, as Schilling argues, this makes them a target for criminals. Technology hasn’t helped in this regard. As the author points out, walking around with earbuds and staring at your phone basically makes you blind and deaf to your surroundings.

“[Y]ou needn’t travel to third-world countries or war zones to find yourself in [an] undesirable situation,” Schilling writes. “It can happen in the city where you live or in your very own home. They key is to be aware, so that if something does happen, or it is about to, you can shape the situation in a way that produces a positive outcome based on your available options.”

One this that SA is not . . . SA is not about walking around paranoid. SA is also not about being scare or fearful all of the time. One important thing that SA does do, however, is that it allows us to be aware of our environments in case something does happen. This means that a person ought to assess their environment and then determine if it’s OK or not.

This is particularly important in unfamiliar situations.

Schilling distinguishes among 4 different types of situations to remember. They are:

  • Unsafe, Familiar
  • Safe, Familiar
  • Unsafe, Unfamiliar
  • Safe, Unfamiliar

Knowing these four situations can help you assess the environment you are in and make the appropriate judgements from there. Obviously, being in your home, for example, is a case of “Safe, Familiar.” But being in an “Unsafe, Unfamiliar” situation is not the time or place to be listening to music in your earbuds and walking around with your eyes glued to your phone.

Knowing the four types of situations is a good first step towards being situationally aware.


Schilling, D. (2021). The power of situational awareness. Grand Central Publishing. New York, NY.

Brooke Lamberti

Brooke Lamberti is a content writer based out of Scranton, Pennsylvania. She received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Marywood University, and has prior career experience working in social work and domestic violence advocacy. She has a passion for writing and helping others.

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