What is Situational Awareness and How is it Used?

Understanding the foundations of situational awareness can help you better execute your emergency plans.

Situational awareness is a simple concept, yet people often miss it or over complicate it. Originally a military term referring to a pilot’s operational status and knowledge of immediate threats, today the term has broad applications in any environment. At its essence, situational awareness refers to real-time information about what’s happening in and around a given facility/campus/enterprise. This knowledge is made possible by integrating disparate alarm and communication systems for centralized monitoring, alerting and reporting.

Any threat or deviation from normal operations requires that both on- and off-site responders have situational awareness as soon as a triggering event occurs. With a universal alerting engine, triggering events can be harnessed to drive awareness transactions – aka alerts – with specific details about an unfolding situation and how to address it. Therefore, situational awareness is the key to successful emergency communications and response management for any campus.

Is situational awareness complicated? No. Is it a challenge? Yes, because any number of life safety, security and environmental alarm systems are at work on any given campus at any given time. Then you have to factor in a combination of voice and data networks, not to mention a plethora of communication devices. The world’s communication infrastructure has moved from rudimentary to super charged – from radios, handsets and pagers to smartphones and tablets. There’s been a proliferation of screens for sharing information.

But thanks to computer-telephony integration (CTI) and robust middleware, every sensor, alarm and communication end point can be unified to ensure that key individuals, select groups or entire populations are able to read, hear and see what’s happening and do the right things in response, based on predefined protocols or modes and actions (i.e., if this, then that). Instead of a generic nomenclature, detailed alerts, including the nature of the alert plus location data, are delivered according to your organization’s rules – critical information that can improve response in terms of both the right action and the right timing. Campus administrators then can generate daily and historical reports to analyze response times and emergency protocols to identify problems and make improvements.

RELATED: Centralized Monitoring: Your Key End-to-End Situational Awareness

So situational awareness improves security and public safety, but it can also make a big difference when it comes to hospitality. Again, with computer-telephony integration (CTI) and the right software, disparate systems and databases can talk to each other, presenting a unified awareness experience for any user via self-service kiosk within the room, common areas and even users’ own devices.

Meals, activities, surveys, check-in, maintenance and lighting are just a few of the functions that can be integrated and streamlined to improve communication, workflow and service – from the hospital bedside to the university dorm room to the stadium suite. Additionally, having control of these self-service screens also provides the ability to push emergency notifications if needed.

Mike MacLeod is the president of Status Solutions.

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Campus Safety magazine is another great resource for public safety, security and emergency management professionals. It covers all aspects of campus safety, including access control, video surveillance, mass notification and security staff practices. Whether you work in K-12, higher ed, a hospital or corporation, Campus Safety magazine is here to help you do your job better!

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