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Situational Awareness: Getting the Big Picture

Learning to Drive

When I was learning to drive, I enrolled in a defensive driving course. This was a requirement of my parents if I wanted to drive their cars. There was a central theme to the course: the  instructor spoke repeatedly about “getting the big picture”. He  explained to us how we couldn’t just look forward. We had to see all around. We had to properly position our rearview and side mirrors and do shoulder checks. Only then would we have a full understanding of our position. And not just that, we had to understand the relative position of other vehicles to us. We also had to take into account all the other conditions on the road. He repeated this phrase to us endlessly. I’m old enough to be from a time before technology kicked in. We didn’t have backup cameras, lane drift alerts or parallel parking assist. 

Situational Awareness in Driving?

What on earth does this have to do with security? Even though it wasn’t his language, the instructor was teaching us to have full situational awareness. He wanted us to see our environments thoroughly. Only then could we perceive our environments thoroughly. Go beyond that to comprehend the situation as it was in that moment. And take the next step to project events to maintain safe distance and speed as we continued on our way. For instance, he taught us not to look only at the position of a car, but to see which way its wheels were directed since that was a better indicator of where the car was headed. 

Safety, Security & Driving?

All of his advice is spot on for security. Security is most effective if surveillance is not just comprehensive but delivered in a way that is immediately understandable. More than that, in order to have a proper understanding of the security or safety of our environs, we need first to perceive all that is going on effectively. A well trained guard or first responder knows the signs that someone is carrying a weapon

We are still ahead of analytics

This training gives us powers of perception, which is a power tool in our toolkit for keeping people safe. Video analytics hasn’t yet become as powerful as our minds in this specific regard.  It is only when we really see the area thoroughly that we can begin to have comprehension. And it’s these two steps that lead us to an understanding of the direction of events, as in the Endsley Model of Situational Awareness.

It isn’t obvious that ‘the big picture’ in defensive driving is applicable to safety and security – and even Smart Cities. It’s only when we see that really, it’s just situational awareness that we use every day. When we incorporate this into our goals for security, we can use technology more effectively because we won’t settle for less than the ‘big picture’. Liquid360 is a great tool to achieve this goal.