Within the law enforcement and security world I see a lot of people or organizations talking about situational awareness (SA) and everyone has their own opinion of what it is. The one thing I see and read is a lot of these organizations do not explain how to do it, or they provide misinformation, and some are on the right track but offers incomplete information.
In this article I will explain that there is a systematic approach on how to achieve SA for the security industry... One thing to take in consideration is that there are two types of SA.
One thing to take in consideration is that there are two types of SA, one type of SA is during an existing threat such as the practice of the OODA loop. The OODA loop is the decision cycle of Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act, developed by military strategist and United States Air Force Colonel John Boyd. Boyd applied the concept to the combat operations process, often at the operational level during military campaigns. This concept is a great tactical response to an active threat situation.
The second type of SA is during a NON-existing threat. This type of SA is designed to detect a threat before it becomes a threat. We call this type of SA- Situational Awareness, Threat Assessment (SATA), SATA provides real time threat assessment to an environment. SATA was created on the foundation of being able to read, understand and establish your environmental baseline. Environmental baseline is the ability to establish what the current conditions of the environment and identifying the current “norm” of your surroundings. By doing this you are establishing a starting point for the environmental baseline.
Situational Awareness starts with Environmental Baseline…
To properly establish an environmental baseline, we need to understand that there are two main elements in the environment. 1- is the physical environment and 2- Is the human factor. There is a third sub-element which is Special Events, Special Events has a direct manipulation and influence on how the two main elements interacts. Below in figure 1 you can see how the three elements come together.
Physical Environment: Is part environment that includes the physical factors such as your immediate surroundings. Immediate surrounds would include the physical layout, such as are you indoors or outdoors. Are there structures such as office buildings, theaters or malls? Are you in a public area such as a shopping centers, concert, amusement park, beaches, city streets or just out in public? What about tangible, miscellaneous items such as equipment, parked vehicles, traffic flow or that unattended bag or package that has no explanation of being there. Also, how about what time of the day, day of the week or what the weather is outside.
Human Factor: Human factors is the study of how humans behave physically and psychologically in relation to a particular environment, situations, physical actions or services. Although human factor is a large area of study, including responses in relation to emotional and other sensory stimuli, we will be concentrating on the human factor of Anomalous Behavior Detection (ABD) or in threat assessment terms; Deviant Behavior Detection (DBD), the ability to identify high risk individuals.
Deviant Behavioral Profiling and Detection is an investigative tool used by law enforcement agencies to identify likely suspects (descriptive offender profiling) and analyze behavioral patterns that may predict deceptive behavior through social norms or criminal activities such as acts of terrorism or active killer situations.
The question is, how do we detect these type of high risk individuals?
When an individual is being deviant and is trying to hide something, such as stealing, smuggling, pre-attack operations such as surveillance or the moments before committing a crime, is called “fear of discovery”. Fear of discovery is the emotional state of an individual when they have increase anxiety of being discovered prior to completing their mission. During fear of discovery a person will have behavior leakage. Behavioral Leakage- is the psychological stress that refers to the emotional and physiological reactions experienced when an individual confronts a situation in which the demands go beyond their coping capabilities.
The effects of stress can be emotional, psychological, and physical. An individual that reaches different levels of their coping capabilities will create leakage in anomalous behavior. It is these behaviors that are observed in order to assess a high-risk individual.
Another important factor to consider when assessing one's behavior is the physical appearance. Physical appearance; such as the individual that might be wearing improper attire for climate, loose bulky clothing or unusual bulges in clothing, how about an individual that appears to be in disguise or attempt to cover their physical appearances in order to conceal their identity, such as a low laying hat or hoodie or sun glasses. How about that individual who appears to be taking a photo or video in an unusual area or in a covert demeanor? All these are important factors when you are comparing physical appearances of an individual to the environment and how they interact with each other.
Are there special events? Special events could increase the population density within an area, such as large gatherings like concerts. Other special events could draw the attention of outside rallies or protests, such as political venues in which increases higher risk of incidents. Special events can have a direct effect that can change or influence the environmental baseline.