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Keeping Families Safe: Situational Awareness

Panorama and close-up on kid with backpack using smartphone while walking on crosswalkIt’s important for the safety and well-being of ourselves and our family that we pay attention to our surroundings while at home, at school, and in public. While you’re shopping at a mall, do you know where the closest exit is? Do your children know what to do if they’re separated from you?

Having a plan and good situational awareness can make a significant difference in an emergency. Read the information below to start incorporating situational awareness in your family’s daily routine.

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What is situational awareness?

Situational awareness is being aware of one’s surroundings and any potential hazards or threats. A person who practices situational awareness recognizes the possibility of being attacked, harmed, or put in a dangerous situation and is prepared to act to protect themselves.

People who work on improving their situational awareness have heightened observation, become more aware, are better strategic thinkers, and are able to better take advantage of opportunities. There are four main characteristics of situational awareness including observation, orientation, decision, and action.

  • Observation involves constantly monitoring the people and actions taking place around you. Is someone around you exhibiting violent behavior?
  • Orientation encourages you to think about what is around you and how you’re processing information based on your own experience. If found in trouble, where will you ask for help?
  • The decision has you weigh all your options and look for what is the best possible outcome within your own capabilities.
  • Action is the last step and has you use all the previous information to protect yourself and get to safety.

Why is it important?

The more prepared and aware of possible hazards and dangerous scenarios, the less likely we are to be accidentally hurt or become a victim of crime. You can start improving your everyday safety by incorporating the following tips:

While at home

  • Switch up your route home and routine while at home. Keep people guessing where you are and what you’re doing.
  • If you think you’re being followed don’t drive to your home, drive to a police station. If you’re unable to do so, drive to a public place like a shopping center or restaurant where you can ask for help.
  • Before you enter your home, look for anything out of place or any damage around the perimeter.
  • Leave your entrance and backyard lights on and always close your blinds when it’s dark outside.
  • If you don’t have a security system in your home, keep an extra car key on your nightstand. If you hear something at night you can turn on your vehicle’s alarm and scare the intruder.

While at work

The work we do at our jobs can become second nature, create complacency and prevent us from intentionally processing new information. Situational awareness is a critical skill, not only for decision making but also for accident prevention in the workplace. Follow these tips to have a safer work experience.

  • Pay close attention to your actions in high stress or high workload situations.
  • Incorporate the four situational awareness characteristics when starting a new project, working in a new environment or with new people.
  • Create a habit of regularly assessing your work and your work environment. Ask yourself:
    • Is there a threat present?
    • Is there anything I can do to reduce the threat?
    • Can I continue working safely?
  • Acknowledge emotional and physical cues from your coworkers.
  • Observe warning signs! Is there unusual or threatening behavior or speech at your place of work?
  • Be proactive in communicating schedules and information with your coworkers and supervisors.

Walking to Your Car

  • Avoid walking alone or walk near other people to your parking garage. If no one is around, call a friend but make sure to stay alert and keep your head up.
  • Look confident and walk with purpose. Know where you are going and have a plan.
  • Stay away from isolated or poorly lit areas.
  • Have your keys in hand before you reach your vehicle.
  • If you’re being followed, walk to a store, restaurant, or gas station.

Parking Lot Safety

  • Park in highly visible, well-lit areas, and away from panel vans.
  • Never leave valuables in a car where they can be easily seen from the outside.
  • Always lock your car doors when parked and limit the amount of time you spend idle in your car.
  • Use your car’s horn to draw attention if you’re approached or in danger.
  • Be aware of anything out of place on or near your car.

While Driving

  • Avoid any distractions like cellphones, food, or other passengers while driving. Learn more about Distracted Driving
  • Pay attention to yourself before you start driving. Are you tired, frustrated, or in a hurry?
  • Scan the road for hazards and traffic including weather conditions.

In a Public Area

  • Avoid distractions such as texting, listening to headphones or being on your cellphone.
  • Know exits and areas to cover and hide in places you frequently visit, as well as new locations.
  • Teach your children where to go and who to ask for help if you become separated.
  • Don’t set your drink down in public where someone could add something to it and don’t accept a drink you didn’t watch being poured.
  • If someone tries to take you, make a scene and do everything you can to avoid going to a second location.


  • Accidental injury is the 3rd cause of death in the U.S. 1
  • In the U.S., in the span of 10 minutes, three people will die from a preventable accident, 847 will suffer a severe injury, causing $18.42 million in related costs. 2
  • In 2017, 127,300 injury-related deaths occurred in homes and communities, including poisoning (51%) and falls (28%). 3
  • There were a total of 82 work related deaths in Arizona in 2017; transportation accidents were the leading cause of occupational deaths. 4
  • In 2018, Arizona experienced one robbery every hour, a burglary every 17 minutes, and an aggravated assault every 28 minutes. 5
    • There were a total of 185,262 property crimes, with the highest number occurring in January.
    • Value of stolen property amounted to $193,018,571.
  • In 2018, Maricopa County experienced 4,585 cases of robbery, 19,233 cases of burglary and 12,210 cases of aggravated assault. 5
    • 13,095 cases of burglary occurred in a residence.
    • Value of property stolen amounted to $108,822,932.



  1. “Accidents or Unintentional Injuries.” Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed February 2020.
  2. “Preventable Deaths: Minute by Minute.” National Safety Council. Accessed February 2020.
  3. “Home and Community Overview.” National Safety Council. Accessed February 2020.
  4. “Fatal Work Injuries in Arizona – 2018.” U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed February 2020.
  5. “Crime in Arizona 2018.” Arizona Department of Public Safety. Accessed February 2020.