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Situational awareness or situation awareness (SA) is the perception of environmental elements and events with respect to time or space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status after some variable has changed, such as time, or some other variable, such as a predetermined event. It is also a field of study concerned with understanding of the environment critical to decision-makers in complex, dynamic areas from aviation, air traffic control, ship navigation, power plant operations, military command and control, and emergency services such as fire fighting and policing; to more ordinary but nevertheless complex tasks such as driving an automobile or riding a bicycle.
Situation awareness involves being aware of what is happening in the vicinity to understand how information, events, and one's own actions will impact goals and objectives, both immediately and in the near future. One with an adept sense of situation awareness generally has a high degree of knowledge with respect to inputs and outputs of a system, an innate "feel" for situations, people, and events that play out because of variables the subject can control. Lacking or inadequate situation awareness has been identified as one of the primary factors in accidents attributed to human error. Thus, situation awareness is especially important in work domains where the information flow can be quite high and poor decisions may lead to serious consequences (such as piloting an airplane, functioning as a soldier, or treating critically ill or injured patients).
As outlined below, three facets of SA have been in focus in research, namely SA States, SA Systems, and SA processes. SA States refers to the actual awareness of the situation. SA Systems refers to the distribution of SA in teams and between objects in the environment, and to the exchange of SA between system parts. SA Processes refers to the updating of SA States, and what guides the moment-to-moment change of SA.
Having complete, accurate and up-to-the-minute SA is essential where technological and situational complexity on the human decision-maker are a concern. Situation awareness has been recognized as a critical, yet often elusive, foundation for successful decision-making across a broad range of complex and dynamic systems, including aviation, air traffic control, ship navigation, health care, emergency response and military command and control operations, and offshore oil and nuclear power plant management.

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