5 Considerations for Situational Awareness Planning

Situational awareness can be defined simply as awareness of what’s going on around you. For individuals, this means understanding your immediate surroundings and seeing who is there, where the nearest exit is, how far is the next intersection, and other direct geographical components. For those involved in national security, situational awareness is decidedly more complex. Situational Awareness in the DoD encompasses the knowledge and understanding of what is happening on networks, the cyber security systems in place that defend them, and what is happening with forces deployed world-wide.

The challenge of maintaining situational awareness isn’t easily solved. But, there are a number of key elements in implementing situational awareness strategy that are key to better understanding your agency’s environment and being ready to respond.

  • Analysis

Data visualization can help to maintain order in the climax of a crisis but is also a critical element in intelligence gathering before and after the event. The ability to map nearby resources, overlay different data layers, integrate data from various sources, and then alert them to responders in a variety of formats is a critical component of awareness and reaction. Visualization solutions, especially those that are user-friendly and cost effective, can also help make data sets more manageable and effective during the response stages.

  • Face-to-Face

In addition to data, people also need to see one another and be able to see the actual situation, whether it takes place in the real world or within cyber space. Visual technologies from mobile real-time video, to body-worn cameras, to integrated real-time collaboration enable simultaneous awareness and teamwork between field and remote personnel.

  • Governance

When responding to a situation, one of the first steps is to determine which field personnel will need to know certain pieces of information and then coordinating a strategy for the ways to share that data. The balancing act of need to know and need to share can grow increasingly difficult in a cyber security response situation or when responding to a disaster. Assurance and access are key considerations in ensuring the right people get the right information at the right time.

  • Back-up

In providing necessary data and information to responders for a rescue, recovery, or investigative event, it is likely that operations either in the field or at office locations will be disrupted. Infrastructure resiliency should be built into all systems that feed the needed data to personnel. As complex and dynamically evolving threat environments continue to emerge, your agency’s infrastructure should be protected beyond traditional risk mitigation with an eye toward thriving in worst case scenarios.

  • Infrastructure

Beyond building IT infrastructures that handle data dissemination and access, organizations need to also look at real-world infrastructure. In some cases, something as simple as getting electrical power to field personnel can derail the timing or even the entire operation itself. In response to this need, Gridless Power shifted their business focus from supplying power to farmers in fields to first responders after seeing the real power needs that arose during the clean-up efforts of superstorm Sandy. Gridless Power products are portable energy solutions that use solar power to provide energy in areas with little or no infrastructure.

Gaining full situational awareness in times of emergency is difficult, but these tips can help your organization to be more prepared for when it is time to respond. For more insight into situational awareness planning and execution, check out our archived events and resources.

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