Situational awareness consists of being aware of one’s own surroundings and environment, identifying and assessing potential threats or dangerous situations. It is a mindset that can be adopted by anyone who wishes to proactively mitigate their risks and take control of their safety and wellbeing.
When traveling to a new environment, you may not have the some understanding of the resources or lay of the land as locals do. It takes a while to build up familiarity to be able to gauge what may be normal or unusual, or whom to trust. During these times, it is best to keep your situational awareness higher than you might on a day-to-day basis at home.
Upon arrival, get to know the lay of the land and build an emergency action plan; that is, establish a plan for communicating with others and know local emergency resources.
- Do I know the local version of 911?
- Do I know how to contact my program leader/students/travel companions (if applicable)?
- Do I know how to contact CISI?
- Do I know where my nearest embassy or consulate is?
- Do I know where the local medical facilities are? The pharmacy?
- Do I know where the local police station is?
- Do I have copies of my important documents (i.e. passport, visas, insurance card)?
A few key elements to employ while practicing situational awareness are as follows:
- Recognize that threats to your personal health, safety and security do exist. This is true even while traveling in locations considered “safer” than others.
- Understand that you are ultimately responsible for your own security. Resources of governments and first responders are finite, particularly during major events. Look out for yourself as well as engage in bystander intervention by looking out for the wellbeing of any travel companions.
Trust your gut. Your subconscious can often notice subtle signs of danger that you may not be able to fully articulate or comprehend consciously in a given moment. It may be inconvenient to trust your intuition, but if you suspect you may be in danger following your instincts can help you avoid a more serious complication or situation.