[t]he knowledge and understanding of the current operational status, risk posture, and threats to the cyber environment gained through instrumentation, reporting, assessments, research, investigation, and analysis, which are used to enable well-informed decisions and timely actions to pre-empt, deter, defend, defeat, or otherwise mitigate against those threats and vulnerabilities.
It is also a field of study concerned with perception of the environment critical to decision-makers in complex, dynamic areas from aviation, air traffic control, power plant operations, military command and control, anti-terrorism activities, and emergency services such as fire fighting and policing; to more ordinary but nevertheless complex tasks such as driving an automobile or motorcycle.
Officials at CDC with key biosurveillance responsibilities subscribe to a definition [of situational awareness] that includes three components: (1) awareness that a situation has occurred (e.g., detection of a biological condition that differs from the norm), (2) comprehension of its meaning (e.g., characterization of the nature and scope of a biological event), and (3) projection of its likely course in the near future (e.g., how its nature and scope will evolve and the decision implications of that evolution, particularly whether it may have catastrophic consequences). The projection aspect of situational awareness, sometimes overlooked in other definitions, is crucial in the biological context, because of the high degree of uncertainty and instability as the event unfolds over a period of time, which is not necessarily encountered in more discrete disaster events."
The key to maintaining situational awareness is preparing to handle large-scale incidents, which should include the following:
Establishing, documenting, maintaining, and exercising on-hours and off-hours contact and notification mechanisms for various individuals and groups within the organization and outside the organization.
Preparing one or more individuals to act as incident leads who are responsible for gathering information from the incident handlers and other parties, and distributing relevant information to the parties that need it.