Auditory Situation Awareness in Urban Operations

Angélique Scharine, Tomasz Letowski, James B. Sampson


Soldiers conducting urban operations (UO) require focused attention and heightened awareness due to the complexity of the operational environment and its dangers. Often visual information is lacking, forcing combatants to rely heavily on auditory information. Unfortunately, Soldiers have reported difficulty using sound information; they cannot locate the sources of sounds and are distracted by irrelevant sounds. This report details how the urban acoustic environment affects situation awareness. It summarizes research literature on auditory localization and describes how auditory observations affect Soldier operations. It stresses that the same physical properties of the environment that interfere with vision may interfere with sound recognition and localization. Further, the quantity of information, relevant and irrelevant, makes it difficult for the Soldier to process all of the information available. Although the most effective tool is training and experience, we also suggest a few simple strategic and technical solutions.

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JMSS is a publication of the Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary.

JMSS gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council.