An Intelligent Situation Awareness Support System for Safety-Critical Environments

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Journal Article
Decision Support Systems, 2014, 59 pp. 325 - 340
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Operators handling abnormal situations in safety-critical environments need to be supported from a cognitive perspective to reduce their workload, stress, and consequent error rate. Of the various cognitive activities, a correct understanding of the situation, i.e. situation awareness (SA), is a crucial factor in improving performance and reducing error.However, existing systemsafety researches focus mainly on technical issues and often neglect SA. This study presents an innovative cognition-driven decision support system called the situation awareness support system (SASS) to manage abnormal situations in safety-critical environments in which the effect of situational complexity on human decision-makers is a concern. To achieve this objective, a situational network modeling process and a situation assessment model that exploits the specific capabilities of dynamic Bayesian networks and risk indicators are first proposed. The SASS is then developed and consists of fourmajor elements: 1) a situation data collection component that provides the current state of the observable variables based on online conditions and monitoring systems, 2) a situation assessment component based on dynamic Bayesian networks (DBN) to model the hazardous situations in a situational network and a fuzzy risk estimation method to generate the assessment result, 3) a situation recovery component that provides a basis for decision-making to reduce the risk level of situations to an acceptable level, and 4) a human-computer interface. The SASS is partially evaluated by a sensitivity analysis, which is carried out to validate DBN-based situational networks, and SA measurements are suggested for a full evaluation of the proposed system. The performance of the SASS is demonstrated by a case taken from US Chemical Safety Board reports, and the results demonstrate that the SASS provides a useful graphical, mathematically consistent system for dealing with incomplete and uncertain information to help operators maintain the risk of dynamic situations at an acceptable level.
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