Non-technical skills (NTS) are gaining increasing prominence within the field of emergency medicine. Situational awareness (SA), one key component of NTS, is a key skill for emergency physicians (EPs) during initial training and throughout their career. Furthermore, the majority of frameworks used to evaluate clinical performance incorporate SA as one key component. This review seeks to define and explore the concept of SA within the context of emergency medicine. We describe SA at an individual, team and departmental level. Development of this ability enables EPs to function effectively within the challenging environment of the emergency department (ED). Enhancing our understanding of SA may develop the cognitive process that underpins our clinical performance. We propose a model for consideration to support evaluation and training of SA within the ED, linking the model to the novice expert continuum.