Understanding Stress – Part 4: Hyper Vigilance

Welcome to part four of the series on understanding stress. In the first three segments I talked about the various kinds of stress first responders can experience. For seasoned veterans, the information shared likely served as a good review. For newer members, it may have alerted you to the stressors that may challenge your situational […]

Stress: The Nemesis of Situational Awareness

Thank you for coming along for the ride as I discussed the impact stress has on first responder situational awareness and decision making. This series reads like the chronicles of a virtual chamber of horrors. First responders focus a lot of attention on tactical training and skill development. Far less time (if any) is spent […]

Understanding Stress – Part 5: Tunnel Vision

Welcome to Part 5 of my discussion on stress. In the last segment I talked about the positive and negative impacts of hyper vigilance and its impact on first responder situational awareness. While stress-released hormones increase arousal of the senses, the brain struggles to process all the information coming in. If you try to process […]

Understanding Stress – Part 1: The physical, chemical and emotional impact

I get a lot of inquiries about stress during my programs. I think this is, in part, because of how pervasive stress is in the lives of first responders and the role that stress plays in firefighter situational awareness and decision making. So I thought I’d write an article about stress. Well, as it turns […]

Complacency – a barrier to situational awareness

We develop and maintain situational awareness by being perceptive about what is happening around us. To be perceptive, we must pay attention to what is going on in our environment. We can employ all of our senses to help us pay attention – seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting and smelling. However, if we let our guard […]

Staffing Levels Impact Situational Awareness

Research has demonstrated that, without question, stress can have significant impacts on situational awareness (SA). Stress can narrow your attention, cause task fixation, contribute to heightened awareness of non-critical information (at the detriment of more critical information) and so much more. As stress erodes situational awareness, it can also impact decision making. The research I […]

Radio Traffic Can Improve or Destroy Situational Awareness

When it comes to first responder radio traffic I am reminded of the tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. You may recall that in the story Goldilocks samples three bowls of porridge. One is too hot. One is too cold. And the third is just right. This lesson applies directly to first responder situational […]

The Challenge of Disengagement

Why is it so hard to let go of a decision or an action once we have committed ourselves to it? As I think back on my life, it is easy for me to identify a number of times where my situational awareness eroded and it led to bad decisions. I can attribute a number […]

Situational Awareness: Think Past, Present & Future

Flawed situational awareness (SA) is one of the leading contributing factors to first responder near-miss and casualty events. In fact, it is nearly impossible to find a line-of-duty death investigation report that does not implicate flawed SA, or one of the barriers that flaw SA, as contributing to the tragedy. As often as flawed SA […]

The overconfident incompetent

There are four levels of progression a person goes through in the development of competence. The pathway begins with a complete unawareness of how little a person knows and progresses to a complete unawareness of how much a person knows. There is a dangerous cognitive phenomenon that can occur along this continuum known as the […]

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