Duty to Die Syndrome

I recently sent out a message across my social media networks (Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn) about bravado being a barrier to situational awareness. The message, in case you missed it, read: Bravado: The purposeful ignorance of critical signs of danger coupled with a sense of invincibility. A barrier to situational awareness.  First responders sometimes confuse […]

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 […]

The impact of over sharing on situational awareness

Have you ever been around someone who takes twenty minutes to tell a five-minute story? What does that do to you? I know what it does to me. It lowers my vigilance (i.e., the amount of attention I am channeling to them), it can cause me to become frustrated, bored, tune them out and find […]

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 […]

Seven situational awareness thieves

Recently I had a video clip shared with me of a residential dwelling fire. The video captures a flashover event. It was reported to me that firefighters were operating inside the structure when it occurred. As I watched the video progress, it was apparent interior conditions were getting worse, the color of the smoke was […]

Task Saturation Impacts Situational Awareness

There’s no doubt that in dynamically changing, high-risk, high-consequence environments someone could be called upon to perform many varied tasks, some at the same time. When staffing levels are low, the likelihood of this situation can increases significantly. The problem this creates is the brain does not perform well when task saturated, especially in stressful […]

Culture And Situational Awareness

Each member of the fire department is guided by a unique system of values, beliefs, assumptions and norms. Every member also brings their own unique habits and routines. What happens when you combine the values, beliefs, assumptions, norms, habits and routines of many unique individuals within an organization? You create culture. Organizational culture can be […]

Mission Myopia: A situational awareness barrier

Every emergency scene operation should begin with determining the mission (sometimes called strategy) and setting task-level goals (sometimes called tactics). Strategy and tactics establish what is to be done and how it is to be done. For example, at a structure fire, arriving responders are trained to conduct search and rescue operations and to extinguish […]

Tacit knowledge and situational awareness

While conducting research on how decisions are made during high consequence events I came across a term I’d never heard before – “tacit knowledge.” Once I learned what it was it quickly became evident that I possessed it… and I didn’t know it. In fact, every first responder who has developed expert-level knowledge and skills […]

Developing Situational Awareness in Novice Responders

One of the most frequent questions I get asked during the Mental Management of Emergencies and Fifty Ways to Kill a First Responder programs is: How can a novice responder develop expert knowledge when the number of fires are going down? It’s a great question and a great concern because so much of situational awareness […]

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