I received an email from a firefighter who was frustrated, disappointed and angry. He came to work for his shift and, as he always does, started his day by performing a safety check of his personal gear and his self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). When he opened the cabinet door on the apparatus he could hardly believe his eyes.
I was invited to be an observer at a regional police tactical training exercise. The program was a multi-day event, starting with some classroom training and culminating in a series of simulations using mock weapons, flash-bangs and actors. The one thing that readily stood out to me was the tactical teams were not using radios to communicate.
Shared situational awareness simply means two or more people have a commonly understood mental model (mental image of what’s happening… and what is going to happen in the future). When responders arrive at the scene of an emergency at different times (which is common), there is a risk that each person arriving will have a different understanding of what is happening because the information (clues and cues) have changed.
This can put responders at risk if they think they have a common understanding of what’s going on, when in reality, they don’t because the information has changed.
There is a growing body of research revealing that many human’s have an irrational obsession with loss. Or, perhaps more accurately, an irrational obsession with AVOIDING loss. This phenomenon is something I have seen played out in my evaluation of many casualty incidents. Ironically, the human trait to avoid loss is the same trait that can lead to a firefighter casualty. Let’s investigate this irrational human obsession – avoiding loss.
I get asked often about the role of fatigue in situational awareness. Sometimes the question is based on general curiosity. Sometimes the inquiry is a result of someone seeking support for (or against) an extended work schedule. I sure don’t want to get caught in the middle of that debate but the question is a good one. Does fatigue impact situational awareness?
I don’t know of any specific studies that link situational awareness to levels of fatigue. However, there is a lot of research that links fatigue to lower levels of physical and mental performance. That’s what I want to talk about here.
Firefighter-Paramedic Ryan Pennington with the Charleston (WV) Fire Department has been conducting extensive research on the epidemic problem of emergencies in hoarder homes. Emergencies including everything from fires to EMS calls to animal hoarding issues – the whole gamut. Ryan has also developed a knock-out program on hoarder home fires. If you’re jurisdiction is having problems with hoarder home fires, Ryan’s program may be just what you need. Let’s see what Ryan has to say in this guest article on “Heavy Content” Hoarder Homes.
I am grateful to Bobby Halton, Diane Rothschild, Cindy Huse, Tommy Grigg, Marla Patterson and the entire Fire Engineering/PennWell team for the opportunity to contribute.
The program delivered this year was a new offering of the situational awareness message.
Promotional video created for Situational Awareness Matters.
(Click on the crest to watch the video)
CLICK HERE for more information about Academy content and how to sign up.
Perhaps you’re going to think I’ve been out in the South Carolina sun too long when you read this proclamation: I want you to make more mistakes! What? It’s true, I do. But before you stop reading this article out of distain for such an absurd statement, please gift me just five minutes of your time to understand, from the perspective of neuroscience, why I want you to fail more.