It is quite common that, following a situational awareness program, participants will come up to talk with me and share their feedback on the program. Occasionally, I get emails and postings on social media outlets (Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn) sharing positive feedback as well. I want to share an email I recently received from Chris Covington (printed here with permission).
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 situations.
Let’s explore what happens and what the impact can be on your situational awareness.
The social interaction between coworkers may not be on your mind as you think about first responder situational awareness. But the fact is we are all influenced by our relationships with others. We have an inherent internal desire to be well-liked and respected. We also have a very strong internal drive to avoid embarrassment. These traits of human behavior can impact your situational awareness. Here’s how…
“Scene Safe, BSI.” These words have been uttered by every first responder who has ever received medical training. In fact, any responder who has performed a practical exercise for certification knows the first two mandatory skills to be completed on the evaluation checklist are: (1) Ensure the scene is safe before entering, and (2) Don protective gear (BSI – Body Substance Isolation). Ensuring the scene is safe is rooted in situational awareness – being able to capture the clues and cues that helps a responder comprehend what is happening. There’s just one fundamental problem with this.
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 a great influencer of behaviors, both positive and negative. Culture can also influence situational awareness. Let’s explore how…
Buildings are disposable. Firefighters are not!
This guest editorial contribution is provided by Chief John Buckman III, Director of the Indiana State Fire Training and Certification System. Chief Buckman posted this piece on Facebook and, with his permission, it is being reposted here. The message is short and powerful.
The work schedule, along with the physical and mental demands placed on first responders can quickly cause brain fatigue. Most responders know that fatigue can have an impact on critical thinking and mental acuity. This, in turn, can have a significant impact on situational awareness.
Situational awareness is developed and maintained by using your senses to capture, and your brain to process (and understand) critical clues and cues. When you are fatigued, the sensory inputs can be dulled and the brain’s ability to comprehend the sensory inputs can be diminished.
Congratulations to Bazetta Fire Department (Cortland, Ohio) Captain Brian Taylor on being selected to receive the 2013 “Emerging Leader” Scholarship. Brian will receive a $1,500 check and free registration to attend the VCOS Symposium in the Sun Conference in Clearwater Beach, Florida, November 7-10.
The annual scholarship award is endowed by The Gasaway Consulting Group.
“I am a big proponent of the concept of paying it forward,” notes GCG President (and webmaster for Situational Awareness Matters!) Richard B. Gasaway. “The VCOS and the Symposium in the Sun have played a very important role in my development as a chief officer. I am delighted to be able to give back to the VCOS and help a new chief attend this world-class conference.”
It’s time to PAY IT FORWARD
There are dozens (if not hundreds) of speakers, trainers and consultants earning their living from working with fire departments. You know who you are! It’s time to step up and give back by investing some of your earnings in the future leadership of the fire service. I challenge you to sponsor a scholarship to a conference of your choice. Don’t skimp. Make it a full-ride scholarship. Go on… Pay It Forward!
Past recipients of the Emerging Leader Scholarship include:
Fire Chief Ryan Pierson of the Pitman (N.J.) Fire Department
Fire Chief David DeRoller of the Sea Breeze (N.Y.) Fire District
Fire Chief Scott F. Brewer of St. Tammany (La.) Parrish Fire District #9
If you have visited SAMatters before, you know the mission of the site is to help first responders improve situational awareness by “Helping you see the bad things coming in time to change the outcome.”
Something happened today that I didn’t see coming and I’d like to share the story with you. Thank you for allowing me the latitude to veer from my mission of improving first responder safety… if only momentarily.