Ignoring the Signs of Danger

A lesson on situational awareness: The tones drop for a reported residential fire. On the way, dispatch reports multiple calls, confirming a working fire. On arrival the crew sees fire blowing out the B-C corner of the single story, detached residential. The resident is standing in the front yard. A quick inquiry reveals they are […]

Firefighting: It’s a whole new ballgame

There is little doubt the economic recession of 2008-2009 had a significant impact on the nation’s fire service. Hardly a day went by where there wasn’t some news about an organization that downsized, rightsized or capsized. There are all kinds of terms being attached to what happened. One I heard at the time was this […]

Explaining Resistance to Change

Imagine for a moment that you’re part of a 4-person first-due crew responding on to an apartment fire. On the way to the call the dispatcher announces over the radio that a caller is reporting the fire to be on the first floor of a three-story apartment building. Your company officer tells you that on […]

Don’t shoot the messenger

Situational awareness is developed by combining three component parts: perception, understanding and prediction. The first part, perception, is a process of gathering information – clues and cues – about what is happening in the environment around you. Some of those clues and cues are obvious. Others are subtle. Some happen right in front of you. […]

Culture And Situational Awareness

Each member of an emergency response team 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 […]

Another False Alarm: A Tale of Complacency

Complacency is a big deal for first responders because it impacts your situational awareness on multiple levels. I would like to give every responder the benefit of the doubt that if or when they have found him or herself being complacent that it wasn’t happening on purpose. In other words, I hope every responder desires […]

Situational Awareness Begins With Knowing Your Equipment

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 […]

Situational Awareness Starts with the Size-Up

During my fireground situational awareness classes we talk about the process for making high-stress, high consequence decisions. The first step in this process is performing a rapid size up. When I ask participants how long they take to size up a single-family residential dwelling fire with no exposures, the answer I get ranges from 10 […]

Resistance to Change

Imagine for a moment that you’re part of a 4-person first-due crew responding on to an apartment fire. On the way to the call the dispatcher announces over the radio that a caller is reporting the fire to be on the first floor of a three-story apartment building. Your company officer tells you that on […]

Episode 72: The dispatcher’s role in forming first responder situational awareness

  Some of the least appreciated members of the emergency response team are the communications specialists (in some venues, termed dispatchers). How do I know this? First, I served as a communications specialist (my job title was dispatcher) early in my career and I was routinely subjected to criticism and ridicule from responders because the […]

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