Episode 79 | The overconfident incompetent

            This episode discusses the process for competency development and introduces the Dunning-Kruger Effect, a cognitive bias whereby unskilled people suffer from the illusion of having superior skills and knowledge.   Length: 21 minutes http://traffic.libsyn.com/samatters/SAM20079207C20The20Overconfident20Incompetent.mp3 _____________________________________________________ If you are interested in taking your understanding of situational awareness and high-risk decision making to […]

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 […]

Understanding Stress – Part 3: Some stress is good

Stress. Who needs it?! The fact is, we all need it! Welcome to part 3 of my series on first responder stress. In part 2 I discussed three kinds of bad stress: Acute stress, episodic acute stress and chronic stress. Each of them triggered by different things. In some instances the impact is short-lived. In […]


  For the most part, I am fortunate. The first responders who attend my situational awareness classes are humble, courteous and professional. They come to the programs eager to learn, open-minded and ask really smart questions. Clearly, their focus is on improving their safety. But… every once in a while, I get “that guy.”

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 […]

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[clickandtweet handle=”richgasaway” hashtag=”samatters” related=”samatters” layout=”” position=””]Situational awareness starts with capturing clues and cues in your environment[/clickandtweet]  It’s really quite a simple premise. To capture clues and cues requires seeing or hearing them. At a structure fire, the visual clues and cues occupy a finite environment- the building and the space around the building. I am nothing […]

A Recipe From Hell’s Kitchen – Part 3

In  this segment of the Recipe From Hell’s Kitchen series, I share the third step of the recipe – confidence and more specifically how an over-inflated sense of confidence can erode firefighter situational awareness.  Confidence is the sense of assurance that results from the performance of duties believed to be high quality. [tweet this] The problem is confidence […]

Defensive Decision Making

The decision to be defensive or to transition tactics from offensive to defensive at a structure fire requires strong situational awareness [tweet this]   and it may be one of the hardest decisions a commander can make. The difficulty with this decision is not rooted in tactical shortcomings. The problem more fundamental.

19 Ways Communications Barriers Can Impact Situational Awareness

If you are a student of near-miss and casualty reports then you know, without a doubt, that flawed communications is a major contributing factor when things go wrong and flawed communications is often a factor when the quality of situational awareness erodes. In fact, flawed communications was the second most frequently cited barrier to flawed […]

Seven ways frustration can impact situational awareness

Anyone who’s been frustrated knows it can consume a lot of your mental energy and thinking space. This can significantly impact your situational awareness. In fact, depending on the level of frustration, your brain can be hijacked by  all-consuming thoughts about what is causing the angst. While operating at an emergency scene, frustration may draw […]

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