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These are articles on the SAMatters blog.

Situational Awareness: Think Past, Present & Future

Flawed situational awareness (SA) is one of the leading contributing factors to first responder near-miss and casualty events. In fact, it is nearly impossible to find a line-of-duty death investigation report that does not implicate flawed SA, or one of the barriers that flaw SA, as contributing to the tragedy. As often as flawed SA …

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The Normalization of Deviance

It’s an odd term… normalization of deviance. But the term and the premise behind the term provides a valuable explanation as to some of the behaviors we observe in the first responder world. Defining the terms Normalization: To make normal; to make an established standard. Deviance: Departing from the norm; performing in a non-standardized way. …

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Three types of stress

In this article, we discuss three types of stress: Acute stress, episodic acute stress, and chronic stress. First responders can, and often do, experience all three. Stress can impact firefighter situational awareness and, equally concerning, stress can have devastating long-term impacts. As I was writing this article I recalled various times during my thirty years …

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Weapons of Mass Distraction

The foundation for developing situational awareness is perception – using your senses to gather information about what is happening around you. In lay terms, we call it paying attention. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to develop strong situational awareness if you are not paying attention to what is happening around you. For better …

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Understaffing Impacts Situational Awareness

Understaffing can have a big impact on first responder safety. We all know that. But it can also have a huge impact on first responder situational awareness… more than I ever imagined. I have experienced understaffing issues many times throughout my career but I never gave much thought to how my situational awareness was being …

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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 …

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Tired Brains (fatigue) and Situational Awareness

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 …

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Situational Awareness Matters!

Training For Failure Will Impact Decision Making and Situational Awareness

During a “Firefighter Safety Mistakes & Best Practices program recently, I was approached at the break by a training officer who shared with me how he was making the very mistakes I was talking about in class. It turns out, he has been training his firefighters to fail. He described my message as “A wake-up …

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Situational Awareness Matters!

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 are a major contributing factor when things go wrong and flawed communications are often a factor when the quality of situational awareness erodes. In fact, flawed communication was the second most frequently cited barrier to flawed …

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Team Situational Awareness

This is going to be an uncomfortable conversation as we talk about assessing your team to identify your weak links – the members who are not adequately trained, prepared or fit to perform the duties of a firefighter. During my SA programs, we talk about the need to complete a situational awareness “size-up” of the …

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