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These are articles on the SAMatters blog.

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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Situational Awareness Matters!

The Two Headed Incident Commander

A subscriber to the Situational Awareness Matters newsletter recently sent me a photograph of an emergency incident scene that caused me to reflect on a very important situational awareness lesson. This lesson, unfortunately, is often overlooked and is often implicated as a contributing factor to near-miss and casualty events. Let’s spend a little time examining …

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Teaching Decision Making to Firefighters

In a recent class, I engaged in a discussion with an officer who took exception with my recommendation that firefighters should be taught how to use situational awareness to make good decisions. His contention was that the fire service is a paramilitary organization and firefighters should not be decision-makers. Further contention was firefighters should obediently …

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The Challenge of Disengagement

Why is it so hard to let go of a decision or an action once we have committed ourselves to it? As I think back on my life, it is easy for me to identify a number of times where my situational awareness eroded and it led to bad decisions. I can attribute a number …

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Using the Simulation Environment to Improve Situational Awareness

Many first responder training programs use simulation in the development of decision-making competencies. Simulation exercises help develop skills in setting strategy and tactics, in applying policies and procedures and in developing critical thinking skills. How can simulations be used in the development of situational awareness skills? The answer lies, in part, in understanding what situational …

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Situational Awareness: Catastrophically Important to First Responder Safety

This video serves as an example of the importance of situational awareness. Please do not judge this department, the responders, or the commander. Rather, seek to learn and understand WHY… the things they were doing at the moment in time that things went bad… made sense to them. Those attending the Mental Management of Emergencies …

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Standards Can Harm Decision Making Under Stress

I am a big advocate of departments having standardized procedures to guide operations as tools to help develop and maintain situational awareness. I don’t really care if you call them Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) or Standard Operating Guidelines (SOGs). The important thing is you have a set of commonly understood Standards that guide performance. Standards …

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Task Saturation Impacts Situational Awareness

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 increases significantly. The problem this creates is the brain does not perform well when task saturated, especially in stressful situations. …

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Selective Listening Can Be A Barrier To Situational Awareness

Because first responders frequently operate in environments where there are multiple auditory inputs (e.g., radio traffic, face-to-face communications, ambient sounds, etc.) they are often forced to prioritize what they listen to (or don’t listen to). This can cause issues with situational awareness.