These are articles on the SAMatters blog.

Sensory Conflict

The process by which situational awareness is formed begins with using your five senses (seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting and smelling) to gather information from your environment. That may arguably be the easiest part of the situational awareness developmental process so long as you are “paying attention” to your environment. Once the senses gather information, it …

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First responder fatigue

Sleep and Situational Awareness

The work schedule, along with the physical and mental demands placed on first responders and people working in high risk environments, 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 …

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Situational Intelligence – The New Buzz Word

I am just back from attending a fire conference where the vendors of information management software have coined a new buzzword to sell their wares – “situational intelligence.” A couple of years ago I had a conversation with a software vendor who claimed his software “created” situational awareness. I found this claim both annoying and …

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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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Relationship Bias – A Barrier to Situational Awareness

During a recent Flawed Situational Awareness program I conducted an exercise to show just how stubborn our brains can be. Without going into too much detail here, the exercise is designed to demonstrate the consequences of relationship biases. The results of the exercise are quite predictable and consistent. Whether we like it or not, our …

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Situational Awareness on the Roadway

There are an untold number of incidents in which responders have been struck by vehicles while working on roadway incidents. The roadway is one of the more dangerous work environments for emergency responders to operate in because conditions can go from being totally benign to total chaos in just a matter of seconds.  

Room for Improvement

I recently read an investigation report where a firefighter died and it made me sad. First, as we see so often in after action reviews, it appears as though the tragedy may have been preventable. The second thing that made me sad about this investigation report was the inaccurate and incomplete recommendations about situational awareness. …

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Pre Arrival Lens and Situational Awareness

The pre-arrival lens is a neurological phenomenon that can both help and hinder situational awareness. The “lens” is your mental view of the incident you are responding to, developed prior to your arrival,  and based on the triangulation of three primary data sources – dispatch information (shared via radio), past experience and imagination. This article …

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Situational Awareness Matters

The Perfect Storm

In one of my recent Mental Management of Emergencies classes a participant was describing an incident that resulted in several first responder casualties. As he shared the details, he described the unfolding of events as “The Perfect Storm.” This article will discuss the origins of that phrase and share why we should consider changing our …

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Safeguards – It’s a fair question

I had the opportunity recently to talk with a very progressive fire chief about situational awareness. I really enjoy my conversations with him because I always learn something. He was telling me that his department just hired 17 new paid-on-call members. He shared with me that during the hiring process he visits the home of …

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