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Expectations are Important to Situational Awareness

projectionSituational Awareness is developed, maintained and erodes on three levels. The highest level of situational awareness is developed by being able to make realistic and accurate projections of the future events. The projections are sometimes called “mental models.” Projecting the future facilitates being able to see bad things coming… in time to change the outcome.

If there were ever a theme that runs through everything I teach in my classes about situational awareness it is just that:

The mission of SAMatters is to help you see the bad things coming in time to avoid bad outcomes. [tweet this]

One of the best ways available to see the bad things coming is by forming expectations about the future outcomes of the activities happening at the emergency scene. When a crew is given a task there should be two expectations that arise from the assignment:

focus1. What will the successful outcome look like as a result of the crew’s performance?

2. How long should it take the crew to get that task done?

Thinking in terms of a successful outcome requires one to:

Keep your focus on the purpose of your assignment as it relates to the overall incident action plan.[tweet this]

How long it should take for a task to be completed is based on many factors (which I will write about separately in a future article). It is important to place a time expectation on task completion, especially if the conditions of the incident are fast-moving and deteriorating.

Chief Gasaway’s Advice

AdvicePart of the size-up should include thinking about the future. Not only what it will look like, but how much time it should take to look that way. If the expectation is that something should happen within five minutes, it is at the five minute mark that an assessment of the progress should be completed. Does the incident look like it should? If not, why? And more importantly if not, what should be done about it that will ensure the safety of personnel operating in the high-risk environment.



Discussion Questions

Situational Awareness Matters!1. If an incident is deteriorating, why would a commander continue to allow personnel to perform high-risk, high-consequence activities when it appears things are heading toward disaster?

2. Why is it so hard for emergency response personnel to change gears and go in a new direction once an aggressive action plan is in motion?

3. What are some best practices for how to assess progress against expectations?



The mission of Situational Awareness Matters is simple: Help first responders see the bad things coming… in time to change the outcome.

Safety begins with SA! 


Share your comments on this article in the “Leave a Reply” box below. If you want to send me incident pictures, videos or have an idea you’d like me to research and write about, contact me. I really enjoy getting feedback and supportive messages from fellow first responders. It gives me the energy to work harder for you.




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1 thought on “Expectations are Important to Situational Awareness”

  1. Pingback: When Budgets Impact Staffing, Tactics Must Change | Situational Awareness (SA) Matters!

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