The mission of Situational Awareness Matters! is “Helping responders see the bad things coming… in time to change the outcome.” That is often easier said than done. In fact, the lessons that sharpen our situational awareness often comes after the fact.
It is very easy to see the bad things that were coming when we look at an event in hindsight. The trick is seeing it with foresight.
Webster’s define foresight at “looking forward.” Looking forward and making accurate predictions of the future is easier when we have been in the same situation repeatedly. We call that “experience.” Or if we have prepared ourselves for being in such environments. We call that “training.”
The trick for first responders is to be able to see the bad things coming IN TIME to change the outcome. The lessons are learned in real-time it can have a great price – injuries and deaths. There’s too much at stake to let all the lessons come from gaining painful experiences at calls. That’s bad news for responders because the number of structure fires is on the decline. So how can a responder gain experience when calls are down?
Learn from near-missses and tragedy events
One of the best ways to accelerate learning in a meaningful way is to learn from the mistakes of others. This can be done by reading near-miss and line-of-duty death reports. Experienced and well-trained firefighters are experiencing near-miss events and catastrophic events. It’s not always someone doing something “dumb” that leads to bad outcomes.
Here are some resources for near-miss and line-of-duty death reports. When you read these reports, avoid passing judgment on the responders. Instead, try to understand how things unfolded around them and how what they were doing seemed sensible at that moment.
A picture is worth a thousand words
If a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine what a video might be worth. There are LOTS of videos on YouTube that show bad outcomes that, just moments before, seemed like a good idea. Here are a couple:
In this first video, fortunately, firefighters were not in the scene yet. If they were, would they have been able to anticipate this outcome? Now that you’ve watched the video, could you anticipate this might happen at your next vehicle fire?
In this second video, the firefighters were not as fortunate. Now that you’ve watched this video, can you better anticipate something like this happening at your next vehicle fire?
In this video, the firefighters were very unfortunate. This incident resulted in multiple responder fatalities. Does a video like this help you see the bad things that could happen at your next haz-mat incident?
In this final video, firefighters were unable to see the smoke conditions contained the clues and cues indicating something bad could happen. Again, the consequences were significant. Does this video help you anticipate a pending smoke explosion?
Spend some time being a student of near-miss, casualty events and videos. However, don’t judge the responders involved in these incident. Instead, look at your own operations and seek to identify ways to see these bad things coming in time to change the outcome.
Share your thoughts and ideas in the “Leave a Reply” box below.
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!
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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LinkedIn: Rich Gasaway