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Training For Failure Will Impact Decision Making and Situational Awareness

Situational Awareness Matters!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 call.”


He wanted to know how to fix the problem. We spent a considerable amount of time talking about how the problem occurs and how to fix it. He took lots of notes and acknowledged he has some serious work to do, not only in getting the problems corrected but in changing how he views his role as a training officer and how to ensure he stops setting his firefighters up for failure.

Situational Awareness Matters!Oftentimes during programs attendees have these epiphany moments where the light bulb comes on. They see problems that they had previously been blind to. I share numerous examples of real incidents where firefighters have been hurt or killed doing the very things the attendees are doing in their departments. It’s not the intention or goal to scare the participants. But it does validate the message when participants say they now see how vulnerable they are to mistakes.

Receiving this kind of feedback became the motivation to develop the Training for Failure program. The demand was so good that a DVD of the program was also created. The program focuses on how we train firefighter to fail and how to fix the mistakes. We need to stop criticizing performance failures and start understanding and fixing the root causes of failure.

Training for Failure Examples

Situational Awareness Matters!Here are just five examples of how first responders training may be a set-up for failure.

1. Teaching medical responders to say “Scene Safe” without actually teaching (and practicing) the skills to make sure scenes are safe prior to entry.
2. During training fires, instructing participants to advance and flow only small-diameter hose lines on interior attacks as if all real structure fires will be small fires (as the training fires are).

3. Failing to require 360-degree size-ups before EVERY evolution by EVERY crew prior to entry and in the process failing to teach the seven critical pieces of information needed to develop situational awareness.

4. Failing to teach (and practice) with search crews on how to call-off a victim search and evacuate the structure when conditions deteriorate.

5. Failing to teach new firefighters how to make “go” versus “no-go” decisions at training burns instead of the decision ALWAYS being “go” and ALWAYS being made by the training officer.


If you are interested in taking your understanding of situational awareness and high-risk decision making to a higher level, check out the Situational Awareness Matters Online Academy.
CLICK HERE for details, enrollment options, and pricing.


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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