Situational Awareness Management

It is with heavy Heart that I write this issue of the SGA Newsletter. In the past few weeks we have lost several brothers in Blue. As a matter of fact, this year we have lost almost 200 Firefighters, Police Officers and EMS personnel in the line of duty. This is heartbreaking and unacceptable for emergency responders. The majority of these line of duty deaths can be attributed to a breakdown of situational awareness. With complete understanding of situational awareness most of these responders would not have taken the actions that contributed to their deaths. Let's be clear dying in the line of duty is NOT an heroic act it is a tragedy.

Here are some key points to remember when dealing with any emergency response to help maintain situational awareness. Remember an incident should not be an emergency to us, this is what we do. With that being said, we should do everything in our power to make every emergency response as routine as possible. If it is routine, then everyone will keep calm, cool,
collected and professional.

Situational Awareness Management Adapted from the Military Model

  1. Predetermine crew roles - This is done in our daily routines why not on an incident scene. Firefighter cleans
    the heads, Engineer checks the rig, Captain drinks the coffee!!!
  2. Develop a plan and assign responsibilities - This plan should be based on Facts, Probabilities, Possibilities and your own situation.
  3. Solicit input from all crew members - Just because you are in charge does not give you a monopoly on
    good ideas. Make sure the crew understands and supports the plan. This will improve the chances of success.
  4. Rotate attention - Do not get tunnel vision. The crew is task focused and should concentrate on the task at hand. The Officer is responsible to protect the crew so keep that head on a swivel, observing everything that can hurt them.
  5. Monitor & evaluate current status - This means being aware of events that are occurring around you. Are the actions  or events going to affect your or your crew's situation?
  6. Project ahead & consider contingencies - Always have a "Plan B" and if you implement "Plan B" create a "Plan C". Do not wait for something unexpected to occur before you react to it.
  7. Focus on the details & scan the big picture - The details matter when it comes to safety, Micro management is frowned upon from a leader but detail focus in high risk operations is mandatory. This is why our span of control is reduced for the more dangerous tasks.
  8. Create visual and/or verbal reminders of interrupted tasks - Things happen to distract us during incidents. Create a system to refocus after the distraction occurs. Mine was to place the second chock block on the driver's seat when the first chock block is used. I never drove away without picking up the chock blocks. I made plenty of other mistakes but chock blocks was not one of them.
  9. Watch for clues of degraded situational awareness - These clues can be as simple as lack of understanding of expectations or poor communications. The thing you will regret is when something goes wrong is being told "I thought you knew". Continuously evaluate situational awareness.
  10. Speak up when you see situational awareness breaking down - See something Say something will protect the lives and safety of yourself and your crew.

Following these tips may save a life. 200 lives in 10 months is way too many. As always be safe out there and TRAIN LIKE YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT BECAUSE IT DOES!!!