Preventing Fireground Failures: Improving Decision Making Skills

Firefighting Best Practices > Making Quick, Smart Decisions

In this series of posts, we’ve covered the basics for how to prevent fireground failures. With so much at stake, practicing operational readiness, setting expectations and overcoming distractions are major factors in a successful emergency run. In this final installment, we’ll discuss how to make good decisions and how decision-making skills affect the outcome of the job and all of those involved. Share this information with your clients, but most importantly, ensure your client’s service is protected with a Firefighter Liability Insurance package.

Situational awareness (SA).

Situational awareness (SA) refers to the level of knowledge and overall perception of a situation, which is vital in making critical and time-pressured decisions. It essentially involves the degree of attention given to factors in the environment. A person with a high degree of SA is said to have a high level of perception of key aspects of the situation with which he is confronted. Importantly, the actual SA, which is the actual achieved awareness compared to the “ground truth,” may be different from the perceived SA, which is the person’s impression of or confidence in the level of his SA, explains Fire Rescue Magazine.

Analyzing information.

Firefighters tend to gather either “liberal” or “conservative” information on the fireground. How they interpret the information and choose to make a decision that will benefit the team and extinguish the fire as soon as possible.

Making decisions.

While there is a formal 7-step process for analyzing information and making decisions on the fireground, there isn’t enough time on the job to rationally sort all of them out.

The bases of all operational plans are, in order of importance, life safety, incident stabilization, and property conservation. Fire officers and chiefs have become very adept at making decisions at fire and emergency scenes with little information available while managing the rapidly expanding incident. Although they may not realize it, these fire officers are making a series of decisions: Committing personnel and equipment in dangerous conditions using the seven-step process in a very subconscious way in a matter of minutes. They simply call it “size-up” followed by an “incident action plan”.


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