From the Works Archives: Firefighting-360: A broad look at better performance

A few years ago, I began writing a bi-monthly column for Fire Rescue Magazine that takes a broad look into ways to operate safer and better in complex and dangerous situations. It’s posted at While the content highlights firefighting, the context focuses on using human factor tools (situation awareness, task management, communication, decision making and teamwork) to bring an intricate system of people, practices, and equipment together when faced with challenging scenarios in high-risk environments.

Here’s the first of those Firefighting-360 columns that addresses our ability to juggle many things at once, sometimes leading to the unintended consequence of overloading our brains and paralyzing our decision making process. It was originally posted at on September 30, 2009.

Photo by Tim Olk

To do two things at once is to do neither.
—Publilius Syrus, Roman slave, first century B.C.

From Multitasking to Task Overload. For firefighters, the ability to do many things at once is crucial, but it’s easy to take it too far! What happens when we go into overload? Does multitasking muddle our brains? Read more…

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