Rocky Mountain firefighters were surprised by the unexpected collision of a dust-devil and a brush fire. It became a “firenado.”
Last Friday, I had the privilege of speaking at the the Great Florida Fire School in Ft. Pierce, Florida. Hundreds of firefighters attended the week-long conference that included both lecture and practical programs ranging from live fire to classroom classes. A few of my friends delivered the following classes: Applications of Positive Pressure (Captain John Flynn), The Courage Within (Driver/Operator Ric Jorge), and Gauges Don’t Lie (Doug Watson).
My program was a compilation of a few of my previous lectures on crew resource management that address stress, situation awareness, decision making, and intentional command all rolled into one. I called it Arrival, Now What: The First Fifteen are the Most Important! Why are the first 15 minutes the most important? It’s simple, that’s where more things happen than we have time and resources to handle. This highly compressed time frame increases chaos that forces us to play catch up, and we have to be more aware of it and have a better approach to handle it. Following are some takeaways from my presentation, just to get you thinking.
Numerous “fireground frictions” impact impact the first fifteen minutes of an incident. Frictions are “uncertainties that complicate performance” and they include, but are not limited to, disorientation, extreme fire behavior, loss of situation awareness, task saturation, and command confusion. Watch the video below for information about how new materials and technologies that are making fire-related risks much greater and our challenges for more difficult.
How do we transform unproductive confusion and disorder into controllable challenges? We study the predictability and performance of buildings and today’s fireground, and we improve the skill of controlling chaos. New scientific studies are showing us (seeing can be believing) how our tactics sometimes help or hinder the situation. The video below shows how controlling the door can seriously impact a fire event, and can help us control the fire (watch the temperatures change).
To stay ready, we have to practice sensible approaches that improve situation awareness, reduce task saturation, and improve decision making in those highly compressed time frames. Here are some of the sources I used to make my point:
- Chris Naum’s Buildings On Fire
- Chief Ed Hartin’s CFBT-US (Compartment Fire Behavior Training)
- the NIST Building and Research Technology studies
- the National Fire Academy’s “5 Box” model for identifying problems
- Michael Daley’s The Strategic Six & The First Five Minutes
What other problems (frictions) can you identify in the first fifteen minutes of an incident? How do you transform unproductive confusion and disorder into controllable challenges? What are you doing to stay ready?
The speed must come from a deep intuitive understanding of one’s relation to the rapidly changing environment.
Robert Coram from Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed The Art of War.
My January 2012 2olumn at Fire Rescue Magazine on FirefighterNation: The Observe, Orient, Decide and Act Model of Decision Making: Using the OODA Loop can help improve your efficiency under stress. By Billy Schmidt Published Friday, January 20, 20112.
The unfolding challenging and confusing circumstances of the fireground can lead us to misread the situation. The problems we encounter are difficult to understand and control. Combined with a lack of understanding of how we perform under stress and with the cultural propensity to simply act, we are sometimes unable to perform effectively.
How do we get better at this? Read more here ……