Situational Awareness Is a Trainable Skill for Firefighters

Firefighting Situational Awareness

This is the eighth tip from TargetSolutions’ special report, “Eight Great Tips for Training Your Crew,” a best practices guide. To view the entire report, please click here.

The past may predict the future, but that doesn’t mean firefighters can grow complacent. That’s dangerous. By instilling a culture of safety, personnel will have the right mindset. But how do you instill this culture? It may take time, but it’s possible through communication and training.

The first step is for leaders to promote safety from the top down. They need to make sure situational awareness is more than just words by walking the talk. Achieving successful outcomes during emergencies and remaining safe depends on an individual’s ability to interpret their environment through situational awareness. Simply put, firefighters need to be trained on what could go wrong.

Here are three critical areas to consider when creating a safety culture at your department:

360-Degree Size Ups: Make sure personnel know how to thoroughly conduct a 360-degree size-up during a fire. Make sure your department has a policy for the first arriving department to always conduct a size up. You would be surprised how many departments don’t demand this basic safety measure. The information gathered is critical to everyone’s safety. And during training, build a 360-degree size-up into every evolution.

Train for Safety: You have to crawl before you can walk and run. This is true for firefighter training as well. Making sure everyone has mastered basic movements of exercises before moving to advanced levels is critical to safety and effectiveness on the fireground. And just like anything else, firefighters get better with practice – so train your muscles by practicing proper techniques.

Put Your Life First: Yes, firefighters have taken an oath to protect their communities. But they need to make sure they don’t throw their life away in the process. As we all know, firefighting is an extremely dangerous job. But it can be performed with caution and sensibility. It’s important to know your own limitations. A building is replaceable. But lives are not replaceable. Too many firefighter deaths were preventable. It’s critical we understand what “no-go” conditions look like (building composition, smoke and fire conditions, etc.) and use caution.



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