Situational Awareness and The Three Sixty

Situational Awareness Combat Operations

The fireground often has competing or conflicting incident priorities, demands or distractions before a complete appreciation of all mission-critical or essential information and data has been obtained. The effective assessment of the incident scene is much more than the three-sided size-up methodology of past fireground practices. In fact the term size-up doesn’t align with the newest directions in firefighter safety and incident command management.

The 360 degree assessment has become the generally accepted standard from which risk assessment is performed and incident action plans derived. The fact that many LODD case studies and reports repeatedly indicate the lack of an effective 360 degree assessment of the incident scene where structural fire engagement is being initiated was a contributing factor or may have contributed to a different incident outcome. Think about the effectiveness and value that the 360 ◦ Degree assessment brings to the development of an effective and valid incident action plan and the tactics that are driven by those identified and assumed assessment indicators. The question is: Are you conducting a 360 upon arrival, and if not WHY?

All command and supervisory personal and operating companies must be able to recognize and appreciate the risks which are present at an incident in order to carry out an effective dynamic risk assessment. The 360 Degree assessment is a mission critical element for effective and safety incident operations. Don’t for a moment think, “it takes too long to perform” or that you don’t have time to conduct, especially from a company officer perspective when you’re deploying and initiating tactical assignments. That extra minute to conduct a “three-sixty” may make all the difference in the world…..There may be three hundred and sixty degrees of safety margin that separate you and your company between injury or death….think about it.

Situational Awareness and Risk Assessment

Situation Awareness related to Building Construction, Command Risk Management and Firefighter Safety is another mission critical element. Situation Awareness (SA) is the perception of environmental elements within a volume of time and space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status in the near future. It is also a field of study concerned with perception of the environment critical to decision-makers in complex, dynamic situations and incidents. Both the 2006 and 2007 Firefighter Near-Miss Reporting System Annual Reports identified a lack of situational awareness as the highest contributing factor to near misses reported.• Situation Awareness involves being aware of what is happening around you at an incident scene to understand how information, events, and your own actions will impact operational goals and incident objectives, both now and in the near future.

  • Lacking SA or having inadequate SA has been identified as one of the primary factors in accidents attributed to human error.
  • Situation Awareness becomes especially important in the structural fire suppression and firefighter domains where the information flow can be quite high and poor decisions can lead to serious consequences.
  • Dynamic Risk Assessment is commonly used to describe a process of risk assessment being carried out in a changing or evolving environment, where what is being assessed is developing as the process itself is being undertaken.
  • This is further problematical for the Incident Commander when confronted with competing or conflicting incident priorities, demands or distractions before a complete appreciation of all mission critical or essential information and data has been obtained.
  • The dynamic management of risk is all about effective, informed and decisive decision making during all phases of an incident at a structural fire.

The integration of Situational Awareness and Dynamic Risk Assessment related to the building and occupancy is a mission critical element in managing structural fires and in the strategic command management and company level tactical operations as we go forward into the next decade.

  • Traditional phased incident scene size-up and monitoring is antiquated and no longer appropriate or applicable to modern fire service operations.
  • Situational awareness is a combination of attitudes, previously learned knowledge and new information gained from the incident scene and environment that enables the strategic commanders, decision-makers and tactical companies to gather the information they need to make effective decisions that will keep their firefighters and resources out of harm’s way, reducing the likelihood of adverse or detrimental effects.
  • Command and company officers and firefighters MUST understand the building, the occupancy features and the inherent impact of fire within and on the structure, AND be able to identify, communicate and take actions necessary to support the incident action and battle plans, mitigate incident conditions and provide for continuous safety protection to themselves, their team, their company and the entire alarm assignment operating at the incident scene.

Everyone on the incident scene MUST stay alert to changing conditions, obvious or latent conditions or escalating factors that require prompt identification, comprehension and appropriate implementation of actions. To the Incident Commander, fire officer or firefighter, knowing what’s going on around you, in and around the building structure and understanding the consequences of building, construction, assembly, fire load and fire development and growth is mission critical to incident stabilization and mitigation and profoundly crucial in terms of personnel safety. Maintain a three-sixty sphere of observation and awareness at all times.

Some addtional References; HERE, HERE and HERE, HERE

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Chris Naum

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