Situational Awareness can be described as the perception of environmental elements and events with respect to current conditions, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their future status. For the purposes of Safety Stand Down week and firefighter safety, situational awareness involves knowing what is going on around us at any given time. It is the foundation for good decision making.
Firefighting involves responding to any number of dangerous and chaotic environments, all of which can be better controlled and deemed safer through the implementation of situational awareness. Achieving situational awareness relies on one’s ability to perceive, understand and analyze the environment around you in the context of what you are trying to accomplish. Experience plays positively into one’s ability to achieve situational awareness. Experienced firefighters, or any experienced professional, can achieve greater performance than most rookie or inexperienced workers.
It is beneficial to have seasoned, safety-conscious firefighters mentor the younger professionals in safety procedures to help firefighters solve problems, prevent bad outcomes and make better decisions in what can be high stress environments. Situational awareness improves through training and experience by learning to focus on key aspects of any given situation, knowing what distractions to avoid, and listening to commands and coordinating efforts.
For emergency responders, situational awareness involves cooperation from administrative leadership to all fire department personnel. The backbone of situational awareness includes:
- The proper implementation of an Incident Command System (ICS)
- Considering the situation and conditions present
- Applying experience to predict what future conditions may present
- Communication of orders to applicable personnel
It is vital to instruct and empower your responders to maintain situational awareness throughout the duration of an emergency event and maintain constant communications with staff to report back what might be dangerous or ever-changing conditions.
Fire departments with an adept sense of situational awareness have a clearer picture and better control of their functions, personnel, and outcomes, with a key focus on employee safety. When all responders develop and improve their situational awareness, through training and experience, the fire department can improve safety and minimize workplace injuries.
Reference the NFPA website for more details on the Stand Down initiative and situational awareness highlights by clicking here. Additional fire department safety information is available on the Comp Alliance website. www.compalliance.org