Friday, January 23, 2009

Operating in a Compressed Time Frame

A couple of recent events got me thinking about the way firefighters and fire officers must operate. The dramatic plane ditch into the Hudson River and the tragic Ladder 26 accident in Boston both gave me a time to reflect on the subject.

In the case of the plane, it is reported that Captain "Sully" had about 4 and 1/2 minutes to make some critical decisions about what to do with the crippled airliner with about 150 folks on board.

While we have no concrete information on the Boston incident, a conservative estimate might be that the driver had maybe 15-20 seconds (if that) to make any critical decisions that may have affected the outcome. It is clearly uncertain if any decision would have had a positive impact at all, and it is not my point to discuss the rights or wrongs, but merely to look at those two blocks of time.

As firefighters and fire officers we need to review and study the works of the folks like Klein who have taught us about RPDM Recognition Primed decision Making, and what training or simulation experience can we put ourselves through that will make us react appropriately during critical emergencies.

No one can prepare for the horrendous things that might face us such as an accident, a mayday, and explosion or whatever, but the use of simulation and training to whatever level possible will at least burn an imprint into our mind which might help us.

Training and experience affect our jobs so greatly, that we need to be always vigilant to challenge ourselves (safely) in any way we can.

The decisions that we might make in a compressed time frame will be critical.

While we think that the four and half minutes to lad a plane is a long time, I am sure that it was not that long for the folks involved.

In the case of the Boston incident, as I just look from a distance without any facts, I am not sure that much could have been done in those few seconds that would have affected the outcome.

Our task as firefighters and fire officers is to try to do anything we can each day to prepare us for any decision we have to make in an extremely compressed time frame. The review of lessons learned are essential but they give us the benefit of days weeks and months to decide what we would have done, when faced with the same set of circumstances and facts.

Take the time now in the station and during training because when the decision needs to be made, you may not have sufficient time to think things out completely, and you may have to rely on your training and experience.
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