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The Best Example of Why We Must Be Prepared...

I sent this out to all of the people in my Battalion today and thought I'd share with you all. Hope you enjoy it.

Below are three links that will let you see the recent interview on "60-Minutes" with the crew of U.S Airway Flight 1429. I want you to watch all three portions. Make sure when you watch them, you can give them your full attention. Though these videos are obviously about the flight and subsequent successful rescue of all 155 passengers, a subtle comparison can be made to our job.

Though every call we respond to is dynamic, most of our responses go "according to plan," just like every other flight Captain Sullinberger had experienced. What averted complete disaster in the case of flight 1429 was the fact that the "Entire Crew" was on the same page when the "unusual" occurred.

In the first segment, Kati Courik is speaking with Captain Sullinberger. I want you listen to his responses and think about the remarks he makes and try to relate it to your crews. The main point I gathered from the first video was the officers knew what to do, how to do it and they believed they could succeed. Also, the remainder of the flight crew knew their jobs cold. If you relate this to your crew, could they perform as well at "the big one?" Or, would you, as the officer, have to direct them to perform every step? If Captain Sully would have had to worry about everyone else knowing their job duties at the time of crisis it is likely a positive result would not have occurred. You know where I'm going with this but just to make sure; it comes down to effective training. We cannot be satisfied with just doing the school and having our personnel perform the required tasks. We must insist they practice those skills to perfection. They, like the flight crew, must be able to perform the necessary skills efficiently, at a moments notice.

Just like that flight crew, we will only have one chance to do it right. We will only have one opportunity to make that rescue at that scene. We will only get one shot to perform effective ventilation at the right time. We will only have time to decide the correct line and length of line before it is too late. We only get to try once to drive the correct route before we've cost precious time. We only have a few moments to recognize the need for VES and execute it properly. That ladder has to be thrown to the window and make the rescue before the room flashes over Etc, etc, etc.

The second video will be the interview with the entire crew. What I took from that was they were scared, very scared. But they were still able to perform admirably.

The third video is where it really drove it home to me. Capt. Sully will tell of instances where loved ones of the passengers have thanked him for not making them widows, orphans, etc. I'm curious if it affects you like it did me.

I hope you all get the point, especially if you haven't felt like training lately or ever. Have the courage to train to perfection. If we hope for luck we invite tragedy.

Write me back and let me know if any other points stood out to you.;video;3;video;2;video;1

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Comment by Mike Walker on February 15, 2009 at 9:25am
I completely understand. I aspire to someday be crusty. For now I am just flakey.....
Comment by Mike Walker on February 14, 2009 at 11:29pm
Well said Jeff. If more officers shared your concern, there would be little to no morale problems and much fewer injuries and deaths.
Comment by Art Zern on February 14, 2009 at 2:26pm

Great post and you are so right about the parallels between the teamwork required of a flight crew and the teamwork required of efficient and effective company and shift operations. There is little doubt that training, repetition, and consistency paid-off. As you know, when the stuff hits the fan, we fall back to our training and experience and often mastery of fundamentals will make the difference. Reading your blog and watching the footage, I was compelled to think about another area where we can learn from flight crew management as it relates to our safety on the fireground.

In several groups on this site, we have been discussing the issue of communication on the fireground. How much is enough, how much is too much, who should have the ability to “speak-up” and so on. I happen to be of the opinion that anyone and everyone should speak-up if they see something that doesn’t look right, or, makes an observation from their perspective that has relevance to the operation. Each member or work group has a different perspective of the incident based on their location (inside, outside or on top of) and the task or tactic assigned. The IC is tasked to keep the overall perspective in view and attempt to maintain an overall situational awareness. The problem is that the IC, even with the best view has a limited perspective. He/she must rely on company officers, firefighters, safety officers and RIT/RIC to relay critical information from their perspective and based on their own perspective to obtain and maintain the best perspective and overall situational awareness. The ability to obtain a fuller and complete perspective and to maintain an acceptable level of safety is only possible with a great deal of input from the various fireground perspectives and based on their individual situational awareness and regular progress reports. With that said, how open are we to the input on the fireground? Is it acceptable or the norm for anyone to initiate a radio report if they see, feel or know something is not right or unsafe on the fireground? Or…..has our culture effected our safety in yet another way by not allowing, not listening, not trusting or disregarding what some members have to say? If a candidate or recruit saw or felt a change in the structural condition, would he/she feel free to “speak-up”? OK, I’ll get to the point.

In the late 70’s, airline investigators and NASA found that the main cause of the majority of aviation accidents was human error, and that the main problems were failures of communication, leadership and decision making in the cockpit. The culture of aviation at the time was not all that different from what I see in the fire service in many places. In any case, at the time, pilots ruled the cockpit, just as the Chief (or officers) rule the fireground. In the case of the airline industry, this culture lead to tragic results, time and again. Other crew members were aware of or knew of problems or safety issues but were unable or unwilling to “speak-up”. Does this sound familiar? Is this still our culture?

Crew Resource Management training was developed to address the cultural change necessary to enhance and improve airline safety. Crew Resource Management encourages a culture where the flight crew feels the freedom to respectfully question authority. It recognizes that there is, or may be a difference between what is happening and what should be happening. This difference is often an early indication that there is a potential for an accident or injury. As we know, any accident or injury is the result of a chain of events, early recognition of is the key to breaking the chain.

This is not new information, in fact the International Association of Fire Chiefs published a manual in Crew Resource Management is the early 2000’s in an attempt to alter the fire service culture and lower the injury and LODD numbers. I don’t mean to imply that better communication is THE answer; however, it would certainly help.

Thanks for the great post Mike, very thought provoking and relevant. I added a link to the IAFC manual on CRM.
Comment by Mike Walker on February 14, 2009 at 2:17pm
Thank you for your reply and thanks for adding the link to the CRM site. I see crews making the same basic mistakes over and over again and I see officers having to spell out every step a crew makes in order minimize mistakes. When I see that it just communicates that the crew isn't training enough. If officers would realize their jobs would be so much easier if their people knew their jobs and then they could focus more on the issue at hand.

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