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There is a human factor to what we do. It is hard to quantify to someone what the public’s human factor exactly is. Can you measure it by data? Possibly. We could use intervals of time, judging different durations from one significant event to another, a way to justify outcomes as if predetermined. “She was 96 years old, she lived a good life.”…”It’s been six hours since anyone heard from him”. The ever-assuring comfort that time will be the alpha and the omega.

            We attempt to measure if actions and judgments were appropriate for the situations we encounter. As if the living, breathing person is a variable that is can constantly be solved for. We fail to admit that the only predictable human behavior is the unpredictability. “Here, fight or flight kicked in”. An attempt to try and create a rationale for response using chemical and neurological pathways, only to come to the same conclusion…”I wish I could say I would do something else, but you never know what you’re going to do in that situation”…An attempt to shift the blame that the human in distress was the only contributing factor.

            How can we truly describe, articulate, and demonstrate that humans in peril, as both widely diverse and encompassing, are nothing more then a roulette game of decisions. A tracking of probabilities and trends, constantly shifting towards the inclination, only to have the wheel still spinning, and the ball stop on zero.

            I constantly sought to try to not only describe the human factor, but to understand it myself. The goal was the same as most in the beginning. We are here to make an impact, help others, and pass on knowledge that we were so fortunate to receive. However, it felt at times perplexing trying to describe and ingrain the fragility of the human life. I came to realize it was due to the fact that I mostly didn’t understand it myself.

            Then, one morning at 12:48 am, I was able to have the epiphany I had been continuously seeking. However, bewildered and regretfully, I no longer wanted to understand. In three minutes and 40 seconds (that dimension of time appearing again) the human factor was seared into my brain, permanently implanted as a memory. I experienced my first true understanding of the fragility of life, and the magnitude of our influence on it, while carrying a twelve year old down a ladder.

            Ten seconds give or take. That was my entire interaction with the child; unconscious, unresponsive, and helpless. Ten seconds flipped everything I had truly known upside down. Our mantra, “I don’t wish (insert some tragic emergency here) on someone, but if it happens, I want to be there”. A self-diagnosis, veiled in humor, that was built entirely around truth; the desire to gain knowledge and experience, to test yourself against comparable individuals, and see if you have the ability to perform during moments you shouldn’t. Our goal was to put the body to work, to eliminate any outside stressor, and execute without hesitation. We were striving to achieve autopilot, the gold standard of preparation and opportunity.

            What I wasn’t prepared for was the human factor on the other side of the operation…that we ourselves are human. The same chemical and neuro-pathways that explain Jane Doe’s poor decisions and panic require a certain amount of mental dexterity for us to operate alongside. It requires a whole different level of preparation, training, and simulations to turn it off. And that is the terrifying part. The human, through panic and stress, will fall back to the most simplistic and rudimentary tasks they are comfortable performing.

            And if we aren’t constantly attempting to seek refuge in our comfort spot, conveniently located in the uncomfortable, then we are failing to prepare and perform. We are failing to live up to our end of the bargain, becoming subject matter experts in the suck, an imaginary place for some, but a regularly visited training environment for others. I’ve heard it be described as attempting to be “uncommon amongst the uncommon”. The problem lies in this; the citizen doesn’t have an opportunity to request the uncommon. They fall back to their emergency equation, with our actions as their variables. Its hard to measure the human factor, its even harder to explain it. However, that difficulty pales in comparison when you realize that they are the equation, you are the variable, and the only solution is yourself.

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