Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Tough Decisions Save Lives

Fork in the road decision point
(Photo credit: Con Tanasiuk/Getty Images)
Do you have what it takes to make a tough decision--a decision that could put your career on the line, yet save lives? Even if lives are not at stake, we all experience tough decisions throughout our lifetime. We never really know what we are capable of until we are placed between a "rock and a hard place."

Wildland Fire—A High-Risk Operational Environment

We are asked to make tough decisions under a compressed time frame, given limited information, in a complex and high-risk environment. This operational environment routinely brings together people, machinery, and the destructive energy of wildfire in the close, three-dimensional space of the fireground and its airspace.

Wildland fire operations have inherent risks that cannot be eliminated, even in the best of circumstances. Incident management and response is a competition between human beings and the forces of nature; leaders struggle to manage the effects caused by wildfire and other natural and man-made events. The environment can rapidly and unexpectedly change from normal to emergency conditions to complete chaos.

The environment requires a variety of missions across the operational spectrum, ranging from education and prevention to prescribed fire and fire use to full fire suppression. Increasingly, fire leaders find themselves responding to all-hazard incidents.

Although most danger is close to the fireground, many others besides firefighters have important mission roles. The operational environment is akin to that of an aircraft carrier: although only pilots and aircrew routinely fly into combat, everyone on the ship makes significant contributions to the successful mission—and all aboard have to be prepared to respond to any unfolding emergency.

In the wildland fire service, firefighters, dispatchers, managers, technicians, support services, medical staff, law enforcement, the military, and others are brought together in rapidly assembled temporary teams to accomplish a given mission. These teams have unique capabilities, limitations, qualifications, and experience.

Fire leaders must have the ability to integrate these varied resources into effective and responsive temporary teams.

(Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, p. 10-13)

Wildland Fire Leadership Challenge
  • Watch the History Channel's The Man Who Saved the World and PBS's Secrets of the Dead - The Man Who Saved the World about two incidents that could have changed the course of human history during the Cold War. 
  • Discuss how critical thinking and courage can bring calm to chaos.
  • Share personal experiences or historical examples of similar situations.

Wildland Fire Leadership Challenge - Digging a Little Deeper
  • Work with your team to develop a lesson plan for either of the above videos or the movie motion picture The Man Who Saved the World and submit to the Leadership in Cinema steward for consideration in our library via email at BLM_FA_Leadership_Feedback@blm.gov.

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