Goal-oriented decision-making

Goal-oriented training can change the balance between reflective and reflexive processes.

Emergency responders have all been there — they rush to get to an incident, very quickly size it up, and take action. But award-winning research looks at incident managers that include a third step, actually formulating a plan of action. It has been argued that the development of explicit plans enables shared situational awareness and goals to support a common operating picture.

An article written by Dr. Sabrina Cohen-Hatton and R.C. Honey, Goal-Oriented Training Affects Decision-Making Processes in Virtual and Simulated Fire and Rescue Environments, received the Best Paper of the Year Award from the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied in 2016.

The research evaluated 48 incident commanders from 11 Fire and Rescue Services in the United Kingdom who had just received one-hour of training on incident management. They were divided into two groups, one with standard training and the other that included information about decision-making:

For Group Decision, slides were included that highlighted the use decision controls, which involved using a rapid mental check list of questions at key decision points: Why am I doing this (i.e., what are my goals)? What do I expect to happen (i.e., what are the anticipated consequences)? and Are the benefits worth the risks? When participants given goal-oriented training watched the footage, and were asked what actions they would take next, they were directed to answer with reference to the decision controls.

After the brief training the firefighters participated in immersive virtual reality (VR) simulations of a house fire, a traffic collision, and a “skip fire that spreads to an adjoining shop”.

The results showed that goal-oriented training affects the decision-making process in experienced incident commanders across a variety of simulated environments
ranging from immersive VR through to live burns. There is evidence that the training can change the balance between reflective and reflexive processes which could have the potential to increase the effectiveness of communication between members of firefighting crews and to improve
safety.

London may ban sky lanterns

We have written before about the dangers of sky lanterns, the paper or plastic balloons that are sent aloft powered by the hot air generated from a small flaming device. They have started many fires, both wildland and structural, and are banned in at least 29 U.S. states.

The city of London in the UK is considering banning the devices. Below is an excerpt from an article in The Londoner. We concentrate on the fire hazard, but don’t often mention that each sky lantern becomes someone else’s garbage.

…It still begs the questions, “What could possibly go wrong with releasing paper globes into the night sky, that you have zero control over, filled with fire, paper, hot wax and bamboo?”

Health Canada investigated and didn’t find a reason to regulate the lanterns three years ago. But since then, they have grown in popularity. When items like this grow in popularity, the poorer-quality knock-offs slip into the mainstream. And what used to be the odd event here or there has become the norm, sending thousands of these flaming lanterns into the sky.

There are several serious fires on record all over the world, including a fire started from a lantern that destroyed 800 acres in Horry County, South Carolina. The most recent wildfire is noted in Colorado this past March. Many countries have begun banning sky lanterns.

Let’s step past the whole argument for the potential to set a national park ablaze, sending up a sky lantern in memory of your faithful hamster Stewie for a moment. Let’s look at the other collateral damage. Garbage.

These lanterns just don’t disappear once they are out of view. Once they fall back to earth, they become garbage. And not biodegradable garbage either. Unless wire has become biodegradable recently…

Suppressing a fire in Lancashire

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service in the UK posted this series of 10 to 20 second videos of how they dealt with a recent vegetation fire. They responded to “several deliberate fires”, but apparently the largest was a “10 pump” fire.

Leaf blower as a firefighting tool

Manchester leaf blowers
A photo from the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service website showing firefighters using leaf blowers on a grass fire.

On one of the pages of the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service website that features wildfires, there is some praise for their “new Forced Air Firefighting Units (FAFU)”, also known as leaf blowers:

Manchester leaf blower

Though they may be new to firefighters in the United Kingdom, leaf blowers have been used on fires in the southeast United States for decades. I have had a little experience with them and found that they can be very useful for building fireline in hardwood litter. A brief trial in directly controlling an active fire found that they can be tricky to use. You have to be very careful where you point that high-velocity stream of air because burning embers are constantly in motion and when airborne they can sometimes land in an undesired location. And wind direction is key.

I’d like to hear from firefighters that have experience using leaf blowers in a fire management operation.

Training for a wildfire in Lancashire, UK and Omaha, Nebraska

The video shows firefighters in Lancashire, UK engaged in wildfire training, using some equipment that you will not often see on the other side of the pond.

Here is how the video is described:

Firefighters along with partner agencies Bay Search and Rescue, Mountain Rescue teams (Bolton and Bowland), Pennine helicopters, United Utilities, the Moorlad Association and Lancashire County Council all joined together in an excercise on Bleasdle Fell, Lancashire to not only practice the skills required to tackle a wildfire but also raise awareness of the issues with the public through local media. This report was taken from Granada Television News, featuring Station Manager Shaun Walton, Jeremy Duckworth from the Moond Association and reported by Amy Welch.

And speaking of training, the photo below illustrates in a completely different environment annual firefighter refresher training in the National Park Service’s Midwest Regional Office in Omaha, Nebraska.

Firefighter refresher training, NPS regional office, Omaha
Firefighter refresher training, NPS regional office, Omaha, NE. Photo by Jim McMahill.

Wildfire briefing, March 6, 2014

Minnesota fire chief pleads guilty to arson

The chief of the St. Louis County volunteer fire department in Minnesota resigned after investigators charged him with arson last December. On Friday, Ryan Scharber, 30, pleaded guilty to setting a fire on U.S. Forest Service land and to one count of attempted arson. Below is an excerpt from an article in the Daily Mail:

…According to documents filed in federal court in Minneapolis on Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Dunne is requesting that Scharber should be given the maximum five-year sentence, reports the Star Tribune. In the memorandum, Dunne disputed Scharber’s contention that he had set the fires ‘to get out of the house for a few hours to get relief from his newborn child’s acid reflux.’ The prosecutor noted that Scharber hadn’t offered that excuse during the five-hour interview with investigators in which he eventually confessed on December 19, 2012. ‘The psychiatrist at the Range Mental Health Center diagnosed the defendant with pyromania,’ Dunne wrote. ‘The real reason behind the defendant’s criminal conduct in this case was that diagnosis.’

New government report describes possible ‘cascading system failures’ caused by climate change

About 240 authors and a 60-person Federal Advisory Committee (The “National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee”) have developed a draft climate report. The lengthy document warns that climate-fueled storms, flooding and droughts could cause “cascading system failures” unless there are changes made to minimize those effects. One of the dozens of topics covered in the report was “Forestry”. You can read that section of the report HERE. Below is a brief summary of that section.

Climate change is increasing the vulnerability of forests to ecosystem change and tree mortality through fire, insect infestations, drought, and disease outbreaks. Western U.S. forests are particularly vulnerable to increased wildfire and insect outbreaks; eastern forests have smaller disturbances but could be more sensitive to periodic drought.

Pigeon sets fire to a building in London

A pigeon is being blamed for starting a fire on the roof of a flat in London. Firefighters believe the bird dropped a lit cigarette into its nest on the roof of the building, starting a fire that forced the nine residents to evacuate the structure. Four fire engines and 21 firefighters were able to save the flat, but the roof was damaged. No one had been on the roof in a long time and there was no electrical equipment in the area, but neighbors told firefighters they had often seen birds flying in and out of a hole in the roof.

Other cases of animal arson

This is not the first time we have run a story on a bird setting fire to a building. It also happened in 2009, again in the United Kingdom, when a sparrow was accused of picking up a lit cigarette and, like the pigeon, depositing it among the dry twigs and grass in its nest. We have a whole series of articles tagged “animal arson”.

Thanks and a hat tip go out to Preston