Fireground Performance Under Stress: Training In a Fog of War

Track: Instructor Development Conference

Session Number: ES6
Date: Sat, Sep 30th, 2017
Time: 10:30 AM - 11:45 AM
Room: Conference Sessions


Carl Von Clausewitz coined the term “fog of war” by stating war is a realm of uncertainty where combat takes place in ”a kind of twilight, which like fog or moonlight often tends to make things grotesque and larger than they really are. Fog can prevent the enemy from being seen, a gun from firing when it should, a report from reaching a commander and a good decision from being made.” In the fire service, a bad decision has real consequences tied to it.

Aurora Fire Rescue is similar to other fire departments in the country. We develop response policies and guidelines to deal with the majority of calls, and we discuss how we can train for certain events if they occur. Up until a few years ago, when we got to the training portion of the process, it consisted of unrealistic fairy-tale conditions and ultimately a successful outcome on each evolution.

Within our trainings, there was no “fog.” There were no burned out egresses, dead hydrants, burst hose lines, or radio traffic issues? There was definitely not any physical stress being applied to the body.

Researchers have long recognized that stress is responsible for deteriorating cognitive and physical performance. Reports of tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, time distortions, loss of fine and complex motor skills, and bad decisions have all been documented. Wouldn’t we rather make those poor decisions in training and learn from them?

Wouldn’t we rather experience the tunnel vision in training and learn to combat it before the big one? Of course! If training is conducted in controlled environments, we then provide ourselves with a false sense of security and readiness.

For the past few years, any fire ground training conducted by AFR is preceded by an intense 8-10 minute workout. This raises the heart rate to a level consistent with fire scene operations. Then we immediately put the crews through scenarios where they are in full PPE, respond in their engine, and have to make real-time decisions with the “fog” they encounter. The fog can consist of the dead hydrants, burst hose lines, and radio traffic issues that we mentioned above. Ultimately, the success and rewards of this training are dependent on two things: 1) the firefighter subscribes to the fact that the foundation of any good firefighter is top-notch fitness, and 2) the firefighter embraces the fog under stress and possesses the desire to be placed in the fog because he/she knows how valuable it is to future performance.
For the past few years, any fire ground training conducted by AFR is preceded by an intense 8-10 minute workout.
Session Type: Educational Session
Session Type: Educational Session