Most of the time, when we talk about “situational awareness training” we’re strictly imagining use-of-force situations for law enforcement. But situational awareness is much larger than just split-second shoot/don’t shoot decisions. Situational awareness guides how an officer initially assesses the scene—and thus allows them to quickly determine if a suspect is non-compliant or simply hearing impaired. We know that traffic crashes and high-speed pursuit kill roughly as many law officers as firearms—in fact, over the last decade, motor vehicle accidents have killed more officers than handguns. And, in a majority of those cases, a lapse in situational awareness or improper assessment of the immediate driving conditions likely played a part.
But situational awareness training is extremely valuable outside of law enforcement, too. Situational awareness is a key skill when clearing IEDs on the battlefield. By maintaining situational awareness firefighters break out of the tunnel vision that naturally engulfs them when they code to a call—and can result in tragic injuries. For that matter, proper situational awareness means the bus driver’s eyes are where they need to be to avoid striking a texting pedestrian and helps county road and bridge workers avoid collisions with careless drivers.
Situational Awareness Training for EMTs
A perfect example is a huge impact situational awareness training can bring to first responders:
For years the Fire Department of New York City (FDNY) worked to decrease ambulance collisions at intersections. They developed a robust program of lectures and closed-course driving. They then steadily expanded this 32-hour training, until it was 52 hours long, with seven days of lecture and 18 range exercises. Nonetheless, collision rates remained stubbornly steady. Then FDNY added a simulation-based program, focused on situational awareness training. In a single year, they reduced intersection collisions by 50 percent.
The fact of the matter is that all of us need to improve our situational awareness. Almost every motor vehicle accident—regardless of who is behind the wheel—comes back to a lack of situational awareness. As Rob Raheb—the FDNY EMS lieutenant and trainer who launched their situational awareness training program—”We hit things we don’t see; we don’t hit things we do see.”
That’s why FAAC strongly encourages trainers to always weave elements of situational awareness training into every simulation session and debriefing. This may be included in the scenario itself, but trainers are also encouraged to harness the power of their FAAC sim systems, which allow any scenario to be tweaked on the fly, forcing drivers to stay ready to adapt to the unexpected.