Crew Resource Management: Principles and Practice
It’s always nice when someone else does the hardwork for us, isn’t it? Luckily for those of us in the fire service, there are plenty of other professions that are doing some good research on topics relevant to our world. One of the best examples of this I’ve seen in quite a while is the research and training programs developed for the commercial aviation industry.
Through careful analysis of aviation accidents and crew behavior, the aviation industry developed a system termed Crew Resource Management (CRM). Aviation crews have used CRM principles in their profession now for nearly 20 years. It has only been recently that CRM principles have started to cross professional boundaries, reaching into the fire service and healthcare organizations. In this book, the authors (Paul LeSage, Jeff Dyar, and Bruce Evans) have done an excellent job of relating CRM principles to fire service operations. Perhaps the greatest benefit of this book is their inclusion of numerous real world fire/EMS examples. Each example used in the book provides an interesting case that drives home the CRM principle the authors are trying to convey.
At it’s most basic level, CRM is a process for enhancing crew communications. Each crew member is empowered with the ability to state their concerns and make their observations known. By freeing members to vocalize their thoughts, the entire crew improves their assessment of the overall situation. Improved situational assessments should lead to a reduction in errors, injuries, and fatalities.
It is important for departments interested in utilizing CRM concepts to create a culture that fosters open communication without fear of retribution or finger-pointing. This can be difficult for the fire service considering the hierarchy evident in our para-military structure. However, CRM does not replace rank. The authors are very clear that CRM does not advocate team decision making. On the contrary, the authors are adamant that every team needs a leader and it is that leaders responsibility to make a decision. The hope is that the decision will be the most appropriate considering the full input of all team members.
Why though is full and open input necessary in time compressed situations that are faced by fire officers? Research has shown that every person perceives the situation around them based on a variety of factors. These factors include past experience, training, personal bias, etc. Even though every crew member may be witnessing the same event (structure fire, tech rescue, extrication, etc), each individual is seeing a completely different picture. When each individual crew member is seeing a different view of the incident, the likelihood of critical warnings going unnoticed is reduced.
Overall, I found the book to be an excellent read. The authors did a wonderful job relating a training/communication tool from another profession to the fire service. Each of the many examples given throughout the book made understanding the principles as simple as possible. From this book, readers will not only have a full understanding of CRM principles but will also have the understanding necessary to bring this back to their department.
*Note: If you would like a little primer on Crew Resource Management before you commit to buying this book, check out a good CRM resource printed by the IAFC here.