This week on the blog we will feature writing from the Asheville Interagency Hotshot Crew. The 2017 crewmembers were given an assignment to write down their reactions to the Fall 2016 issue of Two More Chains and “The Big Lie” essay it centers around. We will post multiple responses from the crew each day. There are 14 of them. Enjoy.
The members of the Asheville Interagency Hotshot Crew would like to share their insights on “The Big Lie” essay*.
The Asheville Interagency Hotshot Crew provides a unique “Leadership Development Program.” The mission of this crew is to offer enhanced leadership training opportunities to challenge individuals in a Type 1 crew setting. The crew uses classroom training in conjunction with on-the-ground experiences to help accomplish this. Participants are highly motivated individuals who are looking to step out of their comfort zone into a new environment. Past participants continue to refer to the Asheville program as an experience that helped build their confidence and take on more responsibility in their current or future positions.
For more information on the Asheville Interagency Hotshot Crew:
*(Here’s a link to the essay: http://wildlandfireleadership.blogspot.com/2016/06/the-big-lie.html.)
Bringing Forward a Key Component for Creating a Strong Safety Culture.
This is Asheville IHC reaction #1
I think that this essay brings forward an extremely important subject. The notion that accidents only happen when rules are not followed correctly should be reconsidered. It is a reality that accidents can happen even when all the risks have been thoroughly discussed, examined, and mitigated. It is great that the Forest Service puts employee safety as a priority, and also gives every employee the right to turn down assignments they feel are unsafe. This alone has most likely already prevented many accidents. However, there will always be cases in which a level of risk will exist, as is the case with wildland firefighting.
Sometimes the level of risk is difficult to quantify or understand. As is discussed in the essay, the question then becomes how much risk we allow ourselves to accept before ending the engagement. This is something that managers must constantly reevaluate, even if it means not meeting the planned objectives. This is an important consideration because wildland fire managers are sometimes faced with a lot of pressure from inside and outside their agency to take actions against fires, which can result in putting individuals under risk.
Do you agree or disagree with the concepts in this essay? Why do you agree or disagree?
Overall, I agree with the ideas in this essay. Wildland firefighting will always be a somewhat dangerous profession. I think that the personal risk involved in wildland firefighting is something that everyone in the field has at one time stopped and considered. Constantly being aware of the risk involved is very important and is why a high level of situational awareness is critical to safety and success.
Rules and regulations regarding safety on fires will not be effective if they are not realistic to follow. Wildfires are not computer models in which everything can be predicted and accounted for. Managers can do everything correctly and by the books, but in the end it is the responsibility of each individual to look out for their own safety, and be willing to communicate situations they feel are unsafe to themselves and others.
I also agree with the author that reporting near misses and close calls are effective ways to continue learning and prevent a repeat of the same mistake.
What are some benefits to the reactions this has generated?
I think “The Big Lie” has promoted the open discussion of risk acceptance in wildland firefighting. I believe the essay has made more people think about what the proper course of action is when risk cannot be removed, and also how much risk they are willing to accept. In addition, it has also made people consider that although rules and policy provide solid foundations for safety, they are not effective without a culture of firefighters who personally value the safety of themselves and others. The essay brings forward the idea that more focus should be placed on creating a culture that can openly discuss near misses or accidents without the fear of reprisal from above, which is a key component of creating a strong safety culture.