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Stress, Fear, and Panic: Decision-Making in Dynamic, High-Risk Environments Marc Lusk Amarillo Fire Department.

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Presentation on theme: "Stress, Fear, and Panic: Decision-Making in Dynamic, High-Risk Environments Marc Lusk Amarillo Fire Department."— Presentation transcript:

1 Stress, Fear, and Panic: Decision-Making in Dynamic, High-Risk Environments Marc Lusk Amarillo Fire Department

2 “… a better understanding of how stress, fear, and panic combine to erode rational thinking” - Putnam Presentation Goal:

3 The Precipitation: “The reality of our [fire service] culture is very simple… we hire aggressive firefighters…” - Kreis “I knew I was in trouble. I thought about using my radio, but I thought, I found my way in; I can find my way out.” - Hospitalized Seattle Firefighter

4 “…numerous people who were not moving and were still watching the stage” - Interviewed Survivor Civilian Reactions: Station Nightclub Fire :54 seconds - Cameraman leaves Lobby

5 Wildland FF Reactions: “…the twelve firefighters did not at first hike at maximum speed…. everyone failed to recognize early enough the danger of the situation.” - Maclean

6 Factors Affecting Decisions: 1.Risk perception 2.Stressors 3.Cognitive Biases 4.Affect Heuristics (Emotions) 5.Experience

7 Risk Propensity:  Self-control  Danger-seeking  Energy  Impulsiveness  Invincibility

8 Risk Perception : “Each decision maker has… a unique set of resulting behaviors” - Williams 900 ft.

9 Risk Perception : Invincibility - A Wonderful Thing

10 “… keep a 2-mile "buffer zone" between you and the storm.” - NWS Risk Perception :

11 How many telephone posts are there in two miles? Risk Perception :

12 1.Commercial Pilots: 27% of accidents 2.Ambulance Drivers: Black boxes 3.Firefighters: More frequent and severe injuries Violations Will Occur: Risk vs. Policy:

13 Factors Affecting Decisions: 1.Risk perception 2.Stressors 3.Cognitive Biases 4.Affect Heuristics (Emotions) 5.Experience

14 1)Multiple Info Sources 2)Conflicting Info Stressors: USS Vincennes 3) Rapidly Evolving Situation 4) Time Pressure 5) Threat

15 Complex decisions must be made despite time pressure, uncertainty, external threat, and physical hardships. O’Fallon, Illinois

16 1. Reduce opportunity to gather information  Police Officer: Shoot/No Shoot Situation 2. Disrupt working memory  My Mother-In-Law 3. Distract attention from the operational goals  A-10 and F-16 Mishaps Stressors: Stressors Affect Decisions:

17 Factors Affecting Decisions: 1.Risk perception 2.Stressors 3.Cognitive Biases 4.Affect Heuristics (Emotions) 5.Experience

18  Crowded rooms during Decision-Making Presentations – The Exits  Airline Passengers – The Exits  Nuclear Power Plant Operators – Procedures Availability Bias: Recollection of Information:

19 Representativeness Bias: Categorizing: Underground Miners “ … did not select the most efficient strategy - they chose further information over action ”

20 Representativeness Bias: Does a Near-miss make a person more cautious or less cautious the next time?

21 Representativeness Bias: Near-Misses: Mars Rover Operators “… categorized the current [similar] circumstances as being survivable”

22 Anchor and Adjustment Bias: Making an Initial Decision and Sticking To It : Air Florida Flight fatalities

23 Overconfidence Biases:  Illusory Optimism  Invulnerability Illusion

24 Framing Bias: 1.Complacency  7 of 9 mishaps involving C-130 aircraft 2.Expectations  USS Vincennes – gunboat skirmishes 3.Commercial Pilots  Keeping schedules vs. pre-flight checklist

25 Firefighters Are Human Too: “I knew I was in trouble. I thought about using my radio, but I thought, I found my way in; I can find my way out.” - Seattle Firefighter  Representativeness  Anchor and Adjustment  Illusory Optimism  Invulnerability Illusion

26 People Are Human Too:

27 Factors Affecting Decisions: 1.Risk perception 2.Stressors 3.Cognitive Biases 4.Emotions 5.Experience

28 Emotional Reactions: 1.Situations are felt to be Good or Bad 2.Denial 3.Anxiety  A generalized condition w/o direct trigger 4.Panic:  A sudden fear which dominates/replaces thinking

29 Physical Reactions: 1.Pupils dilate 2.Muscles tighten 3.Heart-rate/Breathing increases 4.Blood is shunted  Oxygen/Nutrients  Heat (Perspiration) “Fight or Flight” Response

30 Impairments: 1.Fine Motor Skills 2.Temporal Distortion 3.Memory Disruption 4.Channeled Attention

31 Emotional Reaction: MS Estonia “People lose their ability to make decisions. They turn into statues.” - Sherwood

32 Emotions: "I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer." --- Frank Herbert, Dune

33 A Walk in the Woods Fear and the Amygdala: 1.Thalamic Pathway  The Low Road 2.Cortical Pathway  The High Road

34 Leach’s “Theory of ” 10% will react Rationally  Relatively Calm  Decision-making is sharp and focused  Able to prioritize, plan, and take action

35 Leach’s “Theory of ” 80% will be “Stunned and Bewildered”  Behavior is mechanical, reflexive  Reasoning is significantly impaired  Perceptual narrowing (tunnel vision)

36 Leach’s “Theory of ” 10% will react Inappropriately:  Loss of behavioral control  Decision-making is counterproductive

37 Factors Affecting Decisions: 1.Risk perception 2.Stressors 3.Cognitive Biases 4.Emotions 5.Experience

38 Recognition-Primed Decision-Making: 1. Naturalistic 2. Efficiency 3. Trigger points 4. Reduces cognitive load

39 Recognition-Primed Decision-Making: The Problem is - How many times do we experience a true emergency? Kevin Green/News-Journal Photo

40 Flipping the Switch: Theory of 10/80/10 :  Most will be stunned  Temporary effect  Seek calmness  Plan for emergencies

41 Experience:  Novices have difficulty gathering, integrating, and understanding informational cues  Improves knowledge of performance needed  Develops a better understanding of how stressors, biases, and emotions impact decisions

42 Education: “You rarely get someone to jump a skill level by teaching more facts and rules…. we cannot expect to grow instant experts ” - Williams

43 Training: “familiarity with the criterion environment…. effective task performance under stress conditions” - Driskell and Johnston

44 Experience: Variety of experience is more important than simple years of service.

45 Mentoring: “to enhance the development of perceptual expertise in the trainees” - Klein Train Your Mentors:

46 Leadership: “… individuals respond well to a leader, however, if leadership is lacking, people tend to become confused. ” - Kowalski-Trakofler and Vaught. MS Estonia

47 Risk perception can be modified, Stressors can be mitigated, Biases can be minimized, Emotions can be mastered. Training and Experience:

48 Questions? Your Turn:


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