Situational Awareness: Part 5 – Critical Thinking

Part of good Situational Awareness (SA) requires the ability to recognize valid (i.e. true) information. We already know that your SA requires you to establish a baseline and then watch for deviations from that baseline. When you start to see deviations from the baseline then you have to pay particular attention to those events/activities as compared to the baseline.  Once those deviations have been assessed then you have to decide what action is required, if any, to mitigate the potential increased risk or threat.

Without a baseline and the ability to appropriately assess deviations you can be considered “clueless.” Yes, that is a technical term in the SA world! In the world of emergency preparedness, clueless can be fatal. But just as important as part of SA is the ability to take action based on the baseline and deviations thereof. Without being able to take the appropriate action in a timely manner you are not only clueless, but probably dead or badly injured. All parts of SA must work together in synchronization.

The very beginning of the SA process requires a baseline as mentioned. Our baseline in anything will come from a combination of factors; training, experience, culture, and bias just to name a few. All of these, and more, work together in your brain to form a baseline regardless of the situation or environment.

Next comes the ability to correctly recognize and assess sensory input. Sensory input can come in a variety of forms; smell, sight, or words to name a few. For this discussion I want to focus on words. More aptly stated I want to work on discerning messages and evaluating their truthfulness.

A good example would be a statement by a government official…is it true or false…or worse, a deliberate lie. It is vitally important to know the difference between false information and a lie. Both are not “truth” in any possible sense of the word. However, false information and a lie are not equal in weight when it comes to SA. Specifically, it is absolutely significant in terms of action to be taken. The degree of the underlying lack of truth will determine the degree, or severity, that your action will be.

By that I mean that in an emergency, disaster, or grid-down event false information can simply be a mistake in knowing or understanding the facts. A lie however, is a deliberate and intentional statement to misdirect and control you.

Another way to look at it, false information can be seen as ignorance (not knowing the facts). There are also some that would call false information as an attempt to withhold pertinent information while not specifically lying, and yet not being ignorant.

While confusing, it might be easier to look at it in this fashion; lying is done with malice. However, false information is usually as a result of ignorance or simply wanting to gain an advantage without the intention of malice. And malice, for this discussion is meant in terms of doing harm against the message recipient (i.e. stealing, injury, death. Control, etc.).

If I don’t have you completely confused by now, let me try harder. Example: Mohamed Saeed al-Sahhaf was the Iraqi Information Minister under Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. He was comically referred to as “Baghdad Bob” during the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Bob would hold press conferences that spoke eloquently of how Iraqi forces where decimating US and Allied troops. This would go on day after day, sometimes multiple times per day. Why did he garner his nickname? Because everything that Mohamed was utterly untrue, simply nowhere near reality.

For anyone in the US it was easy to know that what he was saying was silly and absurd. Was this false information or a lie?

Here is where the real discussion takes place. The information was without question absolutely false. There is no wiggle room in that point. Once we know it was false information now we have to know his intention. For that you ask, “Why was he doing it?”

I doubt seriously that he was trying to trick the US. But, if not us, then who? I propose it was meant to trick and mislead the Iraqi military forces. If they felt they were wining they would fight and do so with confidence. If they knew they were losing, and were getting no information to the contrary, then morale would sag and troops would give up. If the troops gave up then Iraq loses the war, and that leads to Saddam Hussein losing power.  But…we are not done yet.

Let’s for the sake of this discussion assume that the troops believed what he was saying and fought on. Would more troops die than if they had given up right then and there? The answer is obviously yes, more troops would die on both sides. Therefore, what Baghdad Bob was doing was lying. His intention, implicit or explicit, was more death and carnage. He lied, and people died.

That is a real-life example of the difference between false information and lying…it is called intention.

Well, if that is the difference, how do you tell the difference between lying and false information?

Bingo! That is the point.. However, to truly drive the point home, to bring it to full light I feel I have to raise emotions. If not, the full understanding will be missed. So please bear with me. I am going to take a hot button subject and use it to show the difference between false information and lying. I am going to use examples, two of which are going to be in regards to Islam.

Now, for those whose blood pressure just went up, relax. This is not going to be an argument whether Islam is this or that, I will just use arguments on both sides to show false information vs. lies. And to use reason, logic, and facts in the process.

Islamic Terrorist hit again!

The United States suffered another terrorist attack, this time in San Bernardino in 2015. The terrorists who attacked a Christmas party were Muslim. That is an established fact, it is 100% truth. So the term “Muslim terrorist” is also 100% true. That is Philosophy 101 level logic based statement.

However, you have some that say Islam is a religion of violence, hate, terrorism.  They will then say that Islam itself is “terrorist” because all terrorism appears to be coming from Muslims.

The FBI defines “International terrorism” as activities with the following three characteristics:

  1. Involves violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;
  2. Appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
  3. Occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S., or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum.

We will use that definition and refer to it as simply “terrorism” for this discussion. And I am sure we can agree that the San Bernardino attack was terrorism.

Back to our Muslim terrorist statement, let’s test that for truth.

  1. Are all terrorists Islamic? Currently, the answer for some would be a resounding yes in as much as by statistics the largest number of terrorist attacks in the world right now are being committed by Muslims, and San Bernardino was for sure.
  2. Therefore, since all (or at least the vast majority) terrorism is being committed by members of Islam, and all members of Islam are Muslims, then all Muslims are terrorists.

Is that a true, or accurate, resulting statement? Let’s not worry about the answer just yet. Let’s test the statement itself, “Therefore, since all (or at least the vast majority) terrorism is being committed by members of Islam, and all members of Islam are Muslims, then all Muslims are terrorists.”

We can test that easily enough, do all Muslims commit terrorist acts? The answer is obviously no. Therefore, Islam by default is not a terrorist organization. I will even take it a step further and say that some Muslims are good people, but that is simply opinion since that is a subjective statement relative to my baseline. However, that also can’t produce a statement of truth, “Since some Muslims are good, then Islam is good.”

Where am I going with all of this? We need to have the tools to assess not just the truth of statements but what it means in relationship to ourselves. In other words, how does it impact us.

Let’s take the two opposing sides in one aspect of the Islam is bad argument:

  • Islam is bad, evil, and satanic creating terror around the world. Muslims are evil people and we must punish them.
  • Islam is a religion of peace and love. The terrorists are, and violence is being committed by, Muslims that are not practicing their faith. They are just evil people not Muslims.

So which is true?

I could by-pass a lot of discussion and ask a simple question, “What does each side gain by their position?”

  • The “Islam is bad” crowd probably wants war and a scapegoat for all the problems in the world.
  • The “Islam is peace” Muslim crowd wants the focus off themselves and their entire religion to not be held accountable.
  • The extremely vocal “Islam is peace” non-Muslim crowd is usually just full of vanity and self-aggrandizing.

All three sides have a lot to gain, all have significant self-interest. However, that self-interest must be considered in determining “truth.” And that doesn’t even begin to cover things such as bias.

So let’s test some more details of each side’s arguments.

  1. One side says Mohammad was a pedophile.
  2. The other side says that is not true and become enraged at the accusation.

Now, here is where it can get ugly…

A person trying to make Islam to be evil would say something like, “If the founder of Islam was evil because he was a pedophile, then the religion of Islam is evil. And if Islam is evil then Muslims must be evil.”

However, once again, that is an untrue statement using logic and fact. For it to be true, all Muslims must also be pedophiles. And we know that isn’t true, by anecdotal evidence and also Muslim religious and judicial guidelines in-place today saying that they cannot marry until a girl is at least in puberty.

Therefore that proves that not all Muslims are evil. Do some Muslims qualify as pedophiles? Are some Muslims criminals because they commit sexual abuse of pre-pubescent children? I cannot provide evidence or statistics to prove that point. Regardless of Mohammad’s standing as a pedophile or not, that alone does not make Islam or all Muslims pedophiles.

So when you hear statements, such as #1 & #2 above, you can’t simply make a snap decision and be assured of your accuracy. You must actually research the issue and know what you are talking about. Or you risk using false information or lies in your SA process. Doing so in emergencies, disasters, or grid-down events can then easily lead to making poor, maybe fatal, decisions based on faulty assumptions which was based on false information or lies.

But we still have the “action” aspect of the SA process I’ve been talking about. If you then take action, what are you taking action on…or for what reasons?

Based on the example statements, what action would or should you take?

My suggestions would be…virtually no action needs to be taken. And that is based on the amount of risk or threat to you if either statement is true or false.

What do I mean by that?

Statement #1 (One side says Mohammad was a pedophile.), even if it is true, so what? Does it require any action on your part? No. Plain and simple, no.

Statement #2 (The other side says that is not true and become enraged at the accusation.), if it was proven to be a lie, what threat or risk is there to you or your family? None. Plain and simple, none.

But, what it does mean to me (or you) is…if a person tries to advocate for Statement #2. I need to be cautious. Why? If a person is perpetuating that lie, they are then a liar and not to be trusted.

There is an exception to that conclusion. If statement #1 was true in your mind but a person can provide sufficient evidence that a reasonable person would believe that Mohammad wasn’t a pedophile, then you need to change your opinion. But, the evidence provided must pass a simple test – it must negate all the evidence you used proving to yourself that Mohammad was a pedophile.

An example of that would be definitive proof that A’isha lied when she said she was 6 when married to Mahmoud, then 9 when forced to have sex with him. That might be difficult, remember her own story in her own words was recorded by eleven authorities. Or, the writings/narrations, written in their holy book must be proven to have been fraudulently recorded. OK, you get the idea on that burden of proof.

But here is a problem, A’isha herself told the story of her and Mohammad, and that story was recorded as truth many times in their holy books. If someone in present day claims that it isn’t true, you would have to naturally ask, “How can a person 1400 years after the fact claim to know more than actual written history recorded multiple times by multiple people who lived it?”

And then you have to bring into the equation that no recognized or credible Islamic scholar or historian raised any red flag over the story of A’isha prior to some modern-day claim of fraud. Why would that be? If it was a lie and a fraudulent story, wouldn’t someone have objected to it being in their holy books in the first 100, 500, or 1000 years after it was written? Why would someone just bring it up in modern times and expect to have any credibility?

Now, there is a more actionable point. If a person tries to claim a different truth, a different factual history, now…ask yourself “Why now and why him?” That is far more important question to answer before you delve into the truthfulness of his claims. You must know “intent” first.

Until you can be convinced otherwise you would be well suited to view that person who is making the claim to be either providing false information due to ignorance, or lying for more malevolent purposes. And you maintain that position until he can prove to you otherwise.

Personal note: I don’t care who Mohammad was or is. Yes,I feel sorry for that little girl, but it happened a long time ago. I don’t judge Islam or Muslims based on Mohammad’s pedophile status or what he did to that little girl. I don’t judge, or at least I shouldn’t judge, one Muslim based on what another Muslim does. What I do care about it the content of a person’s character. If a Muslim, like any other person, lives a decent life and doesn’t hurt others, then they are okay in my book. In today’s world it is easy to be calloused about Muslims and view them as a single group. I urge you not to. Sure, logic and prudence does whisper some caution, but it doesn’t justify bias, prejudice, or bigotry.

Good SA requires the ability to think through all informational input. And you must be able to analyze it with facts and logic. Then, act only if the outcome, or potential outcome, requires it.

And beware of arguments filled with emotions. A solid position based on fact and logic needs no emotion. Emotion is meant to win an argument with little or no fact, without logic, and mostly upon the art of persuasion touching a person’s feelings.

Should that fail, some weak minded people may use “deflection” as a tactic. This is most often used when a person knows their position is without merit, wholly or partially, and uses something else to draw away attention. Example: Christians killed more people than Muslims.

In that argument they are trying to use a moral equivalent to justify their position. But use reason in relationship to your baseline…Christians killing people in the name of their religion or their god is just as evil as Muslims killing people in the name of their religion or their god. They are trying to justify or overshadow one evil act with another. When in fact, both acts are evil. But the person that makes that argument is unable to see the difference, approves of both, or simply can’t make the mental effort to understand the fallacy of the argument they are making.

You will also see some individuals that will use emotion, and when that attempt fails the person will then sometimes fall back to attacking the opposing person personally without the use of facts, reasoning, and logic. It becomes a personal attack vs. a discussion or debate.  Those tactics can be read about in a book called Rules for Radical by Sal Alinsky. The book ironically enough is dedicated to Satan.

Concluding…SA is essential to emergency preparedness. You must be able to recognize truth, false statements, and lies. If you don’t develop that skill set you will not be able to accurately assess information that you are receiving. And that will lead to poor decision making. And poor decision making could easily lead to injury or death through bad actions or lack of action. Us critical thinking skills…think it through…test all statements for logic and reason…and most of all, intent.

 

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Threats, Risk, & Mitigation: Part 3

Now it gets fun! I will rate the top nine risk and threats that I feel my family and I face in our current national environment. After I do the Grid Down Chaos and violence against people are threat and risk to familyrating and explain it I will talk about how to mitigate risks and threats in the final article in this series. Because, after all, mitigating the  Grid Down Chaos and violence against people are threat and risk to familyrisks and threats so you and your family can survive emergencies, disasters, and “grid-down” events is the whole goal to all of this “preparedness” stuff!

In the previous article I went over how to rate the different risk and threats you and your family might face. I provided definitions, worksheets and explanations on how it works. I also touched on the different levels of concern and how they should be handled. Now let’s wrap all of it together and see how it can work to give you and your family a fighting chance to survive!

In no particular order I listed the following as risks and threats that my family and I face at this point in our life that I feel need to be presented to you:

~ Retirement
~ Flu
~ Police State
~ EMP or Nuclear Strike
~ Epidemic/Pandemic
~ Invasion of USA
~ Heart Attack
~ Financial Collapse
~ Stock Market Crash

I wrote out some of my thoughts to narrate some of my thinking of these events –

Retirement: Almost certain to occur. If not properly prepared for hunger, homelessness and utility disruptions are possible. Potential loss of, or greatly reduced, transportation capability.

Flu: Occurs nation-wide annually to large percentage of population, age 55+ being the most susceptible. Potential for bed-ridden sickness for 1-week to death is possible.

Police State: Already in-place to some degree, mandatory DUI checkpoints, citizenship checkpoints, DNA collection points, increasing police violence, police militarization, multiple occurrences of localized undeclared martial law, increasing deaths and injuries by police of innocent people.

Epidemic/Pandemic (i.e. Ebola): Ebola already in the USA, not widespread, not easily transmitted, no known cure or vaccine, confusion at the local, state, and federal level on treatment.

EMP or Nuclear Strike: A nuclear strike has only occurred twice on a population center and only then during a world war and by America. Probability is almost nonexistent but it is minimally possible with countries like North Korea and Iran possessing a weapon. An EMP strike has never occurred anywhere in the world ever; at least one that was ever recorded. So the likelihood of an EMP strike is also almost nonexistent. But either event would be severe in outcome. A nuclear strike would be most devastating to the immediate and outside of the immediate strike zone as well as downwind and downriver/stream but much of the country would continue to function within reason. And EMP strike, depending on the strike location, could be potentially devastating to the entire USA. Either event would wreak havoc on the financial system here or abroad should a strike occur within the USA.

Invasion by foreign country or UN: I consider this an impossibility at this time in history. No country on earth has the ability to carry out such an attack and subsequent invasion, let alone occupation. The logistics issues by themselves would be virtually impossible to overcome. And then there is the clear and unmistakable knowledge that the US has hundreds of millions of weapons in the hands of civilians with more than enough ammunition to be a deterrent in and of itself. I do rate the severity aspect high since it would plunge the country into a war on American soil.

Unemployment: Statistics show that the average American will change jobs 11 times in their working lifetime. There are no stats indicating how often or for how long a person will be unemployed. So I am going off of people that I know and making a totally unscientific guess at it. Probability of unemployment 100% at some point in a person’s lifetime. Length of time that a person will be unemployed I will go with the BLS statistics, 8 months. Severity of unemployment can be devastating even with an unemployment check. Loss of home, shortage of food, battling with utility companies and losing credit worthiness to name just a few.

Heart Attack: For a person of aged 40 the chances you will have a heart attack sometime before you reach that age is less than 5%, over that age it increases exponentially. There are risk factors that increase your risk, and life style efforts that reduce that risk. But we are going for “average” for this purpose. And the severity rating comes out fairly high since heart attacks are 50% (+/-) fatal. They are more fatal the older you are when the heart attack strikes.

Financial/Economic System Collapse: This is a tricky one to say the least. The Federal Reserve is a train wreck taking place in slow motion. Since they began active involvement recessions have both lengthened and deepened. They have also devalued the dollar in terms of inflation by over 2200%, in relation to gold the dollar has devalued by 988%. So the US dollar and economy has been in a slow crash for over 100 years. An “event” that crashes overnight could occur rather easily. That could occur financially via our global enemies such as China and Russia, or internally via a “bank holiday” or removing gold from public possession. Both of which have occurred before under Progressive Presidents. So a “crash” is a foregone conclusion, it is only a matter of time-frame. I believe that the slow-motion option is a 75% probability, while the “event” is a 25% probability.

Stock Market Crash or Substantial Correction: These events occur on a regular basis, it is just a matter of severity. Here is a list of years that the more notable events and when they occurred; 1857, 1869, 1883, 1886, 1901, 1907, 1929, 1937, 1962, 1987, 1989, 1990, 2000, 2001, 2008-2009, 2010. Here is a summary of severity and the occurrence average –

Stock Market Correction information on when and how badNote of interest:  The country has suffered a minor market correction approximately every 11 years from 1791 – 1907 (119 years). Between 1908 – 2010 (102 years) the country suffered a significant or major market correction every 8 years, including the two worst market crashes in history, the only depression, and the top four recessions. FYI…the Federal Reserve began controlling the economy and the currency in 1913.

In the 2009 crash the stock market lost over 50% of its value. In the 1929 crash it lost 75% of its value. So based on the statistics I feel we are due within 3 – 5 years for a greater than 50% correction in the markets and the economy in general, or a complete collapse of the stock market and economy.

So here are my ratings on the nine events noted above:

Based on the ratings I assigned to each potential event here are the events in order of concern with the highest concern first:

When I chart it out it looks like this –

So now what do you do with the information? Well, I provided a worthwhile guide for you to list your own concept of potential events and how to rate each one of them. Once you have done that then you have a good idea of a priority list of events that you need to prepare for. With that you can work on what you need to do to prepare for each event.

In my next and final article in this series I will explain how to mitigate risks and threats through the “risk management” system. This system is reliable and proven in the field to work. When you are finished reading the next article you will be ready and able to tackle even your toughest risks a threats that you and your family face. You will be armed with the system to reduce the risk and reduce the threat and increase you family’s chances of survival. Look for it!

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PDF Files: Organization (ICS)

These PDF files contain information and direction on how to organize for an effective response to an emergency, disaster or grid-down event. They are based on my series of articles “Preparedness & Organization” with considerable editing, revising, and updating. I have also included several more PDF files that you might find useful.

 

 

The overall document explaining ICS: <click here to download: PreparednessOrganization-ICS>

Next is a handout that is brief and outlines ICS: <click here to download:Handout20150907 >

Next is a basic Org Chart. It can be printed and used to help design your organization, or simply as a visual to help you “see” how it fits together. <click here to download: OrgChart1>

Finally, there is a large PDF file that contains ICS-300 training material. I was an ICS Master Instructor certified by FEMA to teach instructors how to teach ICS. It is the basic FEMA training material used as version 2 of the training. And it includes my edits and changes in the material. <click here to download: ICS-300 Training >

Please feel free to use the form below to request a specific subject/topic to be converted into a PDF file.

Request a topic/subject…




 

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How Fast Could You Leave?

note: article first appeared in March 2016

So here’s what I am thinking…Something happens, anything, doesn’t matter really. The question stands…How fast could you leave your house and be prepared to do whatever was required of you?

Yeah, I know, you want to ask me, “Prepared for what?” I am saying, it doesn’t matter. I am asking you, “How long would it take you to leave your house and be prepared to do whatever was required of you?”

Now, if you can’t answer the question, then you aren’t prepared enough…not even close. Yes, it is a fair question, and I believe it is a fair observation to say that if you can’t answer the question, or you have lots of trouble answering it directly, then you aren’t really prepared enough.

Here’s what I am getting at…If I had to leave the house “prepared” I could do it in about 3 – 5 minutes. I could handle all of the top threats/risks associated with emergencies, disasters, and grid-down incidents for 45 – 90 days minimum. Probably a lot more if I knew I had to stretch it out. Yes, I am serious about that!

We have two basic locations for those preparedness items we would take. They are grouped according to “perishable” and “non-perishable” stuff. While the food that is ready is really non-perishable, it is food and it lasts much longer in a more climate controlled environment so it is in the house. The “gear” I consider non-perishable so it is stored in the garage, with the exception of guns.

The food, including heirloom seed packets, is located in the kitchen right next to the door that goes into the garage. The gear that is located in the garage is next to the large double-car garage door. Both locations are easily accessed, nothing restricting access, and can be reached with minimal effort if you know what you are doing.

There are total of four cases of six #10 cans each can are all freeze dried foods, plus two 6gal plastic buckets of freeze dried food pouches. Then a single 2gal plastic bucket of seeds. In the garage there are four large totes and six small totes that make-up my primary GOOD BOB gear. All of that gear mitigates all, yes all, of the threats/risk categories for incidents. And I can have all of that loaded correctly in the bed of my pick-up or my wife’s SUV within a few minutes, 5 mins tops. If I had to just throw it in the vehicles I can do that too, so I could probably reduce it to 2 minutes if I really hustled or had my wife’s help and I wasn’t worried about it being neatly packed.

In the event that I had more time I could then go to my secondary totes and food boxes. And I won’t bore you to death on the details but the secondary totoes would significantly increase my survival time and comfort level.

But, why the heck am I even asking you this question and giving you my example?

Because I want to think about your situation and the time it would take for you to be mobile in a crisis situation.

Yes, of course you could shelter in place if needed and/or it was your only option, we all know that. But I was wanting to prompt you about “having” to leave in a hurry…could you do it and take your basic preps with you?

And this is really not about the time required, the vehicle, or anything along those lines. This “prompt” is about organization more than anything. Are you organized enough to get your food and gear out the door quickly if you needed to?

Here is one of the problems I see with preppers…mostly prepper organization is not properly thought out. Yeah, “properly” being the operative word here. They may be organized, however, the method they use may well not be a practical methodology for many situations.

I have seen incredibly organized preppers while visiting their homes. I have been seriously impressed many times by the sheer volume of food and gear. But, I have seldom, almost never, seen their preps organized in such a fashion to allow for graduated movement of their gear and food using a priority methodology.

Meaning, they can take a limited number of containers and still have a wide variety of what they need. Mostly I see box after box of wheat, then box after box of oats. And that goes on and on, even a whole box full of candles…but not a single match in the box of candles or a can opener in any case of food.

What I want to propose to you is a reorganizing of food and gear. Place a diet balanced variety of food in a couple of boxes or totes or buckets. That provides you with a decent quantity and variety of food…even if you can only grab that one or two boxes before you have to leave. Same is true for gear. Have a few primary containers with gear in each that provides for the most basic of needs should you have to leave your home.

Where I want you to end up, your goal, my leader’s intent, is the ability to leave your home in minimal time, under 10 minutes, and have enough of your food and gear to get by on. Sure, if you have plenty of advanced notice, and a large enough vehicle, you can take it all, and that is the ideal situation. But, emergency incidents are rarely “ideal.”

Please Read: Food Storage Methodology

 

 


Related Articles:

 

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Mission or Event Briefing Outline

Mission or event briefing outlinenote: article first appeared in February 2015

Why this a subject for a post?

Have you ever had to give a group of people information for an event?  How about for a mission or task?  How about just inform some folks on what is happening that day?  If you have, what format did you use?  If you haven’t done it yet, but will…what format would you use? How will you organize your briefing presentation?tool in the toolbox for leaders

This post is designed to explain exactly what you need to do to provide a high-quality and informative briefing to a group of people.  It is based on a long-standing successful model used in all major emergency/disaster incidents by emergency responders.  It is another tool in the toolbox for you to use.

This is used for a briefing. Notice the root word is “brief”. DO NOT drag this meeting out. It should cover just enough details that everyone has a clear picture of what should happen. Everyone involved doesn’t need to have every minor detail. The Leader’s Intent is the most important piece of information. Leader’s Intent let’s everyone know when it will be done and what it will look like when it is done. In other words, without Leader’s Intent, no one would ever know the mission/activity is done because no one ever told the people involved what “done” looks like.

StopwatchThe whole briefing, even on a complicated mission, should never take more than 20 minutes. Once you hit the 10-minute mark you will start losing people’s attention. Do not let people involved in providing parts of the briefing ramble on; stop them. Best way to address that is to tell them clearly ahead of time exactly what information they are responsible for sharing during the briefing and how much time they will have. Normally 1 – 4 minutes each.

Don’t let detailed questions from the audience takeover the meeting. Major, large-scale questions need to be addressed but not minor questions. Example #1: Do you expect a tornado to hit during the mission? Answer that one. Example #2: I can’t eat any gluten and I get swollen feet if I do. I need….. Stop them! Tell them to see the logistics person after the briefing to handle food and meal issues.Mission or event briefing outline

If the Operational Detail part has more hardcore information with multiple moving parts involved then consider a post-briefing “break-out” meeting for the operations folks. Example: We will have two groups; Group 1 is responsible for filling the sandbags, Group 2 is responsible for transporting and the placement of the bags. Anyone over the age of 50 is in Group 1, anyone 50 and younger is in Group 2. Tom there {finger pointing to Tom} is in-charge of Group 1, Mike over there {finger pointing to Mike} is in charge of Group 2. They will hold a break-out meeting with their respective groups right after this briefing. Group 1 will meet in the NE corner of the parking lot, Group 2 will meet in the SE corner by the tree. And you’re done…stop!

Briefing a group

  1. Briefing purpose. State why the briefing is being held. Example: We are here this morning to go over the operational details for putting sandbags at the church to protect the building from potential flooding. Joe Brandon will be in charge today.
  2. Current situation. Briefly outline what the current state of affairs is that is driving the mission. Example: We have received 4” of rain in the last 2 days. The church is threatened with flooding within the next 12 hours if we don’t place sandbags in the parking lot to divert the water that is flowing from across the street into the parking lot.
  3. Leader’s intent. The person leading the briefing then states what the mission looks like upon successful completion. Normally the intent should be stated in as little as one sentence and no more than three. Example: When we are done today we will have placed enough sandbags in the parking lot to divert all the current and expected water flow away from the building.  When we are done there there will be no threat of flooding the church building. And it is especially important that we will do that without getting anyone hurt.
  4. Operational details. The person in charge of the actual operational activities then briefly explains what will be happening and when. Example: We will be ready to depart the Walmart parking lot by 0800. We will rally at the church no later than 0845 and make individual work assignments at that point. We will place sandbags in the northwest corner of the parking lot and divert the flow of water around the west side of the parking lot away from the church building. We expect to be done no later than 1500. Everyone will be free to travel home directly from the church.  No need to meet here after the work is completed. Does anyone have any questions, thoughts, issues, or concerns about what we are doing?
  5. Logistics needs. Whoever is in charge of logistics presents pertinent information regarding expected or potential logistical issues. Example: We need to all fuel-up before departing, lunches will be provided at the church by the women’s group, and the sandbags are being delivered by the local fire department. The bags should be there by the time we arrive. The truck full of sand will wait until they get a call from me before delivering the sand. I will call them when we leave here for the church.  For lunch, if you any have special diet restrictions see me afterwards. If there are any other logistical needs see me after the briefing as well.
  6. Communications. Whoever is responsible for communications will then briefly give an overview of the communications arrangements. Example #1: We will use cell phones for communications. Operation’s cell phone number is….   My cell phone number is…. For logistics call…..  Example #2: We will use FRS channel 2 to keep in contact while traveling. Channel 3 will be for operational issues at the church. Channel 4 will reserved for logistics to use. If you don’t have the channel frequencies already programmed into your radio see me after the briefing.
  7. Safety. Quickly review any safety concerns that will be present during the mission. Example: Be careful driving, the roads are slick from all the rain. Do not drive through water running across the road that is more than 6” deep. Also, if we hear any thunder that is within 5 seconds of our location, or if we see any lightening we will get back in our vehicles and wait it out for 30 minutes.  John will give us the all-clear when it is safe to return to work.
  8. Wrap-up. The “leader” then gets back up and closes the briefing with a very brief conclusion. Example: I want to thank everyone for coming out on a rainy morning when there is plenty of college football to watch. We need to get this done or the church will be flooded and heavily damaged if we don’t. I want us to stay safe and enjoy working together. Thank you again and please come see me if you have anything that could help us today. See you at the church.

Leaders IntentThe “briefing” is an essential element of any mission. If folks don’t know what is happening, what is expected of them and what success will look like, then they are being cheated and the mission will more than likely fail.

The key is giving enough information that everyone feels comfortable to get to work, but not so overloaded with information that folks get confused. Use the breakout sessions to give the detail information.  These breakouts would be the smaller groups of folks that are assigned to different areas or functions of the overall work project.

To get an idea on how much information to provide – think about what you would like to know. That will get you started. Also, write down the general info that you want to present. Makes it easier to stay on track and not miss passing on any vital info.

Lastly, a little humor also helps. But not too much or the “tone” of the mission may be compromised.

Real “lastly”…Why do you need to know how to give a briefing?  If you don’t know how to do it right, you will probably do it it incorrectly.  And if your people don’t know what is going on, if they don’t have all of the right information, how do you expect them to be successful?  When you give your people the right information in the right format…you are giving them one of the tools they need to succeed.

 

 

 

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Decision Fatigue

Decision Fatigue stress decision makingnote: first appeared in March 2015

So I came home, walked in the door, plopped down on the couch, turned on the TV and started watching a show. I have no idea what show it was, no idea who the cast was or even if it was in color or black and white. Then my wife walked in about 15 minutes later. I was quiet and barely said “hello.”

The dogs greeted her, she set her bag down, walked over and kissed me on the cheek. So far so good; then it went downhill real quickly, she started to talk to me. Oh boy, wrong move.

First she asked me how my day went, did I stop and get milk on the way home, and did I remember we had a meeting that night with some friends. Before I could really get much out of my mouth she then asked me if we would be able to do… That is when I asked her if we could talk about it later, for now I just wanted to relax. She then started asking why I needed to relax, did I have a bad day? Oh boy, wrong move…Decision Fatigue stress decision making

I finally just told her in my day-job command voice that I just wanted to relax and we could talk about all those things later. And that was a wrong move on my part. Fifteen minutes later she was still asking me questions and I was still telling her I just wanted to relax. Sound familiar?

I was suffering from “decision fatigue” in a big way and I had no idea that I was…suffering from it. I had never even heard of such a thing then, now I have.

Decision fatigue is a psychological phenomenon that has only been in the research and discovery phase for about four years now. However, its effects have been felt for many thousands of years.

Decision fatigue manifests itself in:

  • Poor quality decisions
  • Impulsive decisions
  • Paralysis in decision making
  • Reduced self-regulation

Decision Fatigue stress decision makingDecision fatigue is caused by making decisions. Yes, you read that right. If you were doing hard physical work all day, far beyond what you were used to doing, there would come a point where you would become physically exhausted and unable to continue the work. The very same thing happens in your mind when living one of those days where you find yourself having to make continuous decisions all day long. And the more stressful the decisions are, the more wear and tear on your brain. Eventually your brain starts having real problems making good-quality decisions and will ultimately completely shut down your ability to make decisions at all.

Yes, all decisions take energy whether they be simple decisions or complex decisions. Stressful decisions take more energy than easy decisions. “Do you drink the white milk or the chocolate milk with breakfast?” is an easier decision. “Do we take a chance on this firefighting tactic and increase the risk of life safety?” is a much tougher and more stressful decision and thus takes far more energy.

Decision FatigueMaking a decision at breakfast will come easier than one in the evening. Why? Because you’ve been working your brain all day making decisions and you brain is more tired in the evening. If those decisions you’ve been making all day are stressful then you will be mentally exhausted and the decision you make will make in the evening be of lesser quality. Alternatively, you may become paralyzed and unable to make any decision at all.

“What would you like for dinner sweetheart?”

“I don’t care.”

“No sweetie, really, what would you like to eat tonight?”

“I don’t care at all. Whatever sounds good to you is fine with me.”

“Well, it sounds like you had a rough day. I would like to fix you whatever you would like to make you happy.”

“I don’t a crap what you fix or even if we eat tonight!”

Ah yes, marital bliss. I would never admit that this conversation ever took place in my home or vehicle. But maybe you Decision Fatigueknow of someone that has had this experience – decision fatigue.

So how does that affect us during an incident? Every day, all day and in ways you may not have thought about it. We find ourselves having to constantly make decisions throughout the day. Some decisions are significant, other more trivial, but all are important in one way or another. Understanding the physiological issues is the first step to reduce decision fatigue.

 

Here are the ways to reduce decisions fatigue:

  1. Understand and accept that it is real.
  2. Reduce the number of decisions you make. You can do that in a number of ways –
    1. Make leader’s intent clear and use subordinates, allowing them to make decisions for their area of responsibility.
    2. Make it clear that if someone brings you a problem, they are also responsible for bringing you a solution (or at least an idea).
    3. Have “habits” that make a decision for you rather than going through an entire decision making process.
  3. Move important decisions to earlier in the day.
  4. Make decisions a head of time and use predetermined trigger points to implement those decisions.
  5. Water, stay hydrated, and that also includes electrolytes.
  6. Eat and keep your glucose levels up but not spiked.
  7. Rest; get good quality sleep and take breaks. Any sleep and any breaks are better than none.
  8. Don’t over analyze a problem before making a decision. Use the minimal amount of high-quality information and then choose the first “right” decision. Notice I didn’t say choose the “best” option or the “ultimate” option. Over analyzing doesn’t do anyone any good and just adds to the stress of making a decision.
  9. Know that decision fatigue happens to everyone and that includes you. You are not immune to decision fatigue so take the necessary steps to avoid it.

Failure to mitigate decision fatigue can manifest itself as:Decision Fatigue stress decision making

  1. Making a costly decision based on impulse vs. logic and reason. You might just not want to “deal with it” so you make a decision quickly, too quickly, to get the decision over with and out of the way. Few of us like inducing pain on ourselves, especially mental pain and anguish. When suffering from decision fatigue we are more likely to make any decision, even it if it is a bad decision, just to relieve ourselves from the pain associated with the decision making process.
  2. A serious manifestation of decision fatigue can occur as decision paralysis. This is where a person just won’t make a decision. The amount of incoming information is overwhelming and the decision process just becomes too much to handle. At that point a person can shut down and become incapable of making any decision at all. The ramifications of decision paralysis can be fatal if taken to the extreme; costly at a minimum.Stressful environment
  3. Lastly there is the “self-regulation” side effect to decision fatigue. This can be very ugly and personally costly. Researchers have found a direct correlation between decision fatigue and poor decision making in a person’s life. Examples would be; substance abuse (including alcohol abuse) and sex-based dalliances. In some circles individuals who were considered “high speed – low drag” leaders were at particular risk at suffering from self-regulation problems.

Prepper GroupStressful environments where decision making is demanded of you can be mentally costly to you. Understanding decision fatigue and appropriate mitigation options can go a long way towards keeping you in the game and performing at acceptable levels. And “acceptable” means safe and productive in the field where your people depend on you.

Don’t neglect (i.e. ignore) decision fatigue…it cost you too much.

 

 

 

 

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No reproduction or other use of this content 
without expressed written permission from AHTrimble.com
See Content Use Policy for more information.