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FireMind: Development of an interactive computer-based software tool for assessing and training Fireground Situation Awareness and decision-making
Start date: Sep 1, 2014, End date: Aug 31, 2016 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Context: The project is concerned with improving safety in fireground operations though the development of an interactive software tool for assessing and training fireground Situation Awareness (understanding of the immediate situation) and decision-making patterns. Past work by the team has shown that under pressure, professional training and competence per se does not fully protect Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) personnel from the risk of losing Situation Awareness and so making errors. These errors are due to decision-making tendencies or "biases" due to either of two patterns: either "tunnelling down" on aspects of the situation and overlooking others, or alternately attempting to deal with too much information at once. The former pattern will cause "miss" errors whereby key information may not be taken on board, and the latter pattern will cause "false alarms" where irrelevant or even incorrect information may be used to make decisions. Even with the highest levels of training and skill, individuals can still make such errors. These are due to natural limitations of the human brain under pressure. Such tendencies are addressed in training for many other situations where human decision-making is under pressure (e.g, aircraft , military, medical contexts) but have yet to be noticeably incorporated in VET for Fire services. Objectives: The main objective of the project is to develop an online interactive software tool that enables Fire Service personnel to engage in realistic simulations of fire service operations and receive immediate feedback about their Situation Awareness and type of decision bias (whether they "tunnel down" or "broaden out") followed by guidance for improvement and self-monitoring of Situation Awareness and bias. This will provide the personnel with immediate insights into their own decision-making patterns and tendencies and provide means by which to self-monitor these tendencies under pressure on the actual fireground. The broad objective is to add value to their training by increasing their awareness of possible decision-making tendencies that could produce errors and cause risk during their fireground operations. Participants: Participants will be Fire and Rescue Service personnel from the EU partner FRS centres. This will involve both firefighters and commanders (managers). Optimally 20 people per EU partner centre will be involved in the project. Activities: The project will involve the following sequence of activities: (1.) initial visit by UK partners to all EU Fire Service partner sites to demonstrate and explain the basic approach and collect information on local requirements for further development (2) subsequent development of the tool for each of the EU sites by researchers and then by the UK partners with a technician to enhance the user-interface; (3.) second visit by UK team to support the initial trials of the tool in each EU partner site ; (4.) ongoing trials to be conducted by EU partners who will then send feedback and outputs to UK teams for coordination and final revision; (5.) refinement of the tool by the U.K. team; (6.) EU partners to send representatives to a workshop in UK to review the final version; (7.) uploading the final version to the online site (8.)with dissemination contiguous with (5) to (7). Methodology: The method will involve trials at each of the EU partner sites of interactive computer-based fireground exercises with locally relevant content. A range of exercises will be trialled, but each will present a series of images and video material representing the exercise interspersed with "probe" questions to be answered "true/false" (eg., "there was a gas cylinder at the building entrance"). A quantitative method in the software will produce a Situation Awareness score and a Bias tendency score (tunnel bias vs. broaden bias). This will be followed by qualitative feedback and further training activities implemented in the software specific to the individual's results. This will be followed up by interviews for the participants in the trials to reflect on the results and provide feedback on the perceived value of the method and suggest ways to develop it . This feedback will be passed on to the UK teams for further refinement of the tool. Envisaged impact/results: The impact is that the EU Fire Services community will have a valuable, accessible and innovative tool that provides improved understanding of an individual's Situation Awareness and Decision-making bias tendencies and provides guidance on ways to self-check and improve on these critical aspects of foreground operations. Long-term potential benefits: For the individual FRS personnel who employ this tool, this will ultimately enable them to perform at a higher level under pressure on the actual fireground and hence reduce decision-making error, thereby improving safety for Fire and Rescue services and for the wider community that they serve.

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