Components of CRM
As was alluded to in the description of the crash of United 173, there are four critical components that comprise the basis of the Crew Resource Management program. The big four are 1) Communication Skills under stress; 2) Teamwork & Leadership; 3) Task Allocation and; 4) Critical Decision Making. By now most well connected, educated and trained readers may be yawning because these four items of CRM are so basic and obvious. But before you go back to the "hearts" card game, let me put this process into proper perspective.
The jump that the airline industry had to make was to change the "white scarf" or "fighter pilot" culture. That is, that the captain is the boss and knows all, does all and needs help from nobody. The fighter pilot (by design) fly's solo and is fully capable of doing every function when behind the stick. Makes sense considering he / she is the only person on board. It has taken the aviation industry the past twenty years to overcome the culture of the first fifty years of flying.
The Importance of Human Factors
As a final (hopefully convincing) thought, have you ever worked for / under a "fighter pilot" incident commander? Say maybe one that bristles at the mere suggestion of an idea that is not his / her original thought? Let's face it, those are the people that raise (most of) us in this business of fighting fires and saving lives. To drive this critical need for this human factors training philosophy home, the CRM instructors ask the question, is it possible to eliminate all errors by humans? Most resoundingly enlightened (awake) folks strongly agree that the answer is no - simply put humans will make errors from time to time. "To err is human" tends to be a true, well-supported position on this issue.
If you agree, the CRM gurus place you under their spell. Follow the logic, consider the fact that humans can make errors and in the truest sense of the word error, the person making the miscue can not detect their own mistake. If the decision maker recognized that he / she was going to make an error, they would have the ability to prevent (avoid) the problem and never make a flub. Armed with this near blinding flash of the obvious, someone else is much more likely to detect your errors. Hence, the title Crew Resource Management.
The Journey Towards Fire Fighter Safety Gets Tougher
Think about all of the fantastic advancements that the American Fire - Rescue service has made on the journey of improving fire fighter health and safety in the past twenty-five years. A partial list would include: transition to positive pressure SCBA, turnout gear, pass devices, NFPA 1500, 1510, 1561 & 1710 standards, ICS, accountability, improved tactics and strategies. The "low hanging fruit" (easy stuff) has been gathered on the member safety and survival journey. Now comes the much more difficult process of changing our culture to embrace this incredible new collection of command level tools. In future articles we will look at each of the elements that make up the CRM program in a detailed manner. Until next time; "Be safe out there!"