Human Factor Barriers to Situational Awareness

Low Experience Level with Local Factors

  • Unfamiliar with the area or the organizational structure.

Distraction from Primary Task

  • Radio traffic
  • Conflict
  • Previous errors
  • Collateral duties
  • Incident within an incident


  • Carbon monoxide
  • Dehydration
  • Heat stress
  • Poor fitness level can reduce resistance to fatigue
  • 24 hours awake affects your decision making capabilities, like 0.10 blood alcohol content.

Stress Reactions

  • Communication deteriorates or grows tense
  • Habitual or repetitive behaviors
  • Target fixation – Locking into a course of action, whether it makes sense or not, just try harder.
  • Action tunneling – Focusing on small tasks, but ignoring the big picture.
  • Escalation of committment – Accepting increased risk, as completion of task gets near.

Hazardous Attitudes

  • Invulnerable – That can’t happen to us
  • Anti-authority – Disregard of the team effort
  • Impulsive – Do something, even if it’s wrong
  • Macho – Trying to impress or prove something
  • Complacent – Just another routine fire
  • Resigned – We can’t make a difference
  • Group Think – Afraid to speak up or disagree