#WednesdayWisdom from FDNY Pro Deputy Chief Michael McLaughlin and Division Chief Christine Mazzola

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#WednesdayWisdom from FDNY Pro Deputy Chief Michael McLaughlin and Division Chief Christine Mazzola

Two common practices that improve mental preparedness and are used regularly by leaders in the field are routines and post-incident debriefings.

Research indicates that effective routines shift activities in the brain from the active thinking areas, to the “auto-pilot” regions of the brain. This leaves the active thinking areas with more capability to process unique, non-routine information. Many of the Department’s protocols and procedures are intended to accomplish a similar goal, providing a framework to operate at standard or typical incidents.

Individuals with more ingrained routines have been shown to manage high-stress environments better. Routines allow them to accomplish tasks, while gathering information and determining future actions. An example of the benefits of this process can be seen on the professional football field. Successful NFL quarterbacks develop rigorous routines in order to process the complex and fast-moving information presented during a play. Peyton Manning, one of the most successful quarterbacks of all time, was noted for how meticulously he practiced routines.

Many of the Department’s high performers develop routines through their own initiative. These routines are personally tailored, but have the common purpose of getting the individual prepared for action. They have been learned, developed and applied through years of experience. Sharing these behaviors with new members provides them with effective, tested processes that can be incorporated into a personal preparation routine. Leaders who take the time to offer this insight contribute invaluable support to newer members’ development and preparedness.

Preparation for future events begins with learning from previous ones. However, newer members have a limited number of personal lessons learned. Furthermore, they may lack the techniques to appropriately review their actions for learning opportunities. Officers and experienced members can assist these members by sharing in this review process.

Post-incident debriefing is an informal, personal means to improve. This debriefing offers members the opportunity to discuss actions taken and critique those actions shortly after the conclusion of an event. This activity takes limited time, but provides an effective means to improve personal performance.

The best reviews allow members to reflect on their thought processes from the moment of receipt of a call to the conclusion of operations. For newer members, this step-by-step review allows them to reflect on why they made decisions, rather than simply whether that decision was right or wrong.

To read more on Improving Individual Performance and Organizational Effectiveness Through Mental Preparedness see the 3rd/2016 edition of Pro EMS by Deputy Chief Michael McLaughlin and Division Chief Christine Mazzola.