Conclusions

Case studies are an effective interactive learning tool and military staff ride principles provide effective guidance for bringing case studies to life. Adequate preparation by the instructor is necessary to enable them to know what safety principles can be reinforced by a given case study, and thereby employ the most appropriate case example.

Fire agencies outside the United States could easily adapt the Lessons Learned: Fatality Case Studies training to their use. Adaptation would require changes to provide a framework for using domestic tactical safety guidelines, or a conscious decision to teach and apply National Wildfire Coordinating Group (American) tactical safety guidelines. Adaption would, of course, also require case studies and video scenarios in a relevant, local context.

The Fatality Fire Case Studies course can provide an effective vehicle for introducing safety concepts and implementing safety initiatives. The training package's modular format allows ample flexibility to integrate safety concepts and topics other than those designed into the course materials.

Using the five step risk management process as an analysis tool can add to the value of the learning process provided by examining case studies. The process provides an adequate learning framework for critical analysis. The ability to use that framework, while simultaneously introducing and ingraining the use of a risk management process, represents one of the strengths of the course objectives.

However, with that strength, comes the potential to confuse the student as to the intended use of the five step risk management process. The instructor must clearly differentiate between classroom use of the process and how a decision maker would employ the risk management process on the fireline. In class, the student uses the risk management process as an analysis tool, to examine past events. In the field, the tactical decision maker will use the same process dynamically, as a decision making aid for identifying and mitigating hazards during fireline operations. The instructor has a special responsibility to constantly reinforce this point throughout the training session.

The case studies developed for the Fatality Fire Case Studies course are oriented to learning from tragic failures. The approach could be expanded by providing examples which identify "lessons learned" from successful operations, case studies which show what happens when people make good decisions.

Instructors may find it more difficult to introduce the five step risk management process to experienced firefighters to whom it represents a change in thinking. Fire agencies can effectively indoctrinate a risk management mentality, when they systematically and comprehensively include it throughout their training curriculum, beginning at the lowest organizational level.

The five step risk management process provides an important and needed framework for applying current tactical safety references used in the United States. Instructors need to emphasize and continually reinforce this purpose throughout the training session. However, there is a growing recognition for the need to consolidate and change the use of rules, guidelines and tactical references used in the United States. The adoption of the five step risk management process does not eliminate this need, nor does the need to reform the tactical references diminish the value of the risk management process.

With its roots in military "staff ride" methodology, great potential exists to use the Fatality Fire Case Studies, combined with the study findings, and those of other major studies, to develop and conduct true staff rides; including the requisite preliminary study and visitation to actual fireground locales.

Potential also exists to dramatically expand application of the "lessons learned" approach in training for wildland firefighters and tactical decision makers. Fire agencies wishing to capitalize on such an approach will establish mechanisms for collecting accounts of critical fireline situations and incidents. They will then analyze performance and decision making from those accounts; and disseminate those analyses by incorporating "lessons learned" into both existing and new training.