September 25, 2023
In February of this year, a Norfolk Southern train transporting hazardous materials derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, creating a large haz mat event. Responding to and mitigating an incident like this requires constant decision making.
Imagine you are responding to a train derailment involving two nasty chemicals: sulfur dioxide (toxic/corrosive gas) and toluene diisocyanate (poison). These were the products selected for a simulated derailment and release during a haz mat specialist course where I was one of the instructors.
The Haz Mat Group
In the photo, the two individuals on the right are researching the chemicals to determine their hazards and the results if the chemicals mix with each other.
At the same time three other students are putting on chemical protective clothing while their team leader prepares the necessary equipment to fix the gas and liquid leaks coming from the railcar training prop.
In the center of the photo is the Hazardous Materials Group Supervisor. He is the person who oversees the work performed by those individuals assigned to his group. Along with the incident commander and the assistant safety officer, the Haz Mat Group Supervisor also signs the agreed upon plan.
The Decision-Making Process
The process for deciding what actions to take did not occur in a vacuum. Several people provided input from their area of expertise within the Hazardous Materials Group.
The tempo, efficiency, and effectiveness of their decision-making was a result of their training and experiences, the situation they faced, and their individual situational awareness.
In a previous class, there were individuals who became bogged down with paralysis by analysis and it took them longer than necessary to resolve a similar scenario. That was not the case with those in the photo as they approached the scenario in a safe, proficient, and professional manner. Why? Because of the background each person brought to the table and the confidence they had in their ability to make sound and timely decisions.
How Can You be Successful with Decision-Making?
Success begins with preparation and that requires effort on your part. Become a student of your profession, observe others, and ask questions. Learn from your experiences, attend training, read after action reviews, and study. This builds confidence leading to quicker and better decision-making.
Furthermore, I am equipped to help you and your department in this area. I began to study this topic in 2007, and while attending the Executive Fire Officer Program at the National Fire Academy, I authored two applied research projects on decision-making.
From my research and experiences, I developed a class called Navigating the Sea of Decisions © which can be delivered in person or virtually. For more information click this link Seminars & Workshops – Fire Officer Leadership Academy or email me at [email protected].
©2023 Rick Davis. Artificial intelligence (AI) WAS NOT used to generate this content.