Think 'FAST': A mnemonic to help keep you safe
Too many officers have lost their lives due to lack of what I consider to be four core elements of officer safety: Focus, Attention, Situational awareness, and Tempo
The officer was sitting at a stop light focused on his mobile terminal when his LT who was out for a casual bike ride, pulled up and grabbed onto the door handle of the squad car. The lieutenant looked into the car as the officer was working on his MDT. After about ten seconds, the LT banged on the window of the squad and the officer almost jumped out of his pants when he saw his LT sitting next to him. The moral of the story is the MDT distracting the officer’s situational awareness had more suction power than a super-charged Binford 2000 shop vac.
What is situational awareness (SA)? Technically defined, SA is the perception of environmental elements within a volume of time and space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status in the near future. Simply stated, it is what you are paying attention to and more importantly what you are not paying attention to. Clearly in this situation the officer’s attention was strictly limited to the MDT. Anything that could have been a threat around him was being ignored short of the bang on his window which interrupted his mental focus.
As officers we see motorists talking on their cell phones and even some text messaging. It is easy to see how others are distracted using these devices. But what about police officers who are expected to be using all this great technology to do the job? Do we as police officers seem to think we are somehow exempt from these distractions?
Situational Unawareness Can Kill
Consider this mnemonic: Situational Unawareness Can Kill. When you use these devices, don’t let them SUCK the life out of you.
We’ve all heard the term “multi-tasking” but it has been scientifically proven that our brains cannot focus on more than one thing at any one time. Yes, we can mentally jump back and forth between tasks, but just try to read the paper and carry on a conversation. Your brain simply won’t let you do that. What we must do is prioritize our thinking patterns. We call this TEMPO.
What, Exactly, is FAST?
Considering these questions — and particularly reacting to them — may generate the notion: “Get Real” or “Are you kidding me? You really don’t know what we have to do!”
Yet, in an officer’s zeal to do the job, if he or she does not get to the scene safely the few seconds of hurry to respond become a moot point. Too many officers have lost their lives due to lack of “FAST” — lack of what I consider to be four core elements of officer safety: Focus, Attention, Situational awareness, and Tempo.
On every call, Think FAST! it could save your life.
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