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6 ways to improving your firefighting intuition

Here are steps to pre-load your firefighting experiences to help you make better, intuitive decisions

By Richard Gasaway, Ph.D.
May 26, 2011
Updated June 10, 2014

Intuition is based, in part, on your tacit knowledge. Tacit knowledge is the collection of all your life's experiences stored and cataloged in your brain — available for subconscious pattern matching to help you find solutions to problems. The full explanation about how this happens, as fascinating as it is, is a little too complex to cover here.

Young fire officers often ask me how they can get the experienced required to make intuitive decisions. Here are a few things you can do to pre-load your experiences.

1. Read

One of the best ways to build knowledge is through reading.

2. Take classes

Formal training builds a strong foundation of knowledge.

3. Practice evolutions

Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent. Make sure your practice reflects how you would perform in real fire conditions.

4. Simulations

These are a great way to trick your brain into thinking you've actually had the experience when, in reality, it was only a simulation.

5. Study

Become a student of near-miss reports and line-of-duty death reports. There are many lessons contained in these documents that will help you.

6. (Bonus) Get emotional

You heard me right. As you do the things on the list above, make each experience personal and get emotionally invested in it.

For example, if you're reading about a line-of-duty death report, read it as though you're really there and not as some third-party observer. Emotions cause lessons to seat deep into memory.

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