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“Doctrine Dialogue”

“The Evolution of Risk Management in FS FAM”

Update: October 2011

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Over one hundred years of fire experiences brought us to a new benchmark in evolution of wildland fire culture, policy, and safety. FAM’s core values of Duty, Respect, and Integrity evolved, even without a mandate, into something recognizable, tangible, and sensible that is now understood as doctrine.

Out of FS Fire Management Doctrine came the agency’s philosophical shift to managing for risk and hazard mitigation, promotion of culture change, and empowerment of decision-making. Fire suppression doctrine raised the bar for front-line firefighters, enabling them to make more effective tactical decisions, strategic judgments, and increase their focus on heightening situational awareness.

With this new found decision space, came the need for a new tool that would assist firefighters in high risk and time-critical events. That tool was developed from the military model of operational risk management (ORM).

Fire and Aviation Management Doctrine has roots deeply embedded in knowledgeable and experienced field practitioners who take their “passions for safety” to the field. Experienced people made decisions and acted to make changes whose time had come. Out of Doctrine came the agency’s new focus of Risk Management, Human Performance, and both Employee and Workforce development.

A noticeable cultural shift within the Forest Service, FS FAM and even the interagency fire community is evident. No longer is safety practiced by slogans, banners, and posters. Risk Management is a core pillar of the Agency’s new safety culture. And it has not gone unnoticed. As is typical in FS FAM leadership – where our agency goes with doing “right” things – others ultimately follow.

Risk Management is inclusive, diverse and iterative. The steel core of risk management is a process of systematic hazard identification, assessment of exposure, risk mitigations, management decision and implementation that is led by subject matter experts in the field. These steps are followed by relentless oversight and adjustment to assure success of the risk reduction to a level that is as low as reasonably practical.

Risk Management is the one tangible program that listens, empowers, and provides assurances that safety is both unified organizationally and individually; it is our collective professional commitment. In the eyes of Risk Management we have definitely inculcated lessons learned from the past. Change, which has always been imminent in forest and rangeland ecosystems, is now openly acknowledged as part and parcel to changes in climate, fuel conditions, and the urbanization of wildlands. There is no turning back on the future and that is why we will continue to move forward with our progress in managing risk.

Our evolutionary path is clear. We continue on this safety journey; impeded by nothing other than our willingness to change.


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