A first-of-its-kind guide to help practitioners deepen their understanding and use of non-technical skills has been developed from Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC research.
Designed for emergency management practitioners and instructors, A guide to non-technical skills in emergency management is a useful resource for developing non-technical skills training materials and enhancing these skills within more technically orientated training units.
The content of the guide draws on the Improving decision-making in complex multi-team environments project and was written by Dr Peter Hayes, A/Prof Chris Bearman and Donald Gyles from Central Queensland University (CQU). It introduces and highlights the importance of non-technical skills, identifies some of the issues that can occur from inadequate non-technical skills, and describes tools that can help better manage non-technical skills in operational situations.
Lead author Dr Peter Hayes explained the idea for the guide came from three main sources: ‘Our observations clearly indicated the need to better manage non-technical skills during emergency and incident management,’ he said. ‘Second, an alarming number of non-technical skills issues are continually highlighted in investigation reports and inquiries, and third, our agency partners expressed a desire to help people deepen their understanding of non-technical skills literature.’
Suitable for both people who are encountering non-technical skills for the first time and for more experienced practitioners of these skills, the guide begins with a simple overview of each skill and how it can be observed in both training and live operations. The guide includes a set of high-level information and challenges to aid readers in their understanding of each non-technical skill.
A/Prof Chris Bearman described the guide as a book that can assist in the training and development of emergency and incident management team members: ‘By writing this book we hope to provide a consistent framework that allows agencies to manage the various aspects of non-technical skills in a more holistic way,’ he said. ‘This also encourages agencies to adopt a shared language to discuss, promote and manage these important but often neglected set of skills.’
What is in the guide?
A guide to non-technical skills in emergency management begins with an introduction of the concept of non-technical skills and demonstrates how they can be operationalised.
Chapters 2 through 8 use the Emergency Management Non-Technical Skills framework (accessible at www.bnhcrc.com.au/emnots) as the basis for the discussion of seven key non-technical skills critical to effective emergency and incident management. The seven skills – communication, coordination, cooperation, situation awareness, decision making, leadership, managing stress and fatigue – are each discussed in a separate chapter that introduces the skill and identifies behavioural markers that can be used to observe the skill in action. Each chapter offers suggested readings and links to relevant online resources. In addition to the many references, a ‘More information’ section in each chapter discusses some of the challenges that may be encountered with each skill.
The guide rounds out with Chapter 9 highlighting how to use a non-technical skills framework to manage performance and concludes with the final chapter on identifying implications and opportunities for the management of non-technical skills.
Practitioner forum for emergency management non-technical skills
To enable practitioners to increase their non-technical skills expertise, hear about what other agencies are doing, share ideas and engage in collaborative problem solving, Dr Hayes and A/Prof Bearman have been hosting online Community of Practice meetings since March 2022. During the first Community of Practice, Mark Thomason, formerly Manager Risk and Lessons Management at the Country Fire Service, explained that managing large incident teams routinely brings a number of challenges related to non-technical skills.
‘If you don’t have good communication, you don’t build situational awareness and then you can’t have good decision making,’ he said. ‘There’s a lot of connection between all the non-technical skills identified and explained in the guide that can really help drive the performance of incident management teams.’
Download A guide to non-technical skills in emergency management at www.bnhcrc.com.au/non-technical-skills-guide.
For more information, go to www.bnhcrc.com.au/research/multiteamenvironments