Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Decision Making and Preparedness

I was at the range the other day and a guy showed up and was shooting a few bays over. I noticed his weapons mirrored mine. I finally said something to him about those choices of weapons. He told me a little about himself to explain his choice of guns. I understood because the reasons he chose those particular guns were the same as mine. In the conversation he mentioned being a psychologist. I asked him about his thoughts about making decisions under stress and pressure. These are the conclusions we came to.
Your attitude toward a situation has a lot to do with your preparedness and training pertaining to that situation. If your water is off in your house the way you react to that has to do with if you have stored water and filters. Your confidence is higher in a bad situation when you’re prepared for it.
The same goes for a defense situation. If you go to the range once every 2 months you’re reaction to an attack might be a little slower from your training.
So the first impact on how you handle a stressful preparedness situation like a disaster or other situation, has everything to do with your knowledge and what you’ve actually prepared.
Without a prepared plan your success diminishes because you have to come up with one under stress.
In the military they would sometimes get in our face and put pressure on us to make a decision fast. Often you would respond with the training you have had, which is what the military wants. Like Pavlov’s dog. During the 1890s Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov was looking at salivation in dogs in response to being fed, when he noticed that his dogs would begin to salivate whenever he entered the room, even when he was not bringing them food. They were conditioned to think that they were going to be fed when he came into the room. The dog did not have to learn to salivate, that was hard wired into the dog already. What was learned is association. The dogs associated Pavlov with getting fed, so they would salivate when he came into the room. Muscle memory is what you are trying to hard wire into your head.
Have you ever gone camping and forgot something you thought that surely you would remember? That is why I like checklists. They help me to not have to rely on memory so that if my head is somewhere else, I can still accomplish what I want to do.
Panic is a horrible enemy. But being hasty can get you killed. Panic can kill your plan. Keeping your head is imperative to working your plan. It has been found that 74% of people under pressure to leave their home quickly forget a way to make fire and boil water. This is due to panic or fear. Given the same situation, even someone prepared and trained may experience some type of fear.
There is research that says that 74 % of people who, in a case of disaster and being forced to quickly leave their home would forget to take a lighter and something that could boil water in (in order to disinfect it). Be aware that in the case of panic and fear (and we are all going to experience some level of that for sure) you are going to make mistakes. Be ready to accept, adapt and overcome this. The other side: Fear of, or when in, danger is a powerful thing and you need to not deny it, rather go into a mindset of “Of course I am afraid just like everybody else, let me use that fear and do something smart“. The good thing here is that most of the people around you are going to be in some kind of panic, fear, or confusion. Work on the basis that you are going to be in a lesser state of panic than others. Use that panic and fear in your favor. For example while everybody else is panicking still figuring out what really happened, use the moment for a last run to the grocery store for more food, or use it to simply to get away from the danger.
There is also one important moment here to recognize, some researchers conclude that people actually panic much less than we imagine. They stated that in cases of some catastrophes, disasters in sports stadiums, factory disasters and similar events first reactions of a number of people is not to panic, rather to help others. I agree with this to certain extent. If you find yourself in the street and see a building collapse suddenly, and hear screams from rubble, most people’s reaction would be to go and help the injured. But if you see or hear other buildings continuing to collapse you may panic, and other people will too.
You must be careful depending on the disaster. It also makes a difference how long the disaster has been going on. Things change. Places of help and refuge, police, fire, EMS, hospitals, may not be such safe places. You have to gage this. Depending on the disaster, you might use this panic to your advantage. Nothing says you can’t look like a first responder to be able to move around or get out of a city during a problem. But you must use your good judgement. If you have no information and are not really sure what is going on you should still use that time for something. If you are not sure you should evacuate (bug out), maybe you should do something useful like fill everything in your house that will hold water. Even if you end up not needing it you will at least have it if needed. Keep basic.
Making decisions during high stress is important. Each of us goes through an OODA loop in our decision making process. The OODA loop refers to the decision cycle of observe, orient, decide, and act, developed by military strategist and United States Air Force Colonel John Boyd. Boyd applied the concept to the combat operations process, often at the strategic level in military operations. But for us every day, it is something we just do. This is why it is important in defense to know about the OODA loop. If we can break the OODA loop of our attacker, they will have to start the process over again. Although this is often a fast process, it does take some time. In defense, time is everything.
You continue to cycle through the OODA Loop by observing the results of your actions, seeing whether you've achieved the results you intended, reviewing and revising your initial decision, and moving to your next action. If we can use the OODA look in a way that will give us the most information, and not give every decision a “knee jerk” treatment, we will be able to act in a more calculated, safe, and smart way. This will also fight the fear and panic.
Stage 1. Observe
At this initial point in the loop, you should be on the look-out for new information, and need to be aware of unfolding circumstances. The more information you can take in here, the more accurate your perception will be. Think about what resources you would use in different scenarios. Like an F-16 pilot with a wide field of vision, you want to capture as much incoming data as possible. The kind of questions you need to be asking are:
• What's happening in the environment that directly affects me?
• What's happening that indirectly affects me?
• What's happening that may have residual affects later on?
• Were my predictions accurate?
• Are there any areas where prediction and reality differ significantly?
Stage 2. Orient
One of the main problems with decision-making comes at the orient stage. We all view events in a way that's filtered through our own experiences and perceptions. Boyd identified five main influences:
• Cultural traditions.
• Genetic heritage.
• The ability to analyze and synthesize.
• Previous experience.
• New information coming in.
Orientation is essentially how you interpret a situation. This then leads directly to your decision. The argument here is that by becoming more aware of your perceptions, and by speeding up your ability to orient to reality, you can move through the decision loop quickly and effectively. The quicker you understand what's going on, the better. And if you can make sense of the situation and the environment around you faster than anyone else, you'll have an advantage.
And it's important to remember that you're constantly re-orienting. As new information comes in at the observe stage, you need to process it quickly and revise your orientation accordingly.
Stage 3. Decide
Decisions are really your best guesses, based on the observations you've made and the orientation you're using. As such, they should be considered works-in-progress. As you keep on cycling through the OODA Loop, and new information keeps arriving, these can trigger changes to your decisions and subsequent actions. Basically, you're learning as you continue to cycle through the steps. The results of your learning are brought in during the orient phase, which in turn influences the rest of the decision making process.
Stage 4. Act
The Act stage is where you implement your decision. You then cycle back to the observe stage, as you judge the effects of your action. This is where actions influence the rest of the cycle, and it's important to keep learning from what you, and others, are doing.
Training and Practicing
Keeping your head in difficult or dangerous situations is not hard, but you must think it through now so that when the time comes you’ll be better prepared. It’s easy to go through general scenarios but most situations are a little more complex. Practice scenarios are good for the basics, reality usually has more details. The more you think and carry out practiced plans, the easier it will be to control fear and panic. You will have your wits about you and you can act in ways that will keep you and your family safe. Making decisions now can save decisions having to be thought out and made in a bad situation. That’s what preparedness can do for you. That’s what training and practicing can do for you.
Semper Paratus
Check 6