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Home>Topics>>Neural-Based Learning for Firefighting

Neural-Based Learning for Firefighting

Wed, 2 Jul 2014|

This free program details several techniques based on advanced in neuroscience that can immediately enhance a firefighter's performance under extreme stress.



[BLANK]. [BLANK] Neural-based learning is a methodology designed to work with the way that your brain learns best. It accelerates your performance, it increases the retention of your material. And it integrates your material in the way that yo need to use it out in the real world. One example outside of the fire service that may translate to some of the things that you do every day is for instance in the training I've provided professional race car drivers, like the BMW professional race team. Like you guys, they're in a very high risk environment. They have to make decisions very quickly under stress. Their wearing a helmet they have got their gear down they have to make decisions based on how fast they process things they see and what they feel. Working with those drivers i was able to increase their ability to see more. To see more within the limit of their gear. And to be able to perform better under extreme stress to the point where, they were able to win consistently in in their very competitive environment. And the reason that it worked, and the drivers who were successful with this is because we're able to coach their minds with their full cooperation. It took a more efficient and faster use of the visual information that was presented to them. This dramatically increased their performance and the retention of their advanced skill set while under stress. Now this is something that every top racecar driver has always done. What we did was study the performance of those people and find ways not only to tweak even more performance out of those top performers but then to take that skill set, that those top performers didn't even know they had and put it into a fashion that you can learn in one to three minutes. And that's what we're doing today. One of the ways that we're going to present this information to you is different than traditional training. We're not really going to do it in a lecture format, we're gonna work on guiding you through the process of using your mental platform, your visual skills, and your internal kinesthetics in a way that's different than you learn in a classroom. When you follow along with this, you will be able to do these skills. In real time. The first skill that we're gonna give you today is how to dramatically enhance your peripheral vision in a matter of a few moments, and keep that for the rest of your life. This technique is modified from the training for astronauts and fighter pilots. Who in an environment point that translates to firefighters, they have to work helmeted up with breathing gear on. They have to work in confined dangers, sometimes smoky environments where vision can be impaired. Greater use of your peripheral vision and enhancing the natural use of that greater information. Gives you better situational awareness about where you are, where your partners are and where hazards are in an environment. The first exercise we're gonna do is increase your peripheral vision. We're gonna do that right now. Your body has a certain baseline. In other words, you hold your muscles, your head, and your posture a certain way. This is affected by your physical fitness, by injuries, by certain habits you have by carrying your body. The first thing we're gonna do is establish the base line of his peripheral vision as it is right now. Your body has a habitual way of holding itself which is related to your physical fitness, injuries, how often you move around, the amount of weight you're carrying. So what we're gonna do is find out what this firefighter's base line peripheral is. In this exercise, I'm gonna take my chest, I'm gonna press it up between his shoulder blades. This will give you the most accurate [UNKNOWN] I'm gonna extend my hands out to either side. I'm going to tell the fire fighter to get straight ahead, relax, the way he will normally look. And let me know when he sees both of my hands move into his peripheral vision. And I'm going to do that now. Now. Then I'm going to have the firefighter look to his left and the right. He can see where his peripheral vision baseline is right now. Now what we're going to do is improve your peripheral vision immediately. By a simple exercise that will let you notice where your baseline is. And then change it. What I'm gonna do is I'm gonna put my finger up on the top of the helmet or on the crown of the head. And I'm going to tell the firefighter to just unlock the muscles in his neck. So that my finger is driving the head and the helmet. I'm gonna ask him to notice the difference in what he feels, specifically in his facial and neck muscles, when I do this. Then, going through the same points that I did before, chest directly against back. Arms indexed out. Looking ahead with his eyes relaxed. I'm going to bring my hands into his peripheral vision and he'll tell me when he sees them both. Now. Look to your left and right. And as the firefighter, do you see an immediate improvement? And if you've seen, there's a significant improvement at this point. Now what we're gonna do is we're gonna go back to the same exercise for one more iteration. I'm gonna take my finger, put it up on top at, and a key point in the execution of this drill. is that your finger drives the head. Don't let the firefighter anticipate the movement. His neck muscles need to be unlocked enough for you to be able to steer his head. And again, remind the person you're coaching to notice the difference in the way the muscles in their face and neck feel at this time, the feeling of it. So at this point, again, main points, chest to back, arms out to the side, firefighter look straight ahead, relax vision. As I move my hands into his peripheral vision, he will tell me when he can see both hands. Now. Look to your left and right. And you will see a dramatic improvement in your baseline peripheral vision. So what did we do? We just showed the brain how to see better. We showed the brain to recognize the difference from a habitual state that restricts your peripheral vision to notice when you're in a state. Of enhanced peripheral vision. So you see better. You see more. You see faster. What we did with this exercise, this very simple exercise, was we recalibrated the way the brain processes visual information. I took my finger. I put it on the top of the firefighters head. What I did was by moving it around until he unlocked it. I had him notice and his brain noticed that he held his muscles in a certain way. By noticing the difference between what he had before and what he had after, the brain recognizes that hey when I'm in this other way I see more, I see better, I see faster. I'm often asked is this change permanent, or how many times do I have to train this? Well, look, the change can be permanent with a minimal amount of reinforcement in the first 24 hours after you do this. So how many times a day can you notice the difference in the muscle tension around your eyes. And change it. Think how many times you can do that right now. How many times you can do it in a minute. How many opportunities during the day? You don't require a gym, you don't require special equipment. So there really is no rhythmic to how many times you can do this a day. So within approximately seven sleep cycles, your brain will say haha, okay we get, you need to pay attention to this and change it. And it becomes an automatic pattern in your brain. So immediately upon the conclusion of that initial part of the exercise theres a really simple way for you to check that it worked for you. and that you can check in the next 24 hours to see if that your peripheral vision has in fact changed. So what i am going to do is ask the firefighter to extend both his hands up to shoulder hight. Extend his index finger. And then I want him to on his own move it within his peripheral vision, both hands, and stop when he's in his peripheral vision. And now I want him to notice the feelings in his facial muscles and his neck muscles. Consciously relax it by unlocking his neck a little more and then see how much more you can stretch your peripheral vision. Just like that, and he can drop his hands to the side and you can recapture that feeling in his face. He can check it himself by bringing his hands up again and checking where his peripheral vision starts and validate the exercise for himself. And to, build on the exercise we just did, the firefighter is going to demonstrate how even with his full call-out gear on, he has improved his peripheral vision. He'll go ahead and raise his hands now, and calibrate his peripheral vision. And you will see the dramatic improvement, even while wearing his SCBA gear. One point to keep in mind with this is to pay attention to the fit of your mask, where the grommet is, where the seals are. You may have something that actually physically inhibits your peripheral vision. Be sure to be clear about the difference between that and the increase of your baseline vision within the inside of your equipment. As I'm sure you already know, maybe from firsthand experience or you've been taught this, stress has an effect on your vision. So you're not going to have the same range of peripheral vision under extreme stress that you might have when you're relaxed. However, what we have found is this. If your baseline vision is here, and you're under stress, it's gonna go to here. If your baseline vision is here, and you're under stress, it'll go to here. Notice the difference. Now, this comes from research that was done, and validated with NASA, on astronauts who returned from long-duration missions in space. What we found was that astronauts who returned had changed their brain by being in a Zero G environment that unlocked the muscles in their necks and their face. And what it did was it dramatically increased their peripheral vision and their visual processing speed and that this change was in fact permanent. The next simple exercise that we're gonna do is to show you how you can use. Visual, visualization and kinesthetic technique can improve the use of the tool while under stress and also to be able to rapidly increase the speed that someone else can learn to use that tool under stress. This is a fundamental technique and sport psychology for improving performance. The use of these very simple techniques have been heavily validated for decades in professional sports, and in, within the community of people who must work under extreme stress. Which includes you as firefighters, astronauts, military performers, anyone who has to work under a high level of stress. It's simple, effective, heavily validated, and is a common tool in sports psychology. So as I said, we're going to use some really simple techniques to augment your performance with this particular tool, which you may recognize as a common tool that you either have been trained on or you will be trained on. The first part of this technique is we're gonna have an experienced. Firefighter demonstrate how he would use this tool. So the first demonstration he's gonna do is he's gonna turn to his left and he's going to use that to demonstrate how he would break open a wall. Now you'll notice that he struck in a particular fast [UNKNOWN]. How did he know where to strike? He visualized it. He made a picture in his mind of a wall and he went ahead and he struck it, and used it as though he was actually entering the wall. So now he's gonna do the same technique, but with his eyes closed. And what he will notice with his eyes closed, he has to pay attention to what it feels like to do that technique. He has to hold a visualization in his mind, and he has to feel himself doing the technique, without his vision in it. What this does to the brain is it separates both the visual signal and the body signal. It strengthens the body signal to support the vision. So now, after he is taken the vision out, we're going to put the vision back in. And he will go ahead and do the technique again. So, what happens in this very simple exercise? What do you see and how does it work? Simply put, when you are in a fire and you're using that tool. Your body, your brain is getting information primarily from two places. It's from what you see and it's what you feel in your body. Now, in order to make your brain's processing more efficient, what we do is we're gonna take vision out of the equation. When you strengthen your arm, you isolate your bicep. You isolate your tricep. You work on your grip, your forearm strength. When you put all that together it results in greater arm strength. By taking vision out of the visual kinesthetic equation. It strengthens the kinesthetics. It makes you more efficient in feeling how to use the tool. Then, when you put vision back into it, you smooth the path in your brain. So that you're working mechanically more efficiently. Unmeasurably faster, so one of the things that comes up is how do I make this work for me? How do I know when it feels right? Well, the, the question is the answer in this instance. When you take your vision out, and your body has to feel your way to the right,. Plays to the right place where you feel that efficiency and that flow, that sweet spot in your movement, it's slightly different or sometimes significantly different for each person. But there's a spot that you already know in your body that when you're doing something physically, this feels right. What you wanna do, is with your vision out, continue to do those motions. Until you feel that spot. And you feel that rightness in your body. That's the point where you recognize that your body, within whatever limits you might have, on physical fitness, training, the hinders of the equipment. That's your sweet spot. When you've got that, then add your vision and notice how much more efficient your are. And also, by coaching this to someone else you can help correct them and guide them to the most efficient use of the tool in the shortest period of time. And this technique can be used in many different ways that translate directly to your environment. For instance since you often work in an environment with zero visibility you can see that having the ability to improve your brains ability to use a snap shot of what you can see. And enhancing your kinesthetics to fuel your way to that solution will make you faster in the use of your tool, more efficient in the use of your tool whether it's an energetic use of that tool for instance taking out a wall or a more gentle use of the tool if you were sweeping under a bed looking for a body or someone unconscious. In a room that's obscured by smoke. This technique applies across the board, because what it does is it reinforces the information that your body is sending to you. It's strengthening it in the isolation of vision. So that when you add the vision back into it, you'll be more efficient in the use of your tools. You work in a profession where mistakes cost lives. You share a certain type of trait with people who work in similar professions. Might be racecar drivers. Might be astronauts. Might be military special operations people. Might be law enforcement. What you do every day in your job is you look for what's out of place, because what's out of place is what will kill you or hurt you. So, one of the things that I found in the extensive research I've done in this area, that people who are really high performers, like you, high performers under stress. Like you. Do when they make a mistake, they make a movie of that mistake and they play it over and play it over and they study it and they tell themselves don't do that. What happens quite often with people who are not coached or who are not aware of alternate ways to do this. Is they keep replaying that tape over and over again and making the same mistake. I wanna share you with a very simple strategy to break that and dramatically remediate any mistakes you've made and move to a place where you can be successful by replaying anything that you might have done in the past. The first step in this process is a pretty simple one. Some of you might be old enough to remember the old school television sets. Where when we turned them on we didn't go like this. We reached out and we turned the knob. Where we had to adjust the color, the contrast. The flicker rate on the TV. Maybe you do that with a computer monitor. What we're gonna do is a very simple series of techniques that you can do right now to improve the ability that you have to visualize. You already visualize. What we're gonna do is we're gonna make it better, with you in control. So it's really simple. Make a picture in your brain about anything. Where is it? Is it out here? Is it up here? Is it down here? Where is it? How far from you is it? Take your index finger draw a frame around it. How big is it? How far away is it? Is it in color? Is it in black and white? Is it moving? Is it still? Wherever that picture is, no matter what it is, what I want you to do is, I want you to change something on it. If that picture is right here, move it all the way back against the wall. And notice what feels different, and where you feel it in your body. Then take that same visualization, and move it right up here. Right up to the tip of your nose, and notice the difference. Then move it back to a place that feels comfortable. Now take that frame and make it bigger. Push it out and open it up. It's your brain, you control it. Open it up. Is it in color or is it in black and white? Whatever it is do the opposite, and notice what feels different, then change it back. Simple as that, you're in control of the TV set that's in your head. So now what I want you to experiment with is if it's black and white, make it color. If it's color, make it black and white. If it's still, turn it into a movie. If it's a movie, make it still. Push it back, all the way to the wall. Bring it forward to you. And notice each time you do that what feels different. I quite often get asked what am I supposed to feel? And you know what? What you're supposed to feel is what you feel. Every person has a slightly different sense. What works for me, may not translate for you. The purpose of this exercise is for you to notice where in your body y ou feel something change when you change your visual modality, and to know that you were in control of that. What you have is unique to you. The purpose of this exercise that you can do in a very short period of time,. Is identify those unique expressions that your body uses to communicate to you about changes in visualization. And as you've seen, it's pretty simple. You're in control of the pictures in your head. Now what I want you to do, is doing what you've just done in real time following me. Is find a place for your screen, whatever size, whatever distance, color, black and white, moving, static, whatever. Feel around 'til you feel the place that it feels right for you. You'll recognize that feeling where, ok, I've got everything just the way that feels right for me. And hold it right there. So now you have your screen. You're comfortable. You have your big screen tv up there, and you're in control of it. Now what I want you to do is I want you to think of a time when you made a mistake. Take a picture of that, and let's put it up on that screen. And watch yourself making whatever that mistake was. So you've got your picture. There's your mistake. We all make them. Now, let's work on a strategy that will correct that for all time for you. What I want you to do is I want you to stop that picture. Let's move to one side. I want you to think of. At least three, but no more than five possible ways that you could have done something different in that mistake that would have led to a successful outcome. So now you've thought of at least three, but no more than five. Ways that you could have done something differently that have led to your successful outcome. What I want you to do is I want you to visualize those as pathways just beyond your picture, in the back of your picture. So in the front, there's your mistake. On the other side of the mistake, there's different solutions. Four different solutions. Five different solutions that lead to that successful resolution down in the end. Now what I want you to do is get up if you're watching this, and I want you to walk towards your visualization, and as you walk towards that mistake, just turn that picture off and move in the direction. Of the picture that feels right to you along the paths in front of you, and by get up and move, I mean literally. Get up and move through your past mistake, that mistake disappears as you step past it into the successful conclusion. That feels right to you. You've identified what feels right to you. Move in that direction and keep moving til it feels right. So in this process, I mean literally, get up and move. This is a way you can tell how well your brain is processing this new success that you built on a past failure. So what it is you move towards. That mistake and as you get to it, some people notice just a little bit of hesitancy and then they step through in the direction of the successful conclusion. What I want you to do is I want you to repeat this exercise, normally two to three iterations is plenty. So you move smoothly where you move towards that mistake that is no longer there. And you move through it and you move smoothly and efficiently to your conclusion. You feel it in your body when it's right. Another simple technique that I'm going to introduce at this point is an add on to a technique you probably already know and have been taught. This kind of stress management breathing has got a lot of different names. Essentially it's really simple. You inhale for a simple number of counts, you hold for a certain number of counts, you exhale to a certain number of counts. You hold for a certain number of counts, repeat as needed. The purpose of this is to allow you some control of your heart rate, allow yourself to stabilize yourself if you're coming down from an adrenaline dump. It is a very useful tool in it's place. Like any other tool. However, for somebody like you, who has to work in a dynamic, dangerous, fast-breaking environment, it's not always the best technique to use when you're in the fight. The technique that I have seen used, that I use myself, and that I have taught. Is not a replacement for this, it is an augmentation or an addendum for this. The technique is very simple, it's simple, explosive, and it works in the moment in the fight. The way it works is you take a simple explosive inhalation through your nose. And you immediately exhale sharply through your nose. What happens is that your body comes up, rocks forward on your toes as you inhale, and comes down sharply onto your heels as you exhale. So this is what it looks like. Remember, the first part is a sharp inhale and a rise up, rock forward on the balls of your feet. Followed immediately by a sharp exhale through your nose settling down hard with your heels and settling your weight. So it looks like this. With the technique, the sharp inhalation, mouth closed, through the nose. This brings the body up you're not going on tippy toe you don't wanna be on tippy toe in your, in any type of context that you're gonna be working on. You're rocking your way forward aggressively on to the balls of your feet. You rise up as you inhale and you settle down sharply as you exhale. That's it. Where this technique is most appropriate is in a fast breaking situation. The roof has collapsed and you've just got clipped by a beam. You need to get focused and you need to get back on track right now. You need to, your partner has gone down. You need to marshal your resources to get a hold of him and drag him clear. like this. You can repeat as needed. The effect is fast and it's immediate. What it does is it provides you a reset that's in the moment, that's fast and efficient, and gets you just about the same results that you'd get from sitting and doing the longer controlled breathing. The initial study that validated this was in fact done with the Fire Service. I would invite you, if you have a heart rate monitor at your station, put it on and try it for yourself. Do something that requires exertion, preferably something that is task specific for your job. And do this exercise. Try it side by side with the other one. See which one gives you better results. Try it on for yourself. Don't believe it just because somebody tells you you have to wait to validate this for yourself and make it your own. So at this point I wanna kinda recap what we've gone over already and I wanna point out some of the ways that you can use this right now as an individual skill set that you can put into any context. Of your job, whether it's training for your job, rehearsing for your job, doing your job or critiquing your performance after doing your job. So we'll go to vision skills first. With vision skills, you learn how to improve your peripheral vision. You learn how to do that very quickly, how to reinforce it and how to keep it forever as a changed base line state. Which will lead to greater situational awareness for you in everything you do, especially valid in your work environment. This is something you can do constantly. It's not something that you need to rehearse. It's something that once you've done it and noticed it, you have it with you forever. You can take it into the context of being out, off duty,. You can take it into context of drilling it in the firehouse if you want. You can also take it in the context of your job. It's a skill that once you have it's an individual skill and you put it anywhere. Now, that was like the first step. Your vision skills and you're use to them with your peripheral vision. Lead you to identify kinesthetics, like in kinesthetic rehearsal. For people such as yourselves who work in an environment where lack of vision can be a constant, identifying and working with in training your kinesthetic sense makes the use of what vision is available to you in a moment in that snapshot you might get. That brief snap shot makes you, utilize that little bit of visual information to the maximum amount and let your body kinesthetics fill in the rest. Obviously that's really useful in your end use environment. It's also really useful as you saw as a way to improve your efficiency with any type. A physical movement. The use of a tool, handling a hose, anything that you do you can make more efficient by doing that simple exercise. Then we went on to visualization. That's where you discovered that you actually do control the pictures in your head. That's a combination of a vision school, along with your kinesthetics. You notice that when you changed your picture you changed the way that you felt that change in your body. So, once you've mastered those skills you were able to create your own big screen TV for playing your visualizations on to study your performance and where you click that altogether was in the mistake mitigation. Exercise that we went through. Where you used your control of your visualization to take a mistake that you could learn from and to create 3 to 5 successful outcomes. And then to physically move through that and feel. Where that's right, as a way of mining all of the learning, in a mistake. And keeping what is useful, and discarding the part of it, that is not. So how does this all come together? You learn this individually, as an individual practitioner of these skill sets. They make you a more proficient performer, as a member of a team. Let's talk specifically about post incident management. I would imagine that you, in your work, after an incident, you have your technical [UNKNOWN] that's where you as a team, you analyze the performance, what worked for you, what didn't work. You analyze your mistakes. This strategy of mistake mitigation is a way for you to identify how you can improve your specific performance to contribute to the team mitigation of that past mistake. And you can work this through and you can walk it through in the same way with your team. This speeds up mining mistakes to get the valuable learning that in it, to keep that and discard the rest. Something that I learned a long time ago is that wisdom comes from experience. Experience comes from making mistakes. What you need to do is mine your mistakes for all the good learning in it. And then move past it. And that's what this strategy putting this all together does. So now you have your team mitigation, let's talk about individual post incident management. So utilizing all these skills to analyze your own performance, you can take a look at how did I manage my vision skills? My situational awareness, how are you doing that? You're doing it on the big-screen TV that you created and you fine-tuned and you calibrated specifically to your needs. How do you go through with your mistake mitigation? The same strategy. You've already done this and you've already been successful with it. One of the things that's very useful in post-incident situation, as a high performer who works in an extremely dangerous environment. Remember what I said before. You play that movie, you identify the mistake, and you move through it to three to five correct outcomes. Sometimes we'll have nearly marked emotional responses to things we may have seen, or we may have done. Remember this the quality of your pictures affects the quality of your kinesthetic response. If there is something that disturbed you. If there is something that you tend to play over and over again, remember, you're in control of that monitor. And, you can use all of these techniques that you've already learned and mastered at this point, to change that. Change the pictures, you change the feeling. No matter, you're a trainer of a firefighters or your an individual firefighter looking to improve your skill set these techniques apply. No matter what you're curriculum is or anything else, these are individual techniques. That add up to a psychological attribute. In essence, this isn't really any different than being physically fit, being limber, being strong. It's an attribute and this attribute of psychological strength if you will is something that you can develop on your own. You can teach it to a group, but ultimately, it's the responsibility of the individual to take on board, master these simple techniques, and take it out into your job where you save lives with it and where you can take it out into your civilian world. And enjoy the pleasures that more sensitivity to the extent that all the information coming in to you can bring to you.