Increase Your Situational Awareness!

Sponsored content from Paul Conway Fire

By Jordan Ponder

Conditions are changing and adjusting constantly during a fire. You need to be aware of them as they happen. When you get back to the fire house you can pull out your camera and revisit the scene to understand what happened after it happened. However, in the moment it is critical that you are adjusting and adapting to the situation as it changes. This is why you need situational awareness.

Firefighters crawling

Situational awareness is so critical for safety. Knowledge and experience help as you learn to make the right decisions quickly, but did you know you can train your body and mind to work together to improve your situational awareness? By training your body and mind to communicate and react correctly and rapidly with the right intuition, you’ll be ready to respond when you need it most.

In Jordan Ponder’s FD-PT workshops, you’ll learn how you can replicate firefighter-specific activities, away from the emergency, in a way that transfers directly to the fir ground. In addition to this, you will also learn how to create these rapid neurological pathways to respond quickly and appropriately to your environment and also to your movements as they change. Here is one of many drills that we use to help prime your body and mind to anticipate, adapt and advance!

Crawling External Cueing

Firefighter #1 – Assume a search position (hands and knees on the ground) or a primary search position (hands and toes with knees elevated). Hold this position with a strong, flat back with your head and hips parallel to the ground. Secure your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips at the beginning of the drill. Now, close your eyes. At unexpected moments in the drill, you will feel a tap. This is your cue to raise that limb or limbs off the ground and/or extend it forward. When doing this, keep your hips and back level all throughout. When you are tapped a second time, return that limb(s) back to the ground and re-establish that strong, flat back with your head and hips parallel to the ground. During the drill, try and shorten the time between the tap and your lifting of that/those limb(s) off the ground. However, do not sacrifice your stability for speed. This will be challenging, but it will train you to expand your focus to what your body is doing and also what is happening around you.

Firefighter #2  – Stand over Firefighter #1. As quietly as possible, move around him or her and tap a limb at unpredictable moments throughout the drill. You can touch a shoulder a leg or two limbs at once. If you are going to touch two limbs at once, touch the opposite side leg or arm (R arm and L leg or L arm and R leg). This will allow Firefighter #1 to keep his or her head and hips parallel to the ground. If you touch the same sided limbs, he or she will be forced to break this position because bio-mechanically it is nearly impossible to maintain this position with same sided limbs off the ground.

Firefighter #3 – This role is optional. The role of firefighter #3 is to create a domino effect by cueing when Firefighter #2 taps Firefighter #1. This should be done silently, by raising a hand. This hand raising then tells Firefighter #2 when to tap. Now, Firefighter #2 has to anticipate, adapt and advance as he or she pays attention to both firefighters in the drill. This individual has to respond to Firefighter #2 rather than dictating when to cue Firefighter #1. As you are in this drill as Firefighter #3, pay attention to the time that lapses between you raising your hand and Firefighter #1 raising a limb. It will feel like an eternity at times.

Jordan Ponder and a firefighter perform the Dead Bug exercise.

Check out more Situational Awareness Drills via these links:

Foam Roller Dead Bug

Equipment Carry / Board Crawling

Situational awareness is critical to your safety. Use your camera to review the event after the incident and use the drills shown above from Jordan Ponder’s FD-PT workshops to improve your physical situational awareness and safety before the incident!

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Jordan PonderJordan Ponder is a Captain of the Milwaukee Fire Department assigned to Engine 30. Additionally, he is the Lead Peer Fitness Trainer for the MFD where he has been training firefighter health for over 12 years. Holding NASM-CPT, ACE, PFT and multiple of modality certifications, he is also a professional bodybuilder with the WNBF. Jordan is also the Director of Firefighter Dynamic Performance Training which supplies free safety training equipment for fire departments for conducting workshops for their members. To contact Jordan Ponder, email

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