Understanding Yourself -- Human Behavior Factors

Investigations of entrapments have disclosed breakdowns in decision making that contributed to entrapments.

Some of these factors are:

Inadequate information

Many firefighters have been trapped because they did not know they were in a hazardous location and/or had inadequate fire behavior information about a specific operational period on fires.


Some well-trained firefighters have been overrun in situations they should have recognized as hazardous but didn’t because they did not perceive the hazard.

Interpersonal dynamics

In some cases, firefighters have been concerned about their safety or have even concluded that the situation is a definite violation of safety guidelines, but they did not express their concerns.


There is a perceived stigma attached to several needed behaviors such as asking questions at a briefing, speaking up for safety, deploying fire shelters, dropping tools and running, etc.


Many firefighters and supervisors are overconfident in their attitude. They approach every tactical situation as if they are invincible. Some seem to need to prove their aggressiveness by taking inordinate risks. Other firefighters brag about violating safety guidelines.

Cognitive Overload

The guidelines and watch out situations developed for wildfire/I-Zone fires add up to more than 40 safety factors to consider. Add to this the tactical and fire behavior factors, and it can be a daunting task to effectively process this information under adverse conditions.


Firefighters have discounted new information that conflicts with a previous decision. In other words they decided a certain work situation was safe, and even when they perceived new threats that should have caused a change in behavior, they continued under the misperception that they were following a safe decision.