Friday, July 1, 2011

The Importance of Debriefing

I'm organizing a Summer Mountain Leadership Course for our local outdoor club that will be instructed by an ACMG guide. Last night, we were discussing the course and what key topics to cover and Shaun asked me if our club ever had "debriefs" after trips. Unfortunately, I had to answer no to that question.

Debriefs have been defined in various ways by various organizations, but the core essence of a debrief is questioning what went on during a certain activity with the aim of improving safety, efficiency or some other goal. Obviously, for a debrief to be effective, you must identify either something that went wrong and/or something you could improve upon. A debrief where everything comes out looking good is no debrief at all.

The difficulty of debriefing is that our memories and our egos do not necessarily report accurately on how events transpired. Humans are notorious for rewriting events so that they come out with an error free performance. Or, if not totally error free, at a minimum not guilty of actually contributing to the error.

My take on debriefs is that they can be powerful tools for improving our performance, efficiency and safety but only to the extent that we honestly apprise what really happened.

I have a formal debrief coming up this Sunday night as our Search and Rescue team was recently in the unenviable position of experiencing a fatality of one of our team members during a recent rescue. This will be an extremely difficult debrief for all involved. 

Relaxing after a long call-out with my local SAR team

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