Using Simulations for SOP/SOG Validation

The typical purposes of using simulations for validating SOG’s are (a) to ensure that your policies are practical and consistent, and (b) you have demonstrated evidence that your personnel can apply them properly.

Every fire department is expected to have written operating policies, procedures and fire ground operation protocols. However,

  • How well do department members know what these SOPs/SOGs are?
  • Have SOPs/SOGs been adequately vetted prior to their release to make sure they are relevant to your operations and area? 
    • Have stakeholders provided input? 
    • Have SOP/SOGs been tested using simulations to make sure they work on the scene?
    • Have you compared your SOP/SOGs to mutual aid partners for consistency?


Examples of SOPs/SOGs you can enhance with simulations

  • ICS Policy and Terminology
  • Mayday Policy Validation
  • Communications and Channel Assignments
  • Sector/Division/Group
  • Active Threat/Rescue Task Force
  • MCI
  • Haz-Mat
  • Technical Rescue
  • Emergency Operations Center (EOC) exercises
  • Other SOP/SOG actions, terminology, and tactical/functional assignments

SimsUshare can be an effective tool to validate and/or test operational SOPs/SOG’s for several of the following reasons:

  • Validation and/or testing is conducted in a low stress, safe and sterile environment. No risk of injury or illness to firefighters. 
  • Allows for multiple “run throughs” with very little reset time, unlike training ground evolutions 
  • Administrators can make immediate changes to SOP’s/SOG’s and re-validate/retest changes immediately. No need to reconvene command staff and operational personnel
  • Provides direct financial and logistical benefits.

Example Procedure

Organizations may create specific simulations or utilize “standard” simulations.  Depending on the SOG/SOP being validated, the simulation can be managed in a format that drives the specific causal situation needed for validation/testing.  As well, participants may enact specific communications to provoke the intended SOG/SOP.

Upon completion of the simulation, all participants can immediately review and discuss the effectiveness or lack thereof of the intended SOP/SOG.  The actions and communications of the IC and participants can be evaluated for compliance with the SOG/SOP immediately following the simulation.

A good idea to have the people making the training be distinct from those evaluating the candidates, to reduce potential bias or vagueness in the evaluation. If possible, have a formal train-the-trainer program to give your evaluators specific instructions and guidance, and even evaluate their performance on mock examples.

Example. Developing sims around a specific SOP or related SOP’s, e.g., Initial Operations, which typically have distinct segments such as initial size-up & radio report; Condition-Actions-Needs reports; Strategic shifts; Follow-up report, Command transfers; and assigning units by Task, Location, and Objective

  1. Identify typical incident types and conditions for your response area
  2. Which of the situations is/are the SOP’s likely to apply to? Sims may be designed to cover all SOP’s or have specific features to highlight one or more set of desired actions.
  3. Identify relevant actors/participants, and define resources that may or may not reasonably be available in a real incident
  4. Pull out the relevant measurable actions from the SOP, e.g., “Radio communications shall be to the receiver from sender using the following model…”
  5. Pull out relevant assessment items that are not specific actions (e.g., “All communications shall be clear text”)
  6. For extra credit, try to relate the benchmark to a national or regional consensus standard such as NFPA or OSHA, depending on your department’s policies
  7. Based on #4 and #5, assemble a checklist or evaluation metric that articulates relevant benchmarks
  8. Relate the benchmarks to where you expect candidates will accomplish them, to give you evaluators some focus during the exercise(s) about what to pay attention to.

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