Hazard Mitigation Through Risk Management

Operational Engagement
Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
Mar 2022


Risk management doesn’t get in the way of doing the mission – it is the way we do the mission. The risk management process assists in ensuring that critical factors and risks of the fireline work environment are considered during decision-making. Good risk management utilizes a five-step process:

Step 1 – Situational Awareness:

  • Obtain information.
  • Scout the fire.
  • Identify hazards.
  • Consider all aspects of current and future situations.
  • Consider known historical problem areas (apply local area information from the Fire Danger PocketCard).
  • Recognize the need for action.
  • Demonstrate ongoing awareness of fire assignment status.
  • Note deviations.
  • Attempt to determine why any discrepancies exist before proceeding.

Step 2 – Hazard Assessment:

  • Assess hazards to determine risks (e.g., fire behavior, snags, unburned fuels, work/rest).
  • Use the Look Up, Down, and Around and the Tactical Watch Outs (both located in the Incident Response Pocket Guide [IRPG], PMS 461) to identify high-risk tactical hazards.
  • Assess the impact of each hazard in terms of potential loss, cost, and mission/operational degradation based on probability and severity (probability: how likely an event will occur; severity: consequences if the event occurs). Keep in mind that increased exposure time increases probability.

Step 3 – Hazard Control:

  • Determine the best approach to mitigate or control the risk based on the hazards assessed.
  • Establish controls (e.g., anchor point, Lookouts, Communications, Escape Routes, and Safety Zones [LCES], utilize downhill checklist, limit exposure time).
  • As control measures are developed, reevaluate each risk until it is reduced to a level where benefits outweigh potential costs.

Step 4 – Decision Point (decision to accept or not accept the risks associated with an action):

  • Ask yourself: (1) are controls in place for identified hazards, (2) are tactics selected based on expected fire behavior, and (3) are instructions given and understood?
  • Make certain the decision is made at the appropriate level. If not, elevate to a higher level.
  • Reject the action if the risk is unacceptable.

Step 5 – Evaluation:

  • Ensure controls are implemented and accomplished to standards.
  • Supervise/evaluate the effectiveness of controls and decisions. Monitor the situation and adjust risk controls as necessary.
  • Anticipate consequences of decisions; if controls do not work, determine the problem, and derive a better solution.
  • Adjust actions as the situation changes. Maintain situational awareness.
  • Solicit and provide feedback throughout the process.


Additional Resources

Incident Management Situation Report (IMSR)
10 Standard Firefighting Orders, PMS 110 
18 Watch Out Situations, PMS 118
10 & 18 Poster, PMS 110-18
NWCG Incident Response Pocket Guide (IRPG), PMS 461
RT-130, Wildland Fire Safety Training Annual Refresher (WFSTAR)
Interagency Standards for Fire and Fire Aviation Operations (Red Book)
Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center


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