Hazard Mitigation Through Risk Management

Operational Engagement
Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
Oct 2019


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 – those likely to result in a negative impact.
  • Consider all aspects of current and future situations.
  • Consider known historical problem areas. (Apply information from the Fire Danger Pocket Card.)
  • Recognize the need for action.
  • Demonstrate ongoing awareness of fire assignment status.
  • Note deviations.
  • Attempt to determine why discrepancies exist with information 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) 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 from the hazards assessed.
  • Establish controls (e.g., anchor point, 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 risk(s) associated with an action):

  • Consider whether controls are in place for identified hazards, whether selected tactics are based on expected fire behavior, and if instructions have been given and understood.
  • Make certain the decision is made at the appropriate level; if not, then 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 effectiveness of controls and decisions. Stay on top of the situation and adjust risk controls as necessary.
  • Anticipate consequences of decisions; if controls do not work, determine problem and derive a better solution.
  • Adjust actions as the situation changes; maintain situational awareness at all times.
  • Maintain feedback line.


Additional Resources

Incident Management Situation Report (IMSR)
Incident Response Pocket Guide (IRPG), PMS 461
NWCG Standards for Helicopter Operations, PMS 510
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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