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Facilitator Tips

Individuals who plan to facilitate a staff ride should read the Wildland Fire Staff Ride Guide prior to conducting the event. This guide provides a thorough explanation of the logistical and instructional considerations for a successful event.

The following tips have been collected from facilitators of recent staff rides and should be considered a supplement to the complete Staff Ride guide. If you have a suggestion or tip, please submit it through the staff ride feedback feature.

Prior to the staff ride there are several preparation actions a facilitator should do:

  • Research a variety of information sources and become well-versed on the incident in order to be able to answer questions from participants.
  • Walk the ground at least once with all support cadre so that you know where the stands are and can accurately orient participants when you take the entire group to the site.
  • Provide "read-ahead" suggestions, the event schedule, and travel directions to the participants at least two to three weeks in advance.
  • While an investigation report is a primary source of information, it should not be the only source of information that is used. Facilitators are encouraged to rent and watch the movie Courage Under Fire. Although this movie is a fictional drama, it provides a good perspective on the barriers that can be encountered during an incident investigation.

During the staff ride some facilitation techniques to consider include:

  • Use a sand table or other terrain model to provide an orientation of the site and sequence of events prior to the start of the actual field visit.
  • If you have a large number of participants, break them into smaller conference groups of 10-12 individuals each. Provide a knowledgeable conference group leader for each of these smaller groups with an overall facilitator to coordinate movement and adherence to planned timeframes.
  • Manage the group by providing activity and departure time cues at the start of each "stand."
  • Orient the group to key geographic features and review relevant events at the start of each "stand" so participants can build the overall picture of the incident in their mind.
  • Don't get caught up in being a narrator--encourage group discussion, interaction, and debate. Tactical decision games (TDGS) are one method to do that. Facilitators should feel free to use any method that they are comfortable with. If you do use the TDGS, hand them out to the participants as you leave the "stand" - that is prior to the "stand" where the participants will respond to them. This will allow participants time to think about the dilemma.
  • Other facilitation methods to encourage interaction include presentations by first-hand witnessess from the incident, open-ended discussion questions designed for your target audience, and assigned participant briefings that require pre-study research.
  • Be sure to allow some discretionary time for participants to do some exploring on their own sometime during the staff ride.
  • It is very easy to run short of time at the end of the day. Make sure to save enough time at the end of the event for a final integration, allowing individuals to discuss and share their "takeaways" from their assessment of the event.
  • Have fun with the group.