Mountain CRM – Crew Resource Management in Avalanche Terrain

With the first snow on the Cairngorms now is a good time to talk about the launch of Mountain CRM. This online course is an introduction to ‘Crew Resource Management’ and ‘Human Factors’ in Avalanche Terrain.

You can find this course over on the Mountain Assurance Teachable site at https://mountain-assurance.teachable.com/p/mountain-crm.

You will learn how to understand human vulnerabilities. Develop strategies to help make the right decisions and improve safety when working in avalanche terrain.

Mountain CRM

The content has been written by myself, James Thacker.

We all can make mistakes. Mountain CRM is ultimately about developing the tools to reduce the likelihood of accidents through the application of Human Factors principles.

So this will most likely be of interest to you if you have ever thought:

  • So that situation was totally unexpected…
  • But how do I try and prevent making the same mistakes as somebody else?
  • So how do I raise an issue that I am concerned about?
  • I am not sure that we have the same mental model of the conditions we face today…

Avalanche Terrain

Does Mountain CRM only apply to avalanche terrain? Coming into the winter, it makes sense to look at these concepts through the lens of winter work.

But Human Factors concepts equally apply both in summer and winter.

Who is it for?

Mountain CRM is for leaders, instructors and mountain guides who are at work. But that’s not to say that there isn’t plenty of useful content for anybody visiting the mountains in winter. So dive in and train your brain for avalanche terrain.

Take me to Mountain CRM

This online course dives into the Human Factors (HF) of avalanche terrain using the concepts of ‘Crew Resource Management’ (CRM) from the aviation industry.

Crew Resource Management and Human Factors in Avalanche Terrain

Crew Resource Management in Avalanche Terrain

A few days ago I shared the exciting news that Mountain Assurance is preparing to launch a short online course entitled ‘Mountain CRM’. This short course in Crew Resource Management and human factors in avalanche terrain will be a mix of written material, short lectures and audio interviews.

What is CRM?

But the obvious question is: what is CRM? Like any good three letter acronym it can mean different things to different people. In the context of human factors we are talking about ‘Crew Resource Management’, a term first used in aviation.

CRM training courses were introduced to mitigate the affects of heuristics and other human factors, but have since grown to encompass many ‘non technical skills’.

As mentioned in my previous blog post ‘The Human Factor in mountaineering and snow sports – Going beyond FACETS‘. I believe that non technical skills for skiers and mountaineers include: situational awareness, decision-making, teamwork and communication, leadership and task management and the application of these skills in the winter environment.

For leaders, instructors and mountain guides working in the winter mountains, CRM behaviours and non technical skills can be used alongside existing decision making frameworks such as ‘Be Avalanche Aware’ (BAA).

The winter mountains may not be your work place, but some of the behaviours and non technical skills will almost certainly be relevant to lots of recreational user groups in the mountains.

An introduction to ‘Crew Resource Management’ and ‘Human Factors’ in Avalanche Terrain

A generic definition of CRM might be the training of the cognitive and social skills needed to support technical training in order to optimise safe and efficient operations.

Work (or recreation) in avalanche terrain requires exactly that. The use of cognitive and social skills to better cope with uncertainty. We are not pre-hospital doctors or pilots but our observations and decisions are made in dynamic mountain environments with the potential for signifiant consequences.

Although we are arguably working in a low tech environment, in contrast to a modern flight deck, CRM has a place in any environment which relies on humans in the system.

Mountain CRM

Mountain CRM is an opportunity to “train your brain for avalanche terrain”.

What you will learn…

✔️ Enhance your awareness of human factors and human fallibility

✔️ Develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes to mitigate errors and manage risk

✔️ How to prevent and manage group errors

✔️ To use CRM knowledge as an outdoor professional, to balance making a living with safety

✔️ Integrate CRM knowledge, skills and attributes to shift the culture of the outdoor professional sector and help prevent incidents in avalanche terrain

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