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Lecture Oct. 20
The impact of fatigue on disaster responders
Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2006
By Becki Meehan
WSU News Service
WSU News Service
SPOKANE - Bryan Vila, professor of criminal justice at Washington State University Spokane, this week will open the university's fall Third Friday Seminar Series with the presentation, "Running on Empty: How Fatigue Hinders Disaster Response and Counter-Terror Efforts."
Hosted by the WSU Spokane Office of Research and the Health Research and Education Center, Vila's initial seminar presentation will begin at 3 p.m. in Room 110 of the Health Sciences Building on the Riverpoint Campus in Spokane.
A 17-year veteran of law enforcement in local, national, and international settings, Vila knows something of long hours and sleep loss. He hasn't exactly suffered from it in the long run, however, as he has made a successful career researching human-performance issues related to crime control and is considered one of the nation's foremost experts in the area.
His research demonstrates how the long work hours common for those engaged in intelligence, law enforcement, and similar agency work lead to restricted sleep, which in turn impairs analysts' abilities to draw logical conclusions from information pulled together from many different sources.
"Everything we know about how the brain responds to sleep restriction indicates those are the very skills that tend to be degraded the most by lack of sleep," Vila said.
The author of "Tired Cops: The Importance of Managing Police Fatigue"
(Washington, D.C.: Police Executive Research Forum, 2000), Vila has made numerous presentations on fatigue issues in law enforcement over the last 25 years.
The research seminar will be a discussion on how failing to manage fatigue effectively can deliver a one-two punch to public safety and health that makes us more vulnerable to large-scale threats. His presentation will use examples from 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and other recent catastrophes to show how overwork and lack of sleep can impair the ability of intelligence analysts or weather forecasters to detect or predict an impending disaster. They also can diminish first responders' and disaster managers'performance and put them at greater risk.
Although disaster response and counter-terror efforts often push the limits of human performance, Vila proposes concrete approaches to managing fatigue and alertness. His talk is based on nearly 20 years of research on the effects of sleep restriction, shift work and long work hours on police officer performance, health and safety-it also is informed by his many years of experience responding to and managing crises.
The WSU criminal justice program, founded in 1941, is one of the oldest such programs in the nation. Ranked 18th in the nation by U.S. News & World Report in 2005, it is the home of the first chapter of Alpha Phi Sigma, the criminal justice honorary.
Related Web sites:
WSU Spokane MA Criminal Justice: www.crimj.spokane.wsu.edu WSU Spokane: www.spokane.wsu.edu WSU Department of Criminal Justice: http://libarts.wsu.edu/crimj/