July Unscientific Survey

What Does He Need To Know?
The process of cognitive decision making is complex and quite rapid. According to research by Dr. Gary Klein, fireground commanders will make 80% of their decisions in less than one minute [1]. These decisions happen as often as the working jobs come in. What impacts the chief officer greatly is communication. Experience plays a large role for him; knowing the area, knowing the assignment and any CISD information. In some departments the initial chief officer may know the personnel directly, by name, but the intial reports by the unit officers are what fill in the blanks as he is responding. Some chiefs know to expect the first line to be near the seat of the fire; the trucks opening up and searching. Some are looking to see who will be the RIC or where the second tanker is coming from. Other chiefs want to know if the Charlie Group Leader has the right vest on, or if you went in before the “two-out” arrived. Either way, it all comes down to communication and the expectations we have of one another.

Unit Officers: What do you believe your chief officer expects to hear and see when he arrives on the fireground – in the first minute?
Chief Officers: What do you expect to be told upon assuming, or initializing, “command” – in the first minute?

References
1. “Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions” Klein, 1998
Additional Reading

“Fireground Chatter vs. Clear Communication – Part 1″ Bailey, Fire Rescue 1, 2008
“Dunn’s Dispatch: Life and Death Decision Making” Dunn, Firehouse.com 2007
“Fireground Command Decisions” Bouwsema, Fire Engineering.com 2007
“Findings From the Wildland Firefighters Human Factors Workshop. Improving Wildland Firefighter Performance Under Stressful, Risky Conditions: Toward better Decisions on the Fireline and More Resilient Organizations” USDA Forest Service, 1996

Photograph courtesy of Patrick Davis

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2 Comments

  • Anonymous says:

    Company officers are expected to give the sizeup for what they see on their assigned position. Then it would be the interior sector giving information on the progress of the fire attck, extension and searches.

    Chief officers should expect to hear where the fire is specifically, where it is travelling, additional searches and resources needed.

  • Anonymous says:

    I’ll answer from the company officer’s perspective, since that’s my role.

    The amount of information I give out is based, of course, on the severity (and potential severity) of the situation. The incoming chief has already heard my size-up on arrival, so that usually won’t be repeated to him. Instead, I’ll provide whatever information I have on the overall status of the current situation (which isn’t always what I found initially), what the guys are doing about it, what my immediate areas of concern are, and anything I feel I might need that I don’t yet see happening. This generally seems to be suitable once the man with the trumpet-heavy collar takes the reins, and if it’s not he will usually ask about whatever else he’s unsure of.

    There are times, of course, when it doesn’t go like that — when it’s not a nice, clean change of command from me in the initial attack/investigation role to him in the general oversight role. But this is what we seem to aim for, and generally it works.

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