• Martin Kondrup Knudsen
4. term, Master of Learning Processes (Continuing education) (Continuing Education Programme (Master))
A qualitative study of the incident commander’s basis for decision-making.
In this master’s thesis I am focusing on what basis the incident commander of the fire and rescue service makes the best decision possible during turn-outs. The incident commander must in all situations be capable of making a quick decision - regardless of the complexity and time pressure surrounding the situation. Wrong assessments and decisions, can, in the worse-case, lead to human or material losses. My interest for this area and reason for writing about it is to be seen in relation to my work, as the incident commander’s basis for decision-making is more or less unknown within the fire and rescue service. In education and training exercises focus is on the professional aspect and therefore not much time is devoted to developing the incident commander’s decision-making skills.
The aim of this thesis has been to study what affects decision-making, including which personal parameters will affect the actual decision and thereby the solving of the assignment. This is to hopefully create an organized learning process which can help with achieving the correct solution to assigned tasks and which can also accommodate the incident commander’s decision-making during a turn-out.
Different theories and models of decision-making with different assessments of how decisions are made will be included in this study to achieve the broadest understanding of the subject, while also explaining the on-site commander’s decision-making in the right context. Within the decision making models, I am including decision models that are rational and limited rational, including the”Recognation-Primid Decision” model. This normatively acknowledging model is context influenced to the praxis of the incident commander. Regarding decision-making, Ola Mårtensson 2009, Donald Schön 1983, Gary Klein 1998, Christopher Nemeth & Gery Klein 2010 and S. Cohen, among others, will be taken into consideration. The theory chapter is concluded by emphasizing possible external factors which may affect the decision making along with possible inner cognitive processes at play within the decision maker and decision making in general.
Based on the above theoretical product, an empirical study has been made. This means a qualitative study of the foundation for making the best decision possible. Focus group interviews, in which the incident commander’s stories and experiences regarding decision making are included, are also used
The study showed that the incident commander could relate to the factors and the cognitive processes. Based on these many differing stories from actual events and happenings came into the open. Based on the empirical data, the study shows a tendency for the incident commander to be very affected by time pressure as the primary factor – however, dangerous risks and complexity are also seen as critical factors. Social pressure is seen as a strength, meaning a form of team work, dialogue and sparring regarding the decision making process. Furthermore, cognitive processes within the decision maker play an important role. Experience is seen as a primary factor and therefore very influential on other processes. This means that experience influences how the incident commander uses reflection and mental stimulation. Intuition itself is mostly active when there is a need for improvised solutions. Reflection is seen both during and after dealing with an incident. The study also shows that the ability to improvise is part of a cognitive process, while emotional thinking is also relevant to decision making. Metacognition, however is part of future decision-making. In addition it shows that the factors work both with and against the cognitive processes.
Publication date22 May 2012
Number of pages64
ID: 63238468