Fire Service - Management and Command of Major Incidents

Davis, Dennis Tyrone (2005) Fire Service - Management and Command of Major Incidents. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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This study has concentrated upon the decision-making processes used at major incidents by the fire service in the United Kingdom rather than the more routine decisions made on the fireground. This partly because major incidents are safety critical events, involving complex technical or communication issues involving large volumes of information and many agencies, and also because the decisions made and judgements exercised have to demonstrate a robustness in application that will withstand considerable external scrutiny, since often major incidents involve losses that are subject to insurance or legal investigations. The research undertaken indicates that improvements are possible.

The research places the current decision system in context. It does this by considering the cultural traditions of the fire service together with the managerial and organisational arrangements that set the parameters within which judgements and decisions will be made. This approach provides an insight as to how the fire service functions at operations and importantly the relationship between those decisions and time pressured environment in which they are often reached. Practical case studies that were attended by the author as the senior fire service commander are used to illustrate these features and help provide useful learning outcomes.

This foundation is then used to consider in detail the whole decision support system employed and to offer objective improvements. Explanation of the operational practice employed is assisted by the provision of a number of tables and figures that illustrate the critical parts of the decision system, such as information trees and components and observed inter-agency issues, which are summarised in a systethatic decision process.

Having collated and reviewed these findings it is postulated that command competency and situational awareness, the essential pre-requisites, can be improved through use of a new paradigm that emphasises the better use of data derived from a wider range of sources than are currently used. To assist in gaining this improvement greater integration of technology is suggested and options that exploit technology, such as electronic data communications, sensing devices, robotics and visualisátion, explored. Additional to the main study a number of allied supportive areas of research have been undertaken. These have included issues like fire service culture, public reaction to a serious fire, emergency action procedures, and toxic plume modelling and fireball impacts together with brief commentaries on September 11th and the future fire service in the United Kingdom.

This research contributes to a relatively new area of study, the fire service decision process used to command and control resources, at major incidents.

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