Loughborough University
Thesis-2011-Shaikh.pdf (2.21 MB)

Cue-centric model of the fireground incident commander's decision making process

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posted on 2011-06-30, 11:43 authored by Mohammad K. Shaikh
Pattern recognition based models propose that in highly routine situations, the FireGround Incident Commanders (FGC) make decisions using experiences of the past similar incidents (Klein et al, 1986), which are stored in memory as schemas (Klein et al, 2006). Due to the nonsystematic development of schemas that guide pattern recognition (Beach & Mitchell, 1978) and the biases attached with pattern recognition (Tversky & Kahnmen, 1974), this approach is least favorable candidate for decision making in nonroutine situations. The nonroutine situations are characterized by: failure to clearly recognize relevant past episodes (Bousfield & Sedgewick, 1944), deliberate avoiding of recalling the past episodes (Jacoby et al, 1989) or time constraint and ambiguity of available information for decision making. This research proposes that in nonroutine situations, the FGCs rely on thorough search and assessment of diagnostic, relevant, and important cues. Therefore, one aim of this research is to propose a model of the FGCs' decision making process for nonroutine situations; the model will base on the use of cues rather than the pattern recognition approach. This research also aims to provide a robust and coherent definition of the FGC’s decision making process and will subsequently specify the structure and the underlying phases of it. The context of the research is the decisions made by the FGCs during large fires, involving at least 5 fire appliances. 20 FGCs from 2 of the UK’s large firebrigades with at least 7 years of experience in command position participated in a fieldwork carried over a period of 1 year. For the data collection, multiple case studies in the form of critical incident reports are obtained from the participants. Each critical incident is explored further through semi-structured interviews. For the data analysis, theoretical or deductive thematic approach and process reconstruction method (Nutt, 1983) are used. Results indicate that the current definition of the term ‘FGC’s decision making process’ is incomplete. The definition of the FGC’s decision making process proposed in this research now, recognizes that each process of selection and evaluation of a course of action to solve a problem (Klein et al, 1986) is preceded by a process of identification of a problem. This definition commensurate with the widely acceptable definition of decision making process proposed in Nutt (1984). This research also found that the FGCs make decisions in 2 cyclic and distinguishable phases, which are the ‘problem recognition’ phase, and the ‘solution generation’ phase. Finally, a cue-centric model of the FGC's decision making process is proposed. The model showed that in nonroutine situations, when pattern recognition fails to guide the decision making process, the FGCs develop a mental model of a situation through thorough search and assessment of the valuable cues based on their diagnosticity, importance and relevance. The mental model assists in identifying problems and selecting a course of action to solve that problem. This research fulfills the need of developing descriptive models for clarifying issues arising in the areas of training, selection, and in developing decision support systems (Klein et al, 1986).



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© Mohammad Khalid Shaikh

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A Master's Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Master of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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