Rapid Emergency Decision Making: Beyond the Five Senses

Issue 8 and Volume 163.

BY THOMAS DUNNE You can essentially break down any firefighting operation into a series of decisions. These decisions are based on the elements you receive in the initial alarm and are refined from information you obtain as you are responding. Once you arrive at the scene of the incident, the bombardment of sensory input (the building, the fire, the smoke, and so on) will formulate your strategy and tactics. On the surface, this all appears to be a logical progression of rational decisions: Examine the problem, consider the alternatives, and plug in a solution. There is, however, another dimension in an experienced firefighter’s thinking that guides him through most of his emergency activity. This type of thinking and decision making was in evidence at a recent Fire Department of New York fire operation. We received an alarm at 1217 hours for a structural fire. On arrival, first units were met…

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