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Title: How does bias/scope influence the operational outcome of pressurised incident command decisions and can it be countered?
Author: Sallis, Geoffrey
ISNI:       0000 0004 5989 2509
Awarding Body: University of Gloucestershire
Current Institution: University of Gloucestershire
Date of Award: 2015
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Effective fireground decision-making requires good situation awareness (SA) and appropriate selection from the information available to the incident commander. Individuals can display different information bias/scope in their view of the operational incident: either a liberal bias/scope towards accepting information as true with a risk of false alarm errors and/or a conservative bias/scope towards rejecting information with a risk of misses. Such decision - making bias/scope was examined over a series of five separate studies including operational fire fighters and incident commanders. The studies included a breathing apparatus (BA) exercise, two different table top operational incidents (domestic and commercial) and two exercises for flexible duty managers (FDM) in an assessable simulated fireground incident in 2012 and again in 2013. The studies were based on realistic incidents that both fire fighters and FDMs would be expected to respond to, in the final two studies each individual had to take over command and move towards a successful conclusion from an operational, environmental and social perspective. In all the studies, participants were required to answer true or false to a series of probe statements about the incident, which were analysed by a signal detection tool (QASA) to give a measure of actual situational awareness (ASA), perceived situational awareness (PSA) and bias/scope. The first exercise was a BA exercise undertaken to identify if bias was shown by FF’s when undertaking training, the data analysed by the QASA identified that most individuals displayed a high level of ASA about the incident, but also showed either a conservative bias/scope (with miss errors) or a liberal bias /scope (with false alarm errors). The results however also show that two individuals can appear to have similar ASA, but in fact still have very different bias/scope in regard to that knowledge. Once it was established that bias was identified this was developed using table top exercises as it allowed more participants and more control over undertaking the research within normal programmed training periods. The analysis of the two table top exercises showed ASA was high in both, but fire fighters perceived their PSA in a similar way if they had high confidence in one exercise they also had high confidence in the other exercise, or vice versa. However there was no significant correlation between the ASA scores and the PSA scores, with the pattern of bias/scope tendencies being differed across the two studies; with no significant correlation. In reviewing these results the identified difference in undertaking the 2 exercises was that in the second FF’s were familiar with the process and this allow a more relaxed approach, reducing pressure on the individual. While individuals showed bias patterns within the exercises undertaken, more pressurized exercises were identified to see if this bias was consistent for the individual when under pressure. Using the assessable incident commander exercises run by the FRS to test incident commander competence at a FDM level to undertake this. The exercises were used in 2012 and 2013 using the same individuals to compare their results, the outcome of these two simulated assessable fireground incident studies were; • for ASA: there was no significant correlation: r = -.120 and p= .623; • for PSA: there was a significant positive correlation: r =.577 and p = .012; • for bias/scope there was found a strongly positive significant correlation across the scores: r = .592 which is significant at the .008 level. The conclusion of the research is that individuals hold bias/scope tendencies and under pressure these tendencies are shown to be resting and will impact (condition) the individual’s decisions during periods of operational command during stressful conditions. The finding of bias/scope patterns is an important one that may have implications for understanding errors in incident ground decision - making. The finding of resting bias/scope patterns in FDM is an even more important one, which will have implications for understanding errors in incident ground decision - making and how we can help to reduce them. In semi structure interviews with FDMs who had undertaken the assessable exercises, they believed that knowing their bias was a first step to altering it to allow them to improve their decision making at pressurized incidents. Which supported the ultimate goal of the current research to further the understanding of bias/scope tendency, in order to support the training of effective fireground decision - making.
Supervisor: Catherwood, Dianne ; Edgar, Graham Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: BF Psychology ; HD61 Risk in industry. Risk management