Publication:
Fighting the fire in our own house: how poor decisions are smoldering within the U.S. fire service

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Authors
Cavnor, Charles Dale
Subjects
normalization of deviance
fire service
structural secrecy
drift into failure
satisficing
amoral calculator
loose coupling
Swiss cheese model
line of duty death
escalation of commitment
Advisors
Kiernan, Kathleen
Jasper, Scott
Date of Issue
2018-03
Date
Mar-18
Publisher
Monterey, California: Naval Postgraduate School
Language
Abstract
This thesis examines how large organizations that routinely engage in high-risk activities-particularly the U.S. fire service-discover, interact with, and counteract deviant behaviors that latently influence safety-centric attitudes within organizational frameworks. To a larger extent, the thesis analyzes how sociological interactions in the workplace shape decision-making processes in dangerous situations. The research question specifically asks whether the U.S. fire service has normalized deviant behaviors that negatively influence firefighter safety. A policy analysis with recommendations was the methodology incorporated to validate the absence or presence of normalized deviance. This method required analyzing at a granular level the policies and procedures of a large metropolitan fire department, with the Dallas Fire Rescue Department (DFRD) chosen as a representative organization. While the thesis did not reveal widespread institutionalized deviance within DFRD’s emergency operation procedures, analysis of internal documents about specific emergency incidents signal a trend toward abnormalities in decision-making abilities in low-probability, high-risk incidents. Recommendations include capturing routine information for best-practices reinforcement in addition to comprehensive analysis of emerging deviance patterns. Additionally, a second recommendation suggests incorporating an anonymous near-miss reporting system to identify workplace incidents that fall short of an accident, but nonetheless contain pertinent educational information.
Type
Thesis
Description
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Department
National Security Affairs (NSA)
Organization
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Distribution Statement
Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited.
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