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How to escape decision traps when fighting fires?

I was introduced to the extraordinary life of firefighter, psychologist and writer Sabrina Cohen-Hatton through her desert island disks!


Sabrina’s story is testament to what the human spirit can achieve in the most challenging of circumstances. Experiencing homelessness as a teenager and sleeping on the streets of Newport. Becoming the first woman firefighter at that station (and still one of only 3% of firefighters who are women). Climbing the career ladder to become deputy assistant commissioner of Surrey fire brigade. Returning to education to complete degrees in psychology and PhD in behavioural neuroscience.


It is Sabrina’s research into risks to firefighters that provides insight of value to all leaders.

Finding that 80% of industrial accidents were caused by human error, she enrolled at university to answer questions about why so much danger appeared unavoidable and how to reduce risk.


Her research isolated the ‘decision traps’ that can lead an incident commander to sub-optimal choices she and devised the Decision Control Process as a result.


This is simple three-point test by which a commander can evaluate a decision before implementing it:


  1. What do I want to achieve?

  2. What do I expect to happen as a result?

  3. Do the benefits outweigh the risks?


Like me, I suspect you’ll find the process has value when fighting those everyday fires in work and in life, whether you’re a professional firefighter or not!


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