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Fighting the Fire in Our Own House: How Poor Decisions are Smoldering Within the U.S. Fire Service

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Technical Report

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Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States

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This thesis examines how large organizations that routinely engage in high-risk activitiesparticularly the U.S. fire servicediscover, 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 DFRDs 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.

Subject Categories:

  • Administration and Management
  • Sociology and Law
  • Personnel Management and Labor Relations

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