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Project ID: 10-3-01-4

Year: 2010

Date Started: 05/01/2010

Date Completed: 07/12/2012

Title: Unpacking the Risk Assessment Processes in Firefighting Crews

Project Proposal Abstract: Wildland firefighting crews are considered High Reliability Organizations (HROs) because their members operate in hazardous environments with low rates of error. However, the level of error currently experienced is higher than desired. To improve the safety and performance record, we need robust and concretely grounded theories that help us act as well as think and reflect. We seek to expand the theoretic foundation wildland fire fighters and managers use to assess and manage risk as they seek safe and highly reliable operations. At the moment, the fire community draws heavily on theories of leadership, high reliability, risk management, and to some degree psychology in order to understand and advance safety performance. Surprisingly, one of the basic theoretical threads that link all of these has been given little attention  communication. The field of communication describes how language creates reality. It recognizes that what we see, what we expect, how we make sense of a situation, is based in how we speak. This project will extend and challenge current theorizing on high reliability, safety, and risk management by examining the social interactions that shape members interpretations of hazards. We seek to investigate how the fire community uses language to identify and communicate about hazards, how language used creates or confuses meaning, priority and relevance, and to identify blind spots in safety that are attributable to language. Working collaboratively  a communication academic, a fire-fighter working towards a doctorate in communication, and a federal fire management researcher  we will develop a conceptual model describing how various instances of communication within the wildland fire community create individual and organizational perceptions, expectations and interpretations of hazards, and identify appropriate actions to mitigate hazards, including when and how one is allowed to disregard standard practice. The duration of this project is May 1, 2010 to August 30, 2011. The first step of this project (May-July 2010) involves an extensive review of communication and hazard literature, and collection of various materials (e.g., existing interviews, training materials, etc.) from federal wildland firefighting agencies (e.g., National Interagency Fire Center, USDA Forest Service, etc.). The synthesis of this information will inform interview and survey data collection. The second step involves interviews with wildland firefighters in order to clarify and probe concepts identified in the synthesis of literature and information (July-September 2010). Final products from this project include 1) presentation of preliminary results at 3 conferences (November 2010, April 2011, May 2011), 2) a doctoral dissertation that clarifies new concepts and proposes new testable hypotheses about firefighters communication interactions with regard to hazardous situations (expected defense June 2011), 3) development of a firefighter training workshop that applies research findings (May 2011), and 4) at least 1 non-refereed publication to the firefighter audience (August 2011).

Principal Investigator: Anne E. Black

Agency/Organization: Forest Service

Branch or Dept: RMRS-Forestry Sciences Lab-Missoula


Other Project Collaborators

Type

Name

Agency/Organization

Branch or Dept

Co-Principal Investigator

Jody L. Jahn

University of California-Santa Barbara

Department of Communication

Co-Principal Investigator

Linda L. Putnam

University of California-Santa Barbara

Department of Communication

Federal Cooperator

Anne E. Black

Forest Service

RMRS-Forestry Sciences Lab-Missoula

Federal Fiscal Representative

Susan T. Major

Forest Service

RMRS-Rocky Mountain Research Station


Project Locations

Consortium

Alaska

Appalachian

California

Great Basin

Great Plains

Lake States

Oak Woodlands

Northern Rockies

Northwest

Pacific

South

Southern Rockies

Southwest

Tallgrass


Level

State

Agency

Unit

NATIONAL

FED


Project Deliverables

Final Report view or print

("Results presented in JFSP Final Reports may not have been peer-reviewed and should be interpreted as tentative until published in a peer-reviewed source.")

  ID Type Title
view or print   86 Ph.D. Dissertation The Communicative Construction of Safety in Wildland Firefighting (J.L.S. Jahn)
view or print   4574 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Communication and High Reliability: How the Crew Environment Facilitates or Inhibits Wildland Firefighter Learning
view or print   4577 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Communication and High Reliability: How the Crew Environment Facilitates or Inhibits Wildland Firefighter Learning
view or print   4375 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Learning by Doing: Wildland Firefighters’ Stories About Their Pivotal Fireline Learning Experiences
view or print   3721 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Social Bodies: Bringing Materiality Into Theorizing About High Reliability Organizations
view or print   3722 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Social Bodies: Bringing Materiality Into Theorizing About High Reliability Organizations
view or print   6124 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Learning by Doing: Wildland Firefighters’ Stories About Their Pivotal Fireline Learning Experiences
view or print   6181 Conference/Symposia/Workshop Interviewing Techniques that Capture Crew Culture and Sensemaking.

Supporting Documents

There are no supporting documents available for this project.

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