Command performance: reality or rhetoric?

One of the key objectives of IJOCC is to encourage inter-agency and international collaboration to improve global standards in incident command. In this spirit of support and pursuit of excellence the VectorCommand Foundation has provided a bursary to Gordon Gilmour to complete his Human Factors PhD. His paper provides a fascinating insight into the psychology of decision making, uncovering the huge part very human factors play in the command process

The commander in charge of a major fire or similar emergency incident may have only modest experience to relay when commanding resources at that critical event. Yet the responsibility and subsequent lives that rely on their accurate and timely decision making could be considerable.

What causes this disparity of knowledge and skill? Inexperience may be due to a lack or opportunity, ie certain shifts only 'picking up the working jobs', or some stations being in much higher risk areas. Identifying the variables could be difficult.

What about developing those skills? If it were an office environment, coaching someone through the managerial competencies involved in day-to-day business would be realistic method. Yet it is clearly not acceptable in the public domain to practise your craft at a 'risk critical event'. Hence it has become problematic for those seeking further development in critical incident management. This concern is growing, especially in light of the threats we now all face since September 11, and is further compounded by a public whose demand for efficiency and effectiveness grows by the day, and a government that reacts with accountability studies. These generate performance indicators, which are outcome based, and that is where the fun starts!

So the question is how can we accurately measure our commanders to ensure they are not only competent as managers but also carrying out their critical event management with full regard to the decision-making duties central to the process?

Let us focus on a commander in the heat of the moment. …

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