Honorary fellowship for ground-breaking incident command research

 Award-wining research into fire incident command and decision-making has resulted in Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton being awarded an honorary fellowship from Cardiff University.

 The partnership between the National Fire Chiefs Council and Cardiff University focussed on improving firefighter safety at incidents and to improve the way risk is judged. This independent research was awarded £40,000 of funding by the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA); now the NFCC, having been supported by the Operations Committee, then chaired by NFCC Chair Roy Wilsher. 

. This prestigious honour is in recognition of Sabrina’s outstanding work and contribution to fire safety at both a national and international level.

 Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton combined her role as an operational fire officer and experimental psychologist to reach how commanders operate in the field.

 The research programme explorers how commanders make critical decisions in emergency situations. By helping commanders with this, rescuers have the best possible chance of saving lives without risking their own safety.

 The research has helped shape national guidance to support decision-making, while changing the way fire and rescue services look at incident command and the decision-making process.

 A key outcome was a new ‘decision control’ process which helps commanders communicate goals. These have been included in the JESIP doctrine, which helps multi-agency groups dealing with complex, major incidents.

 As well as having a major positive impact across the UK, the results have been presented to audiences in the USA, Belgium, Sweden, France and the Republic of Ireland.

 Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton commented: "I am both honoured and humbled to be invited to accept an Honorary Fellowship from Cardiff University. I am delighted that the quality and impact of our science has been recognised with such a prestigious award.

 “Our success demonstrates the amazing change that is possible by working in partnership - in our case between Cardiff University, the National Fire Chiefs Council and the amazing firefighters who gave up their time to take part in the research. We rely on firefighters to go into situations that are fraught with danger. I will continue with our programme of research, using brain science to keep our fighters safe so they can keep you safe."

 The impact of the research has been significant:

  • Developed policy, national operational guidance and the training of Incident Commanders.
  • Underpinned the national operational guidance to demonstrably improve the way decisions are made under pressure
  • Attracted international interest and driven practical improvements

Roy Wilsher, NFCC Chair, said: “I am delighted to see Sabrina receive this honour. By funding this work, we have improved national guidance for incident command, which was underpinned by peer-reviewed, scientific research. These improvements have been sector-led and the collaboration with Cardiff University has been key to making this happen.

 “These decision controls are now included within the JESIP doctrine, which means all emergency services are using it during major emergencies. This has ensured it is having a positive impact across the fire and rescue service and the wider emergency service responder landscape.”

 Vice-Chancellor at Cardiff University, Professor Colin Reardon, said: “"It is with great pleasure and in recognition of your outstanding work and contribution to firefighter safety at a national and international level, that I am inviting you to accept an Honorary Fellowship from Cardiff University."

 The research has also received several other awards:

  • BBSRC Innovator of the year 2018
  • BBSRC Social Impact Innovator of the year 2018
  • Business and Education Partnership Award (2017)
  • Impact and Innovation Award for the significant contribution of the Incident Command research in science and application to UK policy (2017)
  • Impact and Innovation Public Choice Award, voted for by the public, for the contribution of the Incident Command research for improving the safety of firefighters and the public (2017)
  • American Psychological Association New Investigator Award (2017) in recognition of personal contribution to science and policy
  • American Psychological Association Nickerson Best Paper prize (2016) for the international impact of the incident command research on science and policy
  • CFOA Personal Contribution Award (2016)
  • FIRE/GORE Research Excellence prize (2014) for the Incident Command research and its application to the National Operational Guidance
  • Jury Research Prize (Cardiff University) for published research exploring the neural mechanisms of decision making (2013)


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