Are You a Natural?

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When your company arrives on-scene at an incident, within seconds, you as company commander will need to make a series of decisions. What is the initial size-up? What additional resources, if any, will you require? What assignment will you give your crew? These are just the tip of the iceberg relative to command decision processing.

How comfortable are you making decisions that involve life and death? How easily do you determine the importance and value of making decisions that lead to mitigation of the danger, and elimination of any threats?

If your peers and supervisors believe you’re at the top of the command decision game, they might refer to you as a “natural command presence.” What they may not know is that the reference is actually an accurate portrayal of an emotional ability – called the “Natural.”

Academics will refer to the “Natural” as Recognition Prime Decision Making (RPD). Individuals who have the capability of assessing any type of situation, determining a solution and executing it via a decision tree process based on previous experience are naturals. Those who are not naturals tend to rely on specific training, lists of action items to follow, analysis of the problem, consideration of pros and cons for that decision, gaining input from outside sources, and then executing a decision. That process is known as “Classical Decision Making” (CDM).

Classical Decision Making takes longer, but should not be immediately considered a lessor form of incident management. A well trained officer may be able to sort through the list, consult with an aide or peer, and create a solution fairly rapidly.

The natural, on the other hand, is prone to making decisions confidently based on personal experience. Is one type of command decision process more suited to the fire service? The real issue involves determining who has these skills, and who is able to accurately implement either in a timely and effective manner.

This process will become more complex when technology is introduced. As the fire, EMS, and Emergency Management business becomes driven by data, the ability to make good decisions may be complicated. Now, even a natural may need to pause to consider the source of the data, the accuracy, and how that information will affect the incident in process.

We’ll compare and contrast these decision making styles and how technology may interact with them in future posts.

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Michael Monroe

Michael Monroe

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