Many firefighters are confronted with decision-making under extreme time pressure in harsh conditions. Earlier research on decision-making indicates that prior experience and training help them to assess the dynamic risks in a split second while making a professional judgement under extreme stress. However, the question could be raised how firefighters make the right decisions under the same extreme conditions without the ability to rely on prior experience-driven or thought responses.
This research paper examines the decision-making process of a Belgian firefighter crew before and during a building collapse. The results indicate that contrary to existing views on decision-making in fast-burning crisis situations, multiple subsequent processes are at play. Firefighters act on multiple sequences, and in each of these a different form of decision-making is in use. The rationale for switching between particular decision-making processes is anchored to the type of interaction, the firefighter’s perception and conception of the situation, and the type of knowledge used to tackle the problem. Based on these findings, recommendations for practical implementations, such as training and development, and directions for further research in the domain of decision-making in fast-burning crisis situations are offered.