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Risk Perception, Sensemaking and Resilient Performance: The Sounds of Wildland Firefighting in Action

Center for Communication, Creativity and Collaboration

Success Stories

Dr. Fox & Team Awarded $143,000 from BLM 

Dr. Fox with Firefighters

Title:  Risk Perception, Sensemaking and Resilient Performance: The Sounds of Wildland Firefighting in Action
Texas State University subaward/Co-PI: Rebekah L. Fox, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Studies, Texas State University
Project Director: Cindy Gordon, Rocky Mountain Research Station, USDA, Forest Service
Other Co-PIs:  Elena Gabor, Bradley University and Jennifer A. Ziegler, Valparaiso University
Sponsor:  Joint Fire Science Program of the United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Fire and Aviation Directorate

Texas State University: $41,396
Total Award Amount: $143,000

Rebekah L. Fox, Texas State University, is part of a research team awarded $143,000 from the federal Joint Fire Science Program of the United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Fire and Aviation Directorate. Working with a team of interdisciplinary team lead by social science researchers Anne E. Black and David A. Thomas of the U.S. Forest Service. The 2014-2016 project “Risk Perception, Sense-making and Resilient Performance: The Sounds of Wildland Firefighting in Action” will focus on radio communications in the wildland fire environment.

Fox and her team argue that managing wildland fire is an exercise in risk perception, sensemaking and resilient performance that is usually considered studied at the individual level, but often quickly becomes a collective activity as the fire management team builds a common perception of risk. This process of senseā€making is an act of communication: collecting information, selecting what’s important, naming it, and then passing it on, in various forms and stages of completeness, from one individual or fire team to another to enable resilient performance, managing the fire safely and efficiently. They will be examining current communication practices using multiple disciplinary and theoretical angles. They seek to develop, for the first time, a comprehensive and coordinated perspective on incident communication, resulting in a set of insights into practice and assessment methods to support continuous improvement in risk perception, sensemaking and resilient performance. Over the next two years Dr. Fox and her team will collect radio transmissions from multiple fires; visit an active Incident Command Post, conduct interviews with fire managers and observe training simulations as part of her research.