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Variations in high reliability practices in the federal fire community: Relative contributions of agency affiliation, years of experience, and position hierarchy and function


McBride, Brooke Baldauf; Black, Anne E. 2012. Variations in high reliability practices in the federal fire community: Relative contributions of agency affiliation, years of experience, and position hierarchy and function. In: Fox, R. L., ed. Proceedings of the 3rd Human Dimensions of Wildland Fire Conference; April 17-19 2012; Seattle, Washington. International Association of Wildland Fire. p. 64-65.

While several studies have examined the relevance of the HRO paradigm for fire management, no known empirical studies exist. In late 2007, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Michigan, we embarked on an exploration of the nature and extent of HRO practices in the US fire community. One of the primary questions was: How do HRO practices vary across the federal fire community? We sought to understand how commonly the theorized principles of HRO were practiced, and the degree to which these were associated with other aspects of organizational culture and crew social dynamics. To address this, we conducted a 15 minute survey of permanent seasonal and permanent full-time employees filling primary fire positions (including fire, fuels, dispatch and fire aviation) in the three largest US federal fire agencies: USDA Forest Service (USFS), and US DOI Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and National Park Service (NPS). The 668 participants were randomly selected using organizational stratification. Major organizational units (such National Park, National Forest) were randomly selected, then sub-units (such as a Ranger District) randomly selected within these. Individuals were assigned to one of three strata ­ upper-level, mid-level, ground-level based on their formal day-job position title. We asked each participant to provide information about his or her years of experience in wildland fire, and his or her hierarchical and functional role on a recent fire incident. Final hierarchical and functional classification of respondents for analysis was based on survey responses.

Keywords: HRO, high reliability, wildland fire


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Title: RMRS Other Publications: Variations in high reliability practices in the federal fire community: Relative contributions of agency affiliation, years of experience, and position hierarchy and function
Electronic Publish Date: September 17, 2013
Last Update:
September 17, 2013

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