Crisis Decision Making: An Examination Of Executive Leadership in a State Forestry Service
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The Texas A&M Forest Service (TFS) led the firefighting efforts during the most catastrophic wildfire season in Texas history. The 2011 wildfire season caused massive losses statewide including four million acres burned and over 2,900 homes destroyed. TFS leaders who were responsible for managing and fighting these fires have valuable insights about how decisions were made during the 2011 wildfire season. These insights provided valuable information that can further the research paradigm of Naturalistic Decision Making and Macrocognition. Additionally, these insights provided reflective observations that TFS leaders can reference in order to continually improve in making effective decisions during crisis situations. The purpose of this study was to understand how TFS leaders made decisions during the 2011 wildfire season. I used a qualitative approach to address the purpose of this study and understand factors that influenced how seven TFS leaders made decisions in 2011. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the participants of this study. Additionally, several documents were obtained from the TFS to provide further information about how decisions were made in 2011. A number of factors were identified to have an influence on TFS leaders’ decision making. It was found that TFS culture was a component that influenced decision making along with consideration of TFS’s reputation and the safety of firefighters and people of Texas. Additionally, it was found that TFS leaders had to constantly account for the fire environment, manage the distribution of resources, and communicate effectively amongst themselves, interagency firefighters, and the public of Texas. Lessons learned was the last component TFS leaders discussed as part of the decisions they made in 2011. From the findings of this study, it was understood that the TFS leaders handled the 2011 wildfire season as effectively as possible considering the harsh implications of the wildfires they addressed. TFS leaders were responsible, conscientious, and caring to the people of Texas. I made several recommendations for future research in addition to some recommendations for changes TFS leaders may want to consider based on the findings from this study. This study was meant to provide a reference for TFS leaders to use so they could have a more complete understanding of factors, implications, strengths, and areas for improvement regarding decisions they made during the 2011 wildfire season.
Texas A&M Forest Service
2011 Wildfire Season
Burbank, Michael D. (2016). Crisis Decision Making: An Examination Of Executive Leadership in a State Forestry Service. Master's thesis, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from