Keywords: Brigade des Sapeurs-Pompiers de Paris, BSPP, firemen, critical incidents, trauma, individual resilience, cognitive psychology, phenomenological psychology, naturalistic decision making, safety training, France, emergency management, cognitive ontology
Lieutenant A and the rottweilers: a pheno-cognitive analysis of firemen's resilience in action
This article is based on a study of French urban firemen on an operational level. Their missions are punctuated by more and more critical incidents that have the potential to paralyse their cognitive functioning though they usually manage to resume their missions afterwards. I wonder if a microanalysis of their cognitive experience could unveil what helps a fireman get over a critical incident. Firemen's decision making in naturalistic settings has been studied mainly at a tactical level and from a third-person standpoint. Their ability to overcome critical incidents in action has been very little studied with research focusing mainly on Post-Traumatic Syndrome Disorder (PTSD). This study exposes the case of Lieutenant A who, supervising a victim rescue mission, finds himself attacked by two rottweiler dogs and is caught in the midst of a heavy gun shooting aimed at killing them. Based upon pheno-cognitive analysis, a qualitative method derived from phenomenological psychology, I explicit 38 elementary decision cycles pacing Lieutenant A's subjective experience of his intervention. The study shows that his cognitive experience of trauma unfolds in several stages and that he resumed his course of action because of a fortunate reinvolvement in the story in progress. It yields a cognitive ontology and cognitive patterns that describe decision-making dynamics.