International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Cultivating a reluctance to simplify: exploring the radio communication context in wildland firefighting

R. Fox A F , E. Gabor B , D. Thomas C , J. Ziegler D and A. Black E
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Communication Studies, Texas State University, 601 University Drive, Centennial Hall, Room 316, San Marcos, TX 78666-4684, USA.

B Department of Communication, Bradley University, 1501 W. Bradley Avenue, Peoria, IL 61625, USA.

C Renoveling, 2334 N 500 Street W, Ogden, UT 84414, USA.

D Department of Communication, Valparaiso University, Kretzmann Hall, 1700 Chapel Drive, Valparaiso, IN 46383, USA.

E Rocky Mountain Research Station, 800 E. Beckwith Avenue, Missoula, MT 59801, USA.

F Corresponding author. Email: rf24@txstate.edu

International Journal of Wildland Fire 26(8) 719-731 https://doi.org/10.1071/WF16166
Submitted: 1 September 2016  Accepted: 26 May 2017   Published: 8 August 2017

Abstract

Although communication is often cited as a contributor to organisational accidents, complexities of the communication context are still understudied. In training materials and some investigative reports, communication is often presented as an equipment issue or as a simple skill that can be picked up on the job. However, interviews with operational and managerial professionals in wildland firefighting reveal 10 simplifications in guidance about radio communication that do not match the complexities experienced by firefighters in the fire environment. Borrowing language from high-reliability organising theory, this study encourages the fire community to cultivate a ‘reluctance to simplify’ how communication is understood and taught, starting with introductory training. The study recommends a move away from the old information transfer model for communication and towards an ecology of meanings model for communication.

Additional keywords: training, high-reliability organising.


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