Using social science to understand and improve wildland fire organizations: An annotated reading list

Gregory Larson, Vita Wright, Cade Spaulding, Kelly Rossetto, Georgi Rausch, Andrea Richards, Stephanie Durnford, Jim Saveland, Dave Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The wildland fire community has spent the past decade trying to understand and account for the role of human factors In wildland fire organizations. Social research that Is relevant to managing fire organizations can be found in disciplines such as social psychology, management, and communication. However, such research has been published primarily for scientific and business audiences, and much of the fire community has not been exposed to it. Here, we have compiled and organized knowledge from a variety of social science disciplines so that it can be used to Improve organizational practices related to firefighter and public safety, to assess the effectiveness of safety campaigns, and to improve firefighter safety trainings. This annotated reading list summarizes approximately 270 books, articles, and online resources that address scientific and management concepts helpful for understanding the human side of fire management. The first section, Human Factors and Firefighting, introduces readers to key workshops and writings that led to the recognition that human factors are prime ingredients of firefighter safety. The second section, Foundations for Understanding Organizations, consists of social science research that provides a foundation for understanding organizational dynamics. This section includes readings on decision making and sensemaking, organizational culture, Identification and identity, leadership and change, organizational learning, and teams and crews. The third section, Understanding Organizations in High Risk Contexts, explores organizations that deal regularly with risk, uncertainty and crisis. This section includes readings on risk and uncertainty, high reliability organizing, and crisis communication. The publication concludes with Internet resources available for those interested in the management of fire organizations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-88
Number of pages88
JournalUSDA Forest Service - General Technical Report RMRS-GTR
Issue number201 RMRS-GTR
StatePublished - Sep 24 2007


  • Decision making
  • Firefighter safety
  • High reliability organization
  • Leadership
  • Organizational effectiveness


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