Making Sound and Timely Decisions

Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
May 2021


To make sound and timely decisions, fire leaders assess the situation, seek out relevant information, weigh options, make judgments, and initiate action as required to create a positive outcome within inevitable time constraints.

Consciously or subconsciously, people go through this cycle every time they make a decision.

How well perception matches reality is called Situation Awareness. If one’s situation awareness is high, he or she has an accurate perception of reality. Timely decision making flow chart. Graphic of the process of gathering information and how it evolves in the decision process.

Recognition means that a person determines that something needs to be done, that the environment must be changed in some way.

Option Selection involves understanding the factors and risks associated with various courses of action.

At the Decision Point, the best option is selected.

Action means acting on the selected option then returning to the situation awareness cycle—perceiving and gathering information—to assess the results of the action.

A better understanding of the decision-making cycle enables people to consciously step through the processes to make sure they gather appropriate information, weigh options, and ultimately make the best decision within time constraints.

Discussion Points:

  • What influences option selection?

  • What do you do when a poor decision is made?

  • Do you always have enough time to make the decision?


Additional Resources

Incident Management Situation Report (IMSR)
Incident Response Pocket Guide (IRPG), PMS 461
NWCG Standards for Helicopter Operations, PMS 510
RT-130, Wildland Fire Safety Training Annual Refresher (WFSTAR)
Interagency Standards for Fire and Fire Aviation Operations (Red Book)
Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center

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