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Congratulations Dr. Gillespie

It is my great honor to announce Dr. Steven Gillespie, Chief of the Wheat Ridge (CO) Fire Department, successfully defended his doctoral dissertation today, the final requirement in his long doctoral journey at Grand Canyon University.

Situational Awareness Matters!Dr. Gillespie’s dissertation, titled: “Fire Ground Decision Making: Transferring Virtual Knowledge to the Physical Environment” set out to determine if there was a correlation between virtual simulation training and responder confidence in performing skills on the fire ground. He assessed nine Naturalistic Decision Making (NDM)-based parameters, including:

  1. Actions on the fire ground
  2. Fire ground decision making
  3. Ability to communicate
  4. Confidence with the incident command system
  5. Confidence with the incident action plan
  6. Fire ground safety
  7. Developing, implementing, adapting and managing an IAP
  8. Radio communications
  9. Incident command procedures

The study population were firefighters from two departments that use simulation as part of their training regimen.

The findings revealed positive correlations between participant confidence in the very skills that have been implicated contribute to firefighter casualties.

But of course, as encouraging as Dr. Gillespie’s findings are, one study does not make a trend. That requires a number of studies with a larger population over a period of time – a recommendation he makes in his call for further research on the topic. Nonetheless, we now have a study that has met the rigors of science inferring virtual simulation is a viable training adjunct. And that’s BIG NEWS!

If you are interested in learning more about his research, you can contact Dr. Gillespie at:

Personal note: There is much we can learn from the personal lived experiences of fire service leaders and I am a strong advocate of sharing those experiences with fellow responders. Research, like Dr. Gillespie’s, stands up to the rigors of the scientific method and the scrutiny of doctoral-level peer review and takes the lessons beyond lived experiences and opinions. It adds to the body of knowledge using science.

I am impressed with the number of fire service leaders who have obtained terminal degrees and those who are working hard to advance our understanding of the science of firefighting and fire service leadership. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Gillespie to the Academy of scientific researchers seeking to make their respective shifts in our universe of thinking.





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