High Reliability Organization Theory and the San Bernardino City, CA Fire Department

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By James M. Fratus


The San Bernardino City CA. Fire Department (SBFD) was experiencing errors and near-miss incidents at a troubling rate. Research has found that certain organizations, called High Reliability Organizations (HROs), consistently maintain low error rates in operations similar to those undertaken by the SBFD. The purpose of this research was to identify the characteristics of HROs, determine SBFD's strengths and weaknesses in these characteristics, and identify how the SBFD could develop as a HRO. Descriptive methods were used to analyze each of these elements. A questionnaire was given to SBFD members to assess HRO factors in the department. The research found that the SBFD had moderate to strong HRO tendencies. Recommendations were made to enhance HRO characteristics in the SBFD.