8 Crisis Stress and Effect on Judgment

During a crisis, decisions made in the first minutes to hours are critical to successful damage control, prevention of death or injury, structural loss, and the overall resolution of the incident. For example, during the West Fertilizer Company incident, responders had only 19 minutes from the time of the 911 call until the explosion of the facility which stored Ammonium Nitrate. Stress undoubtedly affected decision-making.

The impact of stress on professional judgment is significant. However, the relationship between stress to judgment and decision-making is an aspect of human behavior that remains to be adequately explored. The literature in this area is extremely complex and inconclusive. But we will explore some of these human factors to improve awareness and enable leaders to create strategies to mitigate the impact of stress. There is no panacea to cure the challenges of stress while making decisions in a crisis. This chapter will focus on helping you to understand what is happening in your brain and body during stressful situations.

Learning Objectives

At the end of this chapter, you will be able to:

  • Identify the psychological and physiological effects that a crisis induces on responders and leaders.
  • Recognize signs, symptoms, and indicators that could adversely affect leadership decision-making.

8.1 Definitions and Spectrum of Stress

Stress occurs when one’s perceived demands exceed their resources. Stress is what motivates ...

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