Dr. Sabrina Cohen-Hatton
Chief Fire Officer, West Sussex County, England Fire & Rescue Service
Dr. Sabrina Cohen-Hatton is a British firefighter, psychologist, and writer. She is this year’s featured speaker at the Emergency Responder/Provider Health & Wellness Symposium on September 21, 2023. This event is being held at the Casino Del Sol Resort in Tucson, Arizona.
Dr. Cohen-Hatton has been a firefighter since she was eighteen years old. She is now the Chief Fire Officer in West Sussex and one of the most senior female firefighters in the UK. Her operational experience includes the Westminster Terror Attack, the Finsbury Park Terror Attack, and the aftermath of the Grenfell tragedy. She is the National Fire Chiefs Council International Lead Officer, liaising with Fire and Rescue Services around the world to share best practices and bring learning to the UK.
From Homelessness to Ph.D
After leaving home at fifteen and school at sixteen, she joined the fire service in Wales. While climbing the ranks, she studied at the Open University and then at Cardiff University. She completed her Ph.D. in Psychology while still serving as an operational fire officer. Her subsequent research into incident command in emergency services has not only won awards but has also influenced policy at a global level. Sabrina is an Honorary Fellow at Cardiff University and authored The Heat of the Moment, a book that explores decision-making under pressure.
Personal Experience Recalled
Cohen-Hatton’s husband is also a firefighter. In an interview, she recalled when she had responded to a fire and found a horrifically injured firefighter who she thought was her husband. It was not, and she credits that experience to promote her interest in reducing human error and making firefighters safer. This was also the driver for her to study psychology. Following her Ph.D., she headed up research on behalf of the National Fire Chiefs Council (then CFOA). Her research project fitted helmet cameras to incident commanders as they went out on incidents. Her research identified that 80% of the decisions made by firefighters were due to gut instinct, with the other 20% using an analytical approach.