Firefighter’s helmet camera study wins innovation award

A firefighter who created a head-mounted video camera system to show how commanders handle emergencies has been honoured with a top People’s Choice innovation award.

Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, who’s now deputy assistant commissioner with London Fire Brigade, conducted this research project at Cardiff University while working for the South Wales Fire Service.

She worked with the university’s school of psychology to show how commanders often rely on intuition under pressure, regardless of whether a situation was complex or routine.

The research team fitted fire officers’ helmets with GoPro cameras to gain crucial insight, and the findings have led to the development of a new policy to change the way officers deal with incidents.

Thanks to this pioneering research, a new “decision control process” helps commanders communicate goals, consequences, risks and benefits of actions taken under pressure.

Born in Cardiff, Sabrina went to Bassaleg School in Newport and joined the fire service at 18. After working through the ranks, she completed a degree in psychology before tackling a PhD.

She said: “We are delighted to win this Award. I wish to dedicate this award to all London firefighters who have been working so hard to help everyone touched by the Grenfell Tower incident.

“The driver for this research was to keep firefighters safe. Recent events have demonstrated to the world just the kind of high-pressure, high-risk situations in which our firefighters find themselves.”

Julie James, the minister for skills and science, presented the People’s Choice Award to Sabrina along with National Fire Chiefs Council and the School of Psychology’s professor Rob Honey.

The minister said: “The People’s Choice winner is an outstanding example of how a research study can be translated into practical decision-making advice with the potential to save lives in an emergency.

“It also highlights the importance of partnerships between academia, government and external organisations in shaping and safeguarding our wider society.”

Rob Honey added: “It has been a real privilege to be part of the innovative work conducted by this dedicated and inspirational team.”

Cardiff University Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Riordan said: “The outstanding quality of this year’s entries demonstrates the quality, ingenuity and determination of Cardiff University researchers in developing world-leading innovation and engagement partnerships.”