"Threats to our country have never been more real, nor had more potential to impact large populations of Americans. From the homeland defense perspective, some ideology-based groups have the ability and intention to attack the United States in ways that we as a nation have never imagined. As our world grows more complex and unpredictable, our first responders need tools to enable them to operate in this space. This thesis focuses on how decisions are made in complex novel environments. Using Grounded Theory methodology, interviews were conducted with public safety personnel who had past experience managing incidents that matched the study criteria. Aspects of Complexity Theory and Recognition-Primed Decision Making were identified as core components. Based on these findings, a descriptive process model was developed that modifies the existing Recognition-Primed Decision Making model in order to account for novel situations, in addition to those cases where the decision maker has previous experience. The Exploration and Exploitation Decision Making model (Ex2DM) is based on actual practices by both law enforcement and fire-rescue professionals. With an understanding of the unique characteristics of complex environments and how decisions are made under these conditions, public safety personnel will be better prepared to manage complex incidents."
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