Analysis of Tactical-Operational Deviations (Errors) in the Operations of Emergency Services

Project logo ATHEBOS

Key Info

Basic Information

01.09.2017 to 31.08.2019
Research Area:



Martin Frenz

Head of Technical Vocational Education and Training Department


+49 241 80 99480




Emergency services (BOS) guarantee security for the people of Germany. However, even such a powerful system cannot be completely error-free at all levels of command. The ATHEBOS project carried out an analysis of errors in the operations of BOS and categorized deviations in action. It then incorporated the findings into the development of guidelines for managing errors, with the aim of bringing about a change in the error culture in all phases of the command and control process. Further measures were taken to support individual and organizational learning by means of recommendations for supplementing training frameworks and by designing further training courses.


In Germany, as well as internationally, it is especially the firefighters among the BOS who are held in high esteem by the population and who the citizens trust the most. Nevertheless, despite the existence of quality management systems, rescue forces are not infallible. They are confronted with enormous challenges. On one hand, they have to fulfill their duty to protect citizens. On the other hand, work processes are determined by narrowly defined service regulations that must be complied with. The conflicts of objectives experienced in this context become apparent in new, unknown and complex situations in which decisions have to be made under time pressure and with incomplete or insufficient information. Particularly in critical moments, when seconds are often decisive, acting under conflicting objectives can have serious consequences.


As a theoretical starting point for the project, an error model was first developed, which was then used to develop an error management concept. Only by integrating this error management concept into all processes (from training to operations in the participating BOS) a change in the error culture can be achieved. It is expected that this change will lead to a minimization of dangers for citizens and for firefighters themselves in the long run.


The subject of the study is the operations of the participating BOS. The study analyzed whether and how errors or deviations in action are identified. The current handling of errors in the entire command process was considered with reference to two levels, the fire brigade and the command staff, as well as the training and advanced training developed for these target groups. This was done through an analysis of the work processes relevant for error management, an analysis of the regulatory means as well as the indicator-based assessment systems and risk analyses, among other things.


The ATHEBOS project has produced a wide range of results that will continue to be of great benefit promise added value for the fire department as well as for other BOS. Central results have been achieved to clarify and systematize the concept of error for the fire department and to identify relevant errors for an error culture.

Another great added value will be for the training and further education of the fire department. The system of vocational training in the fire department has been analyzed and it has been possible to show where a culture of error can be integrated. The prerequisites for curricular adjustments and further training have been created.

In summary, two goals are achievable: On the one hand, the elaborated recommendations can be directly integrated into future curricula. On the other hand, implementable concepts are available that can be offered in particular to the executives of the fire department. Thus, good preconditions have been created for implementing a culture of error in the fire department.

The knowledge gained and concepts developed in this way can be used both in the fire department and transferred to other BOS, thus laying the foundation for the successful implementation of an error culture in BOS. ATHEBOS thus serves as a model and has the potential to benefit society as a whole.


The project was funded under the “Forschung für die zivile Sicherheit 2012 bis 2017” (Research for Civil Security 2012 to 2017) program as part of the “Anwender – Innovativ: Forschung für die zivile Sicherheit” (User – Innovative: Research for Civil Security) funding measure by the BMBF – Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (Federal Ministry of Education and Research) under the project sponsorship of the VDI – Verein Deutscher Ingenieure (Association of German Engineers).

Project Partners
Institute for Fire and Rescue Technology of the City of Dortmund (IFR)
Fire department Gelsenkirchen