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FIRE21 - Problem solving in the 21st century

How are the operations of the Fire and Rescue Services effected by the organisation's formal and informal networks? The goal of the project FIRE21 is to understand and improve problem-solving in the fire services in the 21st century, including improving our understanding of recognizing and preparing for emerging risks.

FIRE21 is a four-year research project examining formal and informal networks within the Fire and Rescue Services in the Nordic countries. The project is financed by Nordforsk and is a cooperation between Sweden, Norway and Denmark. The Fire and Rescue Services in Finland and Iceland are also stakeholders and we hope to include contact with these parties during the project.

Focus and objective of FIRE21

The focus for FIRE21 is problem solving in the Fire and Rescue Service in the 21st century. How stable are the existing networks of today? Will these networks act as expected during an incident? Do these networks support normative structures or do they encourage new ones?

The objective of the research in FIRE21 is to bed for an effective Fire and Rescue Service in the future. The research will clarify which essential abilities best support the future´s Fire and Rescue Service. The research also aims to identify cruical resources locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. FIRE21 is expected to give insights applicable beyond nation borders.

The reserach in FIRE21 aims to contribute to a more effective Fire and Rescue service in the 21st century.

Our society has a new risk landscape

Our society is changing due to rapid population growth and significant changes in demographics, technology and interconnected infrastructure.  In addition to this we face climate change and a new global security situation.  In short, society´s risk landscape has changed and affects both organizations and people. One organization affected by the new risk landscape is The Fire and Rescue Services (FRS). The ability to recognise new risks and prepare for them in a structured way is essential to be able to create the foundation for effective problem solving in the future.

FIRE21 is studying whether formal and informal networks are adjusting to society´s new risk landscape. If the networks are not adapting to the changes in society, crisis management will become inefficient. Tools and practices that were relevant in the past may no longer be appropriate in the future. Central questions are: Does the modern society and networks of today make problem solving more efficient?  If not, how come?  And how could problem solving become more efficient?

The network´s role in emergency management

The research conducted in FIRE21 will study both the formal and the informal networks throughout the life cycle of emergency management i.e prior to, during and after an emergency.  In other words, the problem-solving process through the complex chain of problem identification, problem understanding and solution generation.

This covers all phases of emergency management:
- Prevention
- Preparedness
- Response
- Recovery

In FIRE21 incidents are studied throughout the complete life cycle, from problem identification and problem understanding to solution.

FIRE21 research methods

The research in FIRE21 will be based on methodological science from actor network theory and social network theory.  The analysis will draw on national, Nordic countries and international experience.

The research will involve persons who are directly or indirectly connected to the Fire and Rescue Services.  The research methods will include interviews, workshops, surveys and microworld experiments.

The project FIRE21 will research what functions need to be developed to support the fire and rescue service in the future.

Questions to be answered in FIRE21

  • How stable are existing formal and informal Fire and Rescue Networks for emergency management in the Nordic countries?  
  • How are these networks developed and maintained?  
  • Will such networks act and react as expected during an incident?
  • Which capabilities for problem solving need to be developed to best support emergency management networks in the Fire and Rescue Service in the future?  
  • How can local capabilities be identified?  
  • How can these capabilities be implemented and updated in the organization?

Do you have any questions about FIRE21? Please send an e-mail to project leader Margaret Mcnamee, professor at Lund University, Sweden.


Project name




RISE role in project


Project start


4 years

Total budget

13 508 251 NOK


Lund University, DTU Technical University of Denmark, NTNU Norwegian University of Science and Technology, NTNU Social Research , RISE Fire Research AS, RISE




Project members

Read more about FIRE21

Contact person

Kerstin Eriksson


+46 10 516 52 46

Read more about Kerstin

Contact Kerstin
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