Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton

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Author, Researcher, Firefighter

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One of the most senior women in the fire service, Sabrina combines experience in making tough decisions in pressurised, stressful situations with studying the behavioural neuroscience of decision making. As well as insights into leadership and risk, her own personal story - homeless at 15, a firefighter at 18, combining frontline service with studying for a PhD in Psychology - is a lesson in resilience, determination and achievement.


Sabrina Cohen-Hatton is one of the few women to have served at the top of the fire service. She combines her role as one of the most senior female firefighters in the UK with work as a Research Fellow at Cardiff University where she specialises in behavioural neuroscience, in particular how humans make decisions under pressure. She is also the author of The Heat of The Moment – A Firefighter’s Stories of Life and Death Decisions.

Showing resilience and determination from a young age, Sabrina was homeless on the streets of South Wales when she was 15. After two years on the streets selling The Big Issue, she was able to secure accommodation and at 18 joined the fire service. Whilst working as a firefighter she also studied at the Open University and then at Cardiff University, completing her PhD in Psychology. In the fire service, Sabrina became one its highest ranking women officers. She climbed the ranks serving in some of the largest fire brigades in the country, whilst maintaining her academic work with Cardiff University. Her subsequent research into high pressure decision making in the emergency services has not only won awards but has also influenced policy at a global level.

As a researcher Sabrina looks at the fundamentals of decision-making, behaviour and cognition. As a fire officer, she brings her first-hand experience of how these traits operate in real, emotionally charged, stressful and uncertain situations. She looks at how the brain interprets information, and how particular events become associated longer-term with particular psychological and social responses.

In her best selling book The Heat of The Moment, Sabrina recounts both her early formative experiences, as well as life on the frontline and the extraordinary insights it has brought. From judging when and how to evacuate a building to which of her colleagues should be sent into a blaze, she takes an honest, human look at the highs and lows of one of the riskiest and most challenging of occupations. And whilst many of these stories seem unique to fire and rescure work, her insights and lessons apply to everyone, in life and in business.

An Ambassador for The Big Issue, Sabrina has been named as one of their top 100 Changemakers, Marie Claire also named her as one of their Change Makers and Cosmopoitan listed her in their Millennial Power List, and she has appeared on Desert Island Discs.

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