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Centralia Fire Case Study

The question about if the work crew would have continued to work the previous three shifts is a dilemma. It has different responses depending on how one considers it. Each decision that would have been made has both negative and positive effects. The dilemma could only be solved using the quantitative decision table as shown below:

Continued to work Reduced shift
Work crew pay Rise Reduce (√)
Spread of fire Reduce (√) Increase
Losing employees High chances Low chances (√)
Risk being sued by employee unions High chances Low chance (√)
Low cost in extinguishing fire Higher chances (√) Low chances
Chances of failure Low chances (√) High chances
Risk lives Lower chances (√) High chances

Figure 1: Decision table


The contents of the table are the possibilities of the events that might arise due to the decision on whether the work crew should have continued to work in three shifts instead of one. Firstly, it is expected that if the employees continued to work for the three shifts, as usual, they would have to be paid more than their standard salaries. The employees are expected to work for 8 hours each day on normal weekdays (Elick, 2015). The law states that he or she should be paid for the overtime that they spend working after the 8 hours are over. They are also not supposed to work on public holidays, and if they agree to work, the day should be paid as overtime. Overtime time is evaluated in hours and depending on the employment details, the individuals are paid a certain percentage out of their fixed salary (Heider, 2013). Paying of the overtime is very expensive, and it may cost the government more than what it had planned for. The government may also be risking being sued by the employee’s unions or even losing some of the employees. Therefore, maintaining the shifts will have adverse effects on the government.

There is also fear that the fire will spread more, and it will be challenging for the team to contain it if the stop working in the three shifts. It is because the department of environment Resource had drilled holes on those grounds in their aim to monitor the temperature of the fire. However, the holes provided more oxygen making the fire spread further. Hence, it means that the fire would be spreading at a high speed and reducing the shifts could lead to the fire spreading faster. It will make it challenging to extinguish, and there is higher chance of failing. The continued work may result in saving of people’s lives who live around those place with fire. Despite the negative effects that are expected to occur, the positive effects of maintaining the three shifts outdo them.

The federal government should not have just considered the money as the only factor when deciding if to buy out all the houses. Some of the factors they could have considered are:

Buying houses Not buying houses
Value for life Shows value (√) No value
Extinguishing the fire Advisable (√) Not advisable
Wastage of land Not Advisable Advisable (√)

Figure 2: showing decision table

Buying house could demonstrate that the government has value for life. The people staying in these areas risks their lives daily and may soon die. For example, the instance on February 14, 1981, when Todd Domboski almost lost his life is a good instance that the place is dangerous. Buying the people houses will make it easier for them to relocate. On the other hand, buying the houses will give the government a better chance to kill the fire. However, when the fire is just left to kill itself it might last than expected which is estimated to be about 250 years (Jelínek, Marschalko, Lamich, Yilmaz, Zastěrová, Bednárik, & Růčková, 2015). However, buying houses might not be such a good idea because the land will just be a waste. Meaning that the government may just be wasting their finances. However, it would be advisable for it to buy the houses.

The municipal should still consider continuing to offer their services to the people. It will be due to:

Continue to offer services Stop offering the services
Source of employment
Contribution to the economy
Wastage of resources
Part of the town

Figure 3: Decision table

The municipal offers employment to a lot of people with different skill set. These people may lose their job if the municipal stops to provide services to the reaming people. The 12 people also contribute to the growth of the economy. They should, therefore, get all the services the government has to offer to ensure its citizens are comfortable. The area is also part of the nation. Therefore, it is the government’s responsibility to maintain the area in the best state. However, offering such a number of people municipal services is resource wastage of resources, and it may become a burden to the government. Therefore, due to the reasons mentioned above, it would be advisable for the municipal council to continue serving.

Purchasing the old bricks would not be a good entrepreneurial venture because there will be so many risks that are involved. The entrepreneurs will be risking their lives and those of their customers in case of any accidents. There is also a danger of failing since it is a new business venture that hasn’t been tried out. These entrepreneur’s businesses may cause hindrance to people working to extinguish the fire. The business gap could also be promising because it is new and could attract more tourists. Despite it being a great business gap, it is not worth taking the risk.

The Scream

The incidence in the lobby had a great impact on Gladys, the bank employees,  Dave and Gladys’ husband. Such an experience has to be handled with a lot of care to avoid any chance of hurting any of the parties involved. For the employees to be productive in the workplace, they should be of good health, should have trust in each other, they should feel secure, they should observe work ethics and also embrace teamwork (Mayo, 2014). These standards are not just set to be achieved by the employees only but also by the support they get while at work and outside the workplace. Gladys needed some time out of work so that to cool down and be able to work effectively.

Good health is not just about the food people eat but also their state of mind (Stracher, Prakash, & Sokol, 2014). It will be achieved by changing her daily schedule and having some days off the work. During the week off, Gladys’ husband should also provide a healthy environment at home and take care of her. He will play a significant part in her life by letting her understand that everything will be okay. It takes time and effort for people to build trust. Trust is important in the workplace because it helps to ensure that teamwork is working. Mary and Janice being fellow employees should not blame Gladys but should seek on remedies that would help bring back trust and teamwork. Such practices might be taking self-preparedness classes together to ensure that Gladys does not behave the same way again.

Insecurity is a measure that could affect the productivity of the employees. The occurrence of such instances can easily lead to high employee’s turnover. Dave should hire enough guards to ensure that they prevent such situations from happening. Availability of CCTV cameras and another preventive measure should be taken. These improvements should be done during Gladys week off such improvements gives her some assurance that such site won’t be repeated. Gladys should also take that one week off to learn more about work ethics. By screaming, she broke the work ethics and put the lives of other employees at risk. The break will serve as a time for her to get more information about on such situations. Dave should take that one week to ensure that she finds the best position for Gladys to be.

Dave created human relations problem when he failed to take charge of the meeting. Human relations include self-esteem, mutual respect, communication skills and motivation (Kitazawa, & Osada, 2012). People with high self-esteem are competent with their work and are very productive. Self-esteem grows when people are shown their net worth in the company. The suggestion that Gladys should work in the back room may not be contributing much to the organization. The statements by Janice and Mary show little or no respect to Mary. Despite these statements humiliating Gladys, Dave does not intervene.

Communication skills and motivation are necessary for the work pace. Good communication skills avoid conflict in the workplace. Dave could have regulated the way communication was taking place by ensuring that everyone used official language and did not encourage pointing fingers. Motivation is necessary which includes intrusive and extrusive motivation. Dave should have a motivational strategy such as setting goals that will trigger intrusive motivation. Therefore, encouraging people to work together and be united instead of blaming each other. Human relation helps maintain order and can lead to employees satisfaction when preserved well.

  • Elick, J. M. (2015). The Centralia coal mine fire (Centralia, Pennsylvania): A field guide for an evolving system. Field Guides, 40, 485-497.
  • Heider, F. (2013). The psychology of interpersonal relations. Psychology Press.
  • Jelínek, P., Marschalko, M., Lamich, D., Yilmaz, I., Zastěrová, P., Bednárik, M., … & Růčková, H. (2015). Monitoring and analysis of burning in coal tailing dumps: a case study from the Czech Republic. Environmental Earth Sciences, 73(10), 6601-6612.
  • Kitazawa, K., & Osada, H. (2012). An empirical study on relation between management styles and human resource development focusing on a group activity. International Journal of Human Resources Development and Management, 12(3), 187-206.
  • Mayo, E. (2014). The social problems of an industrial civilisation. Routledge.
  • Stracher, G. B., Prakash, A., & Sokol, E. V. (Eds.). (2014). Coal and Peat Fires: A Global Perspective: Volume 3: Case Studies–Coal Fires. Elsevier.


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