Sabrina Cohen-Hatton

Sabrina Rachel Cohen-Hatton (born 1983) is a British firefighter, psychologist and writer. She is the Chief Fire Officer of the West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service. In 2019 she was selected as one of Marie Claire's Future Shapers and featured on Desert Island Discs.[1]

Sabrina Cohen-Hatton
Sabrina Rachel Cohen

1983 (age 36–37)
EducationBassaleg School
Alma materOpen University (BSc)
Cardiff University (PhD)
Known forFirefighting
Scientific career
InstitutionsWest Sussex Fire and Rescue Service
ThesisUnderstanding the origin of Pavlovian-instrumental interactions (2013)
Sabrina Cohen-Hatton

Early life and educationEdit

Cohen-Hatton was born and raised in Marshfield, South Wales.[2] She attended Bassaleg School.[2] Her mother was of Jewish heritage and her father was born in Israel to Moroccan parents, but the family did not mix with the Jewish community in Wales.[3] At the age of 15, Cohen-Hatton was made homeless after her father died of a brain tumour.[3] Her school was aware that she was not living at home, but did nothing to support her. They also insisted that she wore a wig to cover her dyed hair during her GCSE examinations.[3] During her homelessness, she sold The Big Issue and slept on the streets of Newport, Wales.[4]

At the end of her school career, she slept in a derelict building.[3] During the time she spent on the streets, Cohen-Hatton suffered from antisemitic attacks.[3][4]. For around two years, she either slept rough or was vulnerably housed. It took her several attempts to get off the streets and into secure accommodation, including a spending some time sleeping in a van. [5] She joined the fire service in South Wales in 2001 at the age of eighteen.[6] She was the first woman firefighter at that station. Whilst serving as a firefighter, she completed a bachelor's degree in psychology at the Open University, eventually completing a PhD[7] in the behavioural neuroscience lab at Cardiff University.[2] She has since become an ambassador of The Big Issue and has said that it saved her life.[4][8][9]


Cohen-Hatton's husband is also a firefighter. In an interview, she recalled a moment where she had responded to a fire and found a horifically injured firefighter who she thought was her husband. It was not, and she credits that experience to promoting her interest in reducing human error and making firefighters safer.[10] This was also the driver for her to study psychology.[4][2] Following her PhD, she began to lead research on behalf of the National Fire Chiefs Council (then CFOA). Her research project fitted helmet cameras to incident commanders as they went out on incidents. Her research identified that 80% of the decisions made by firefighters were due to gut instinct, with the other 20% due to an analytical approach.[2]

Cohen-Hatton presenting her ideas in Sydney

Cohen-Hatton's research resulted in a new decision control process that helps commanders consider goals, consequences and risks that they take under pressure.[2] She found that if firefighters took part in goal-oriented training the number of commanders operating at the most significant level of situation awareness increased up to five times.[11]

As part of her research, Cohen-Hatton investigated different training interventions, including virtual reality, firehouse training and live burn.[12] She completed her PhD[7][2][13] Her work helped to shape national fire service policy and informed the National Fire Chief's Council.[14] She co-supervises a research group at Cardiff University with Rob Honey, supported by the National Fire Chiefs Council, that considers decision making in the emergency service environment.[15]

Cohen-Hatton is one of only 3.1% firefighters who are women, and has worked to inspire girls to become firefighters.[3][16] She served as Assistant Commissioner seconded to Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services and as a Deputy Assistant Commissioner for the London Fire Brigade.[17] Her first book, The Heat of the Moment, was published by Penguin Books in 2019.[18] She was appointed Chief Fire Officer of the West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service in 2019.[14]

Awards and honoursEdit

Personal lifeEdit

Cohen-Hatton is married to firefighter Mike Hatton and they have a daughter. [3] She keeps Xolo dogs. [27]


  1. ^ Laverne, Lauren (2019). "Desert Island Discs, Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, firefighter". BBC. Retrieved 2019-09-29.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Deacon, Thomas (2018-02-24). "Why firefighters can run toward danger - woman's fascinating PhD". walesonline. Retrieved 2019-09-29.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "'I was a homeless teen, but now I'm a firefighter with a PhD'". Retrieved 2019-09-29.
  4. ^ a b c d Deacon, Thomas (2019-04-23). "The homeless girl who became one of the UK's top firefighters". walesonline. Retrieved 2019-09-29.
  5. ^ "'I was living on the streets at 15. The Big Issue saved me'". The Big Issue. 2019-12-04. Retrieved 2019-12-18.
  6. ^ "Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton". Retrieved 2019-09-29.
  7. ^ a b Cohen, Sabrina Rachel (2013). Understanding the origin of Pavlovian-instrumental interactions. (PhD thesis). Cardiff University. OCLC 1101101233. EThOS  
  8. ^ Sabrina Cohen-Hatton: How The Big Issue saved me, ITV News, retrieved 2019-09-29
  9. ^ "Senior firefighter who spent her teenage years homeless appointed ambassador for The Big Issue to inspire others". ITV News. Retrieved 2019-09-29.
  10. ^ a b Goddard, Sophie (2019-09-19). "Meet the Future Shapers of 2019 who are inspiring women worldwide". Marie Claire. Retrieved 2019-09-29.
  11. ^ Cohen-Hatton, Sabrina R.; Honey, R. C. (2015). "Goal-oriented training affects decision-making processes in virtual and simulated fire and rescue environments". Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied. 21 (4): 395–406. doi:10.1037/xap0000061. ISSN 1939-2192.
  12. ^ "5 questions for Sabrina Cohen-Hatton". Retrieved 2019-09-29.
  13. ^ Deacon, Thomas (2019-04-24). "'Another life': Surrey fire boss lived on streets for two years". Retrieved 2019-09-29.
  14. ^ a b "New Chief Fire Officer appointed at West Sussex Fire and Rescue". Spirit FM. 2019-09-02. Retrieved 2019-09-29.
  15. ^ "Meet our innovators - Sabrina Cohen-Hatton". Cardiff University. 2018-10-10. Retrieved 2019-09-30.
  16. ^ "Ex-homeless firefighter 'defying stereotypes'". BBC News. Retrieved 2019-09-29.
  17. ^ "Cardiff University". Cardiff University. Retrieved 2019-09-29.
  18. ^ "The Heat of the Moment by Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton | Waterstones". Retrieved 2019-09-29.
  19. ^ a b Cohen-Hatton, Sabrina. "Behavioural neuroscience improves firefighter decision-making". BBSRC. Retrieved 2019-09-30.
  20. ^
  21. ^ a b "Senior woman firefighter awarded for changing the way the Brigade thinks about fire". Retrieved 2019-09-29.
  22. ^ a b "Innovator of the Year". Cardiff University. Retrieved 2019-09-29.
  23. ^ BBSRC Innovator of the Year, retrieved 2019-09-29
  24. ^ Honorary Fellow Address - Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, retrieved 2019-09-29
  25. ^ " - Your favorite newspapers and magazines". Retrieved 2020-01-12.
  26. ^ "Top 100 Changemakers: Celebrating the thinkers, creators and agitators". The Big Issue. 2020-01-06. Retrieved 2020-01-06.
  27. ^ "The Heat of the Moment by Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton | Waterstones". Retrieved 2019-09-29.