Fire and rescue service personnel need to be able to function, while being aware of stress and fatigue. They need to communicate, make critical decisions and process information. They should be able to understand how both stress and fatigue affect these processes.
Fire and rescue services should develop a culture, awareness and common understanding of psychological hazards and have appropriate post-incident processes in place. These should be supported by occupational health arrangements, such as identifying, reporting, monitoring and self-reporting measures and arrangements.
The possible impact of critical incidents on employees can be minimised through raising awareness of the causes and potential effects of the pressure and stressors that may occur at operational incidents. Incident commanders should be aware of the effect that traumatic incidents can have on themselves and others in the short-term and long-term.
At the incident ground, it may be possible to reduce the impact of traumatic incidents on personnel by:
- Minimising the number of personnel exposed to the scene
- Erecting screens to restrict the view of the scene – for further information refer to Performing rescues: Maintain the privacy and dignity of the casualty
- Seeking assistance from other appropriate agencies
Consideration should be given to the provision of critical incident debrief procedures following incidents that involve exposure to traumatic scenes.
Fire control personnel can also be impacted by operational incidents; this could be due to taking traumatic or distressing calls. They could also be directly exposed to information about injuries or deaths of members of the public or emergency responders.
Therefore, appropriate support mechanisms should be put in place for any employee who has been affected by an incident, not only those who attended the incident.
For further information, refer to Incident command: Personal resilience.