Personal resilience

Control Measure Knowledge

Stress is caused by a mismatch between the demands placed on an individual and their ability to cope. Fire control officers in charge are exposed to a variety of potential sources of stress, including stressors associated with chronic and acute stress.

Chronic stress may occur when there are long-term demands and pressures over which an individual believes they have no control. This can include work life or organisational factors, such as shift patterns, workload or culture. It can also include private life factors, such as relationships or bereavement.

Acute stress may occur when there are short-term demands and pressures associated with recent or ongoing events. This includes the decision-making, planning and communication skills expected of fire control commanders. The working environment can also create stressors, such as uncertainty, rapidly changing situations or exposure to traumatic events.

Fire control commanders should understand the difference between chronic and acute stress. They should know the causes, symptoms and effects on performance of fatigue and chronic and acute stress.

Some level of acute stress benefits performance as it increases alertness, but excessive acute stress will adversely affect cognitive performance. Sustained periods of acute stress can lead to fatigue. Mental and physical fatigue are associated with feelings of tiredness and weakness and may affect physical and cognitive skills.

Stressors do not always affect performance negatively; individuals’ personal resilience determines their capacity to cope. Personal resilience consists of an individual’s evaluation of potential stressors and their access to coping strategies. Personal resilience may be thought of as the capacity of an individual to cope with stress and fatigue while maintaining their performance.

Fire control commanders should understand what affects their personal resilience. Factors that enhance personal resilience include:

  • Exposure to fire control command
  • Workload management
  • Training that ensures aspects of performance are automated
  • Perception of the predictability and controllability of stressors
  • Confidence
  • Positive outlook
  • Social support
  • Physical fitness

Fire control commanders need to recognise the signs and symptoms of stress and fatigue to identify when these stressors are beginning to affect their own performance and that of others. To maintain safety, fire control commanders should understand what action to take before stress or fatigue begin to reduce performance. This awareness should be maintained throughout all incidents and situations and may include:

  • Creating time to think
  • Maintaining an effective span of control
  • Resting, rehydrating and eating
  • Recording thoughts and information for use later
  • Actively monitoring time
  • Consulting with others

Fire and rescue services should ensure that post-incident reviews and safety event investigations consider the impact of stress and fatigue on fire control commanders, incident commanders, operational and fire control personnel, and others involved.

Strategic Actions

Tactical Actions