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Anxiety, stress, and perceived workload during the command and control of computer-simulated fire service training environments

Paul Michael Young (Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation, Faculty of Health & Life Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)
Alan St Clair Gibson (Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation, Faculty of Health & Life Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)
Elizabeth Partington (Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation, Faculty of Health & Life Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)
Sarah Partington (Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation, Faculty of Health & Life Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)
Mark Wetherell (Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health & Life Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)

International Journal of Emergency Services

ISSN: 2047-0894

Article publication date: 21 October 2013

526

Abstract

Purpose

Incidents requiring command and control require all personnel from firefighters (FFs) to the incident commander (IC) to make continuous decisions often with limited information and under acute time-pressure. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to explore the stress reactivity of specific roles during the command and control of an immersive, computer-based incident.

Design/methodology/approach

Experienced firefighting personnel undergoing incident command training participated in this study. Participants completed measures of state anxiety and stress immediately before and after taking part in a computer-based simulation of a large-scale incident run in real time. During the simulation personnel assumed one of four roles: IC, sector commander, entry control officer (ECO), and command support officer. Following the simulation personnel then completed measures of perceived workload.

Findings

No significant changes in state anxiety were observed, but levels of stress and perceived workload were related to task roles. Specifically, ICs reported the greatest levels of mental and temporal demands and stress when compared with ECOs.

Research limitations/implications

Limitations include the lack of environmental factors (such as rain, darkness, and noise), a relatively small sample size, and the use of self-reported questionnaires.

Practical implications

The application of immersive training environments as a method of developing FFs experience of incident command roles and skills pertinent to high-acuity, low-frequency events.

Originality/value

The paper represents one of the first attempts to identify the self-reported anxiety, stress, and perceived workload of specific role demands during the command and control of simulated incidents.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The research was partly funded by a research grant from the Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE). The ideas, however, are those of the authors alone.

Citation

Michael Young, P., St Clair Gibson, A., Partington, E., Partington, S. and Wetherell, M. (2013), "Anxiety, stress, and perceived workload during the command and control of computer-simulated fire service training environments", International Journal of Emergency Services, Vol. 2 No. 2, pp. 119-130. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJES-10-2012-0042

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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