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Article
Publication date: 26 April 2022

Karin Dangermond, Ricardo Weewer, Joachim Duyndam and Anja Machielse

How firefighters cope with critical incidents is partly influenced by the culture of the fire brigade. The purpose of this study is to better understand how informal peer…

Abstract

Purpose

How firefighters cope with critical incidents is partly influenced by the culture of the fire brigade. The purpose of this study is to better understand how informal peer support helps firefighters cope with critical incidents.

Design/methodology/approach

An ethnographic field study of explorative nature was conducted. Data were collected by means of 20 participating observations and 72 interviews with Dutch firefighters from 37 different fire brigades. The analysis was an iterative process alternating data collection, analysis and theory formation processes.

Findings

Firefighters will turn to informal peer support to cope with critical incidents provided that facilitating circumstances are present and there is adherence to certain implicit rules. The collective sharing of memories, whether immediately post-incident or after the passage of time, helps firefighters process critical incidents and serves to promote unit cohesion. Most firefighters reported these informal debriefings to be preferable to the formal sessions. By comparison, a minority of firefighters reported that they did not benefit at all from the informal interactions.

Research limitations/implications

This study only focused on the informal peer support given by colleagues. Future research should focus on: (1) The possible differences between men and women as to what extent informal peer support is experienced after critical incidents, (2) Commanding officers: how do they, given their hierarchical position, experience coming to terms with critical incidents, (3) Premeditated critical incidents and the role of informal peer support, (4) Similarities and differences between career and non-career firefighters in experiencing and coping critical incidents.

Practical implications

Firefighters are an under-researched group in academic literature, that would benefit from mental health counsellors having a better understanding of their unique work culture and the complexity of the firefighting profession. More knowledge about the role of informal peer support is necessary to tailor help and aftercare more effectively to their needs.

Originality/value

Most studies confirm the importance of informal peer support when coping with critical incidents. This study provides initial, in-depth evidence of the role of informal peer support in helping firefighters cope with critical incidents.

Details

International Journal of Emergency Services, vol. ahead-of-print no. ahead-of-print
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2047-0894

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 18 October 2021

Bolong He, Snezana Mitrovic-Minic, Len Garis, Pierre Robinson and Tamon Stephen

The Surrey (British Columbia, Canada) fire department has an annual cycle for hiring full-time firefighters. This paper optimizes the timing of the annual hiring period. A…

Abstract

Purpose

The Surrey (British Columbia, Canada) fire department has an annual cycle for hiring full-time firefighters. This paper optimizes the timing of the annual hiring period. A key issue is handling workplace absences, which can be covered by overtime cost or full-time hires.

Design/methodology/approach

Short-term and long-term absences patterns are analyzed according to season and age cohorts of the firefighters. These are then used in both an explanatory and time series model to predict future absences. The hiring schedule is optimized based on these predictions and additional constraints.

Findings

The current practice fares well in the analysis. For the time period studied, moving to earlier hiring dates appears beneficial. This analysis is robust with respect to various assumptions.

Originality/value

This is a case study where analytic techniques and machine learning are applied to an organizational practice that is not commonly analyzed. In this case, the previous method was not much worse than the optimized solution. The techniques used are quite general and can be applied to various organizational decision problems.

Details

International Journal of Emergency Services, vol. 11 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2047-0894

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 26 August 2020

Emelie Lantz and Marcus Runefors

The purpose of this paper is to provide a review of literature about recruitment, retention and resignation among non-career firefighters.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to provide a review of literature about recruitment, retention and resignation among non-career firefighters.

Design/methodology/approach

A systematic review was conducted to identify factors associated with the recruitment, retention and resignation of non-career firefighters. The authors divided the results into three topics and four levels for further analysis.

Findings

27 articles are included in the review. Most research addresses retention at an organizational level and indicates a link between job satisfaction and factors such as supervisor support, recognition and close relationships within the workgroup. Further, a recurring reason that contributes to resignations seems to be family related (e.g. partner disapproval).

Research limitations/implications

There is a lack of European and Asian research into non-career firefighters. The included research papers generally have low response rates and the sample is often mostly male and Caucasians from a limited area.

Practical implications

The identified factors offer deeper understanding and can help practitioners in their pursuit of the sustainable retention of non-career firefighters.

Originality/value

Because securing adequate numbers of non-career firefighters is important, there is a need to synthesize current evidence to identify and further understand which factors contribute to retention. To the authors' knowledge, this is the first systematic review to synthesize such evidence about non-career firefighters.

Details

International Journal of Emergency Services, vol. 10 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2047-0894

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 8 December 2020

Leigh McCarley Blaney, David Wilde and Rowena Hill

The purpose of this paper is to present a theory of psychological resilience in volunteer firefighters.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to present a theory of psychological resilience in volunteer firefighters.

Design/methodology/approach

Using a constructivist grounded theory (CGT) approach, the qualitative study engaged a purposive sample of eight firefighters in Canada, conducted in-depth interviews and analysed the data using comparative methods.

Findings

The results provided unique insights into resilience in firefighters and revealing resilience as multidimensional, complex, dynamic and contextual. Six core concepts interrelate to construct resilience: relationships, personal resources, meaning-making, leadership, culture and knowledge.

Practical implications

The findings of this research offer a framework for practical integration of resilience theory into workplace health policy and practice. The theory was co-created with firefighters hence is contextually sound to this population, but applicable to other emergency and health services.

Originality/value

Volunteer firefighters are under-represented in the literature, despite facing intermittent and frequently intense work-related stressors; this research begins to address the gap in the literature. As well, previous resilience theories have noted relationships between some components, but there is little evidence linking categories; this theory more patently represents the complex nature of resilience in volunteer firefighters.

Details

International Journal of Emergency Services, vol. 10 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2047-0894

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 14 August 2020

Rowena Hill, Eva Sundin and Belinda Winder

Traditionally, research exploring the work–family interface has focussed on two perspectives: the organisation and the employee. The third perspective of the family has…

Abstract

Purpose

Traditionally, research exploring the work–family interface has focussed on two perspectives: the organisation and the employee. The third perspective of the family has been largely neglected. This has also been the case with emergency responders. Arguably, the social support that emergency responders receive from their families maintains the health and well-being of the emergency responders. There has been more literature focussing on family members of police and ambulance staff, but less is known about the experiences of the families of firefighters. This study, therefore, aims to explore the occupation-related consequences for families of firefighters to establish what could be done to preserve this important source of social support.

Design/methodology/approach

A qualitative approach was needed to understand the perspective of relatives of firefighters. Grounded theory was used to analyse interviews of family members of firefighters.

Findings

Important concepts to families of firefighters include the management of emotional contagion from their firefighter, their sophisticated perceptions of physical and emotional risk, their ability to make things work around a satellite family member, detail of the sacrifices they make and the social support from other firefighters' families.

Research limitations/implications

The findings highlight the rich understanding and benefits offered when fire and rescue services and researchers consider the family perspective of the work–family interface within this context to develop a rich supportive dynamic between the organisation, the employee and their family.

Practical implications

Findings from this study are considered to inform the development of a positive resource ecology within fire and rescue services. Where work-family enrichment positively informs the interventions and practical approaches organisations can use to enhance the wellbeing of their employees, by acknowledging other life domains.

Originality/value

The contribution to theoretical perspectives on the work–family interface, as well as the informed understanding of occupational consequences of the firefighting occupation on relatives, offers a unique contribution to the literature.

Details

International Journal of Emergency Services, vol. 9 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2047-0894

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 20 April 2015

Huiju Park, Helen Trejo, Madeline Miles, Allison Bauer, Seonyoung Kim and Jeffrey Stull

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the incremental impact of firefighter’s personal protective equipment (PPE) on lower body range of motion (ROM) while walking…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the incremental impact of firefighter’s personal protective equipment (PPE) on lower body range of motion (ROM) while walking to suggest areas of design improvement for enhanced mobility and safety.

Design/methodology/approach

Eight male and four female firefighters participated in the study. Lower body ROM was assessed while they walked in four different configurations of PPE, including turnout ensemble, a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and boots. The impact of each added PPE item, and gender differences were statistically analyzed.

Findings

Wearing firefighter turnout ensemble and SCBA reduced ROM in the lower body in the sagittal and transverse planes. A significant reduction in ROM for anterior-posterior movement at the ankle and the ball of the foot was found while wearing rubber boots with turnout ensemble and SCBA. This puts firefighters at higher risk of experiencing foot injuries and physical strains. A significant increase in medial-lateral movement of the foot while wearing rubber boots may increase risk of ankle sprains. A greater reduction in ROM at the ankle and the ball of the foot for female firefighters may imply greater risk for women compared to men, while wearing boots.

Practical implications

Reducing the inflexibility and bulkiness of boots is critical to improve firefighter’s lower body mobility and safety.

Originality/value

This study implemented 3-D motion capture technology to analyze how wearing firefighting gear impacted lower body motion. It provides quantitative evidence to recommend ergonomic boot re-design.

Details

International Journal of Clothing Science and Technology, vol. 27 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0955-6222

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 12 December 2018

Anna Abelsson

The purpose of this paper is to describe firefighters’ experiences of first response emergency care.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to describe firefighters’ experiences of first response emergency care.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper uses an explorative descriptive design with a qualitative approach. Data were collected through group interviews of 35 firefighters and subjected to qualitative content analysis.

Findings

The results showed that the professional role and the firemen’s uniform serve as a protection against psychologically strenuous situations. To protect the dignity of the injured or dead is important as well as protecting and safeguarding each other from the experience of the tragedy of an accident. Having a solid, sterling medical education provides a sense of security in the emergency care, as well as when caring for the relatives. Debriefing brings thoughts and feelings to the surface for processing and closure. The feeling of sadness lingers for the people not being saveable, that had been dead on arrival or the ones forgotten.

Originality/value

A firefighter’s work situation is exposed and stressful. The firemen’s uniform as a mental barrier, colleagues, time to mentally prepare and to be allowed to show feelings are all needed to cope. It is, therefore, important to encourage, promote and strengthen the protective role of camaraderie for the firefighter, which probably can be emphasized in other uniform-wearing professions such as police, military and ambulance. Being acknowledged for their contribution to other peoples’ lives and well-being can acknowledge the firefighters’ importance.

Details

International Journal of Emergency Services, vol. 8 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2047-0894

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 2 January 2018

Juan Pablo Leiva Santos, Helena García-Llana, Victor Pablo, Maya Liébana and Allan Kellehear

The purpose of this paper is to understand the need and resources firefighters have to deal with death and dying (D&D) that they encounter whilst on duty and to present a…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to understand the need and resources firefighters have to deal with death and dying (D&D) that they encounter whilst on duty and to present a curriculum to support D&D issues for firefighters.

Design/methodology/approach

A qualitative methodology involving focus groups was conducted in two fire stations in Spain. The sample was 38 male participants with a mean age of 46 y/o (range: 30-59 years) and an average tenure of employment of 18 years (range: 6-35 years). Data were subjected to a thematic analysis. Dual coding of the transcripts in addition to member checking enhanced analysis.

Findings

Nine themes emerged: witnessing D&D during rescue operations; memories about D&D and trauma; impact on firefighter’s families; decision-making process under stress; teamwork: protective and self-support; inadequate D&D preparation and training; adequate technical and physical training preparation; relationship between equipment, legal-moral obligation, and victims’ outcomes; communication issues: toward the victim and/or their relatives. These themes were subsequently framed into three basic domains: personal impact of D&D, team impact of D&D, and victim impact. Each domain, in its turn, is covered by three curriculum topics. The curriculum’s pedagogy is primarily based on experimental-reflective activities during 16 study-hours.

Research limitations/implications

The absence of female participants. All fire stations were in cities with no more than 150,000 inhabitants.

Practical implications

Individuals who take this curriculum will: increase their ability for self-care and resilience; improve teamwork, leadership skills, and to decrease burnout; provide more effective care for victims; provide skills to cope with compassion fatigue; reduced the levels of post-traumatic stress disorders.

Originality/value

Understanding firefighters’ needs with relation to D&D, and assessing the resources available to mitigate these issues will provide a comprehensive approach to their education and promote health both personally and professionally. A comparable curriculum or proposal has not been previously identified.

Details

International Journal of Emergency Services, vol. 7 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2047-0894

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 20 May 2019

Meredith McQuerry, Cassandra Kwon and Heather Johnson

The purpose of this paper is to identify the challenging barriers faced by female firefighters, which limit workplace entrance and performance.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to identify the challenging barriers faced by female firefighters, which limit workplace entrance and performance.

Design/methodology/approach

Occupational barriers from both psychological and physiological viewpoints were explored based on previous literature and the reported experiences of female firefighters.

Findings

A comprehensive review of literature synthesizes previous studies pertaining to gender anthropometric differences, female firefighters’ experiences in the work environment and protective clothing issues. The physical capabilities of men and women in specific relation to performing firefighting activities are also examined. Issues of greatest concern are identified for personal protective clothing (PPC) and equipment, which have traditionally been designed for the male human form. This leads to a lack of protection, an increased risk of onsite injury, reduction in mobility and poorer comfort for female firefighters.

Originality/value

This review provides an original overview of the critical workplace challenges faced by female firefighters. The need for female-specific PPC and equipment is specifically addressed to retain the growing number of women entering the male-dominated firefighting profession.

Details

Research Journal of Textile and Apparel, vol. 23 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1560-6074

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 7 November 2016

Shannon Wagner, Alex Fraess-Phillips and Kelly Mikkelson

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the predispositional hypothesis related to the “rescue personality” and the mental health of firefighter recruits.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the predispositional hypothesis related to the “rescue personality” and the mental health of firefighter recruits.

Design/methodology/approach

This study compared responses to a written set of personality and mental health measures between firefighter recruits and non-rescue comparison participants – individually matched based on age, gender, ethnicity, and marital status. Data analysis involved statistical one-way between subjects analyses of variance complemented with epidemiological paired odds ratio calculations.

Findings

The results indicated that firefighter recruits self-reported as less open to experience, less neurotic, and less Type A. They also self-reported as less likely to report somatization, hostility, and posttraumatic stress symptomatology than comparison participants. Recruits were higher in extraversion and conscientiousness, but indicated no differences in perceptions of risk or sensation-seeking behaviour.

Originality/value

The present study contributes to the literature on firefighter recruits and provides some initial data regarding personality of those attracted to the fire services, as well as information about the mental health of firefighters prior to service. Mitchell’s “rescue personality” was partly supported and evidence was provided suggesting that new recruits have strong self-perceived mental health.

Details

International Journal of Emergency Services, vol. 5 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2047-0894

Keywords

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