Operational readiness of rural firefighters during bushfire suppression

This research is simulating long work shifts to look at the effects of heat, sleep disruption and smoke in various combinations on firefighter's physical and cognitive work performance over consecutive work shifts.

Research simulations are scheduled throughout 2013 at the Box Hill Town Hall in Victoria, and the CFS Training College in Brukunga South Australia, with firefighters required to volunteer to participate. To volunteer, and for more information on the simulation schedule, visit the CQUniversity website.

 

Deakin University component

Volunteer and career firefighters safeguard Australians from the annual threat of bushfires. When fighting bushfires, firefighters face a number of occupational and environmental stressors. They can work long hours during both day and night shift, often with little rest between consecutive shifts. Across each shift, firefighters are required to perform intermittent, intense physical labour often in hot and smoky conditions, whilst remaining alert and vigilant to make critical decisions in often life threatening situations. In isolation, factors such as heat, smoke (or its constituent elements), and sleep disruption can have a detrimental impact on cognitive and physical work capacity. To date, no study has comprehensively assessed the integrative effect that multiple stressors have on human performance. Such information is critical for rural fire agencies to manage the health, safety and productivity of their personnel during bushfire suppression. 

As such, the aim of this research is to investigate the impact of, and interaction between, multiple fireground stressors (i.e., sleep disruption, heat and smoke) on firefighter’s physiological responses, physical and cognitive work performance across a simulated three-day bushfire suppression ‘tour’.

Central Queensland University component

Bushfires are a real and ruthless threat to the lives and livelihoods of individuals living in rural and urban fringe areas.  Volunteer and career firefighters charged with managing this annual threat face a number of occupational and environmental stressors. Long hours during both day and night shift, often with reduced sleep opportunities, are common. Across work shifts, firefighters are required to perform intermittent, intense physical labour often in hot and smoky conditions, at the same time making critical decisions in often life-threatening situations.  In isolation, factors such as heat, smoke (or its constituent elements), and sleep disruption can have a detrimental impact on cognitive and physical work capacity. To date, however, no study has assessed the combined effect that these multiple stressors have on human performance. Such information is critical for rural fire agencies to manage the health, safety and productivity of personnel during bushfire suppression.

Thus, the aim of this research is to investigate the impact of multiple fireground stressors (i.e., sleep disruption, heat and smoke) in isolation and in combination, on firefighters’ physiological responses, and physical and cognitive work performance across a simulated three-day bushfire suppression ‘tour’.

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Publications from this Project

Journal Article

Conference Proceedings

External References

An overview of the project Awake, Smoky and Hot - operational readiness of rural firefighters during bushfire suppression, with Lead End User Robyn Pearce of the Tasmania Fire Service.

See video

An overview of the PhD project Fitness for fire fighting - operational readiness of rural firefighters during bushfire suppression, with Lead End User Robyn Pearce of the Tasmania Fire Service. The PhD research is the work of Cara Lord, from Deakin University.

See video

Resources linked to this Project

Poster

Research Report

Presentation

Guide or Fact Sheet