An exploration of the impact of self-contained breathing apparatus tasks upon the cognition, physiology, and coping strategies of English firefighters during structural fires

Young, Paul (2012) An exploration of the impact of self-contained breathing apparatus tasks upon the cognition, physiology, and coping strategies of English firefighters during structural fires. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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Firefighting operations are characterised by high time pressures, a high degree of task and environment uncertainty, life-or-death situations, and the continuous emergence of novel events. Despite this, the factors considered most demanding to firefighters and the strategies that lead to effective management of physiological and psychological stressors at the fire scene are yet to be fully understood.

To address this issue, study 1 utilised a qualitative approach employing a series of focus groups and individual interviews to establish the operational tasks considered to be most demanding by firefighters. Results showed that stressors could be classified into five higher order categories dominated by the physical demands of wearing self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and firefighting activities. Coping responses were grouped by problem-focused and emotion-focused techniques (Lazarus and Folkman, 1984), and also considered coping strategies at early, mid and late career stages. Study 2 utilised a longitudinal approach to examine the development of SCBA specific coping strategies with trainee firefighters over a 12-month period. Stressors were characterised by five higher-order stressors present throughout, and the firefighters reported high levels of control over the task and satisfaction with their performance despite task severity. Study 3 consisted of data collection undertaken during a series of commonly encountered SCBA tasks, including a comparison of novice and experienced firefighters during a single live firefighting task, and experienced firefighters undertaking a series of frequently encountered SCBA tasks. Results found that there were significant changes in cardiovascular and psychological responses of both novice and experienced firefighters following a live firefighting task. There was also a series of significant responses in experienced personnel completing concurrent guideline, search and rescue, and live firefighting tasks. The final study (study 4) considered the demands of SCBA from a command and control perspective. Incorporating a purpose-built incident command suite, the task was found to require high levels of mental and temporal demand but minimal levels of physical demand or frustration. Of the four roles examined, the incident commanders displayed highest levels of task demands, stress, and state anxiety.

The programme of work in this thesis highlights the complex environments firefighters face, the importance of on-scene coping techniques, and the methodological difficulties involved when attempting to capture and analyse data within this population.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: stress, emergency services, firefighting, perceived workload
Subjects: C800 Psychology
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
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Depositing User: Ellen Cole
Date Deposited: 13 Mar 2013 10:16
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2023 14:09

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