Fire-fighters use informal strategies to manage risks to health and safety during operations. It is not known whether such strategies are used during the high-risk alarm response period. The aim of this study was to determine if informal risk management strategies are employed by Australian firefighters during the alarm response procedure, and if these strategies differ between salaried and retained personnel. Forty-six metropolitan firefighters (all male; mean age 38 years ± 10 years; 22 salaried; 24 retained) participated in semi-structured group interviews. A general inductive data analysis approach revealed that firefighters use multiple informal risk management strategies. Some similar themes were reported by both salaried and retained personnel, for example leveraging team dynamics, communication about sleep and fatigue, stress adaptation, informal debriefs, and enhancing physical preparedness. These findings could be used by fire services to tailor risk management approaches during the alarm response period.
Practitioner summary: Identifying informal risk management strategies firefighters use during alarm response will allow their development, refinement and dissemination, and may help other firefighters and emergency service workers to manage these risks. This qualitative study reveals multiple informal strategies that firefighters employ during alarm response to keep themselves and their team-mates safe.
- alarm response
- emergency services
- Risk management