Stressors and Coping Strategies of UK Firefighters during On-duty Incidents

Paul Young, Sarah Partington, Mark Wetherell, Alan St Clair Gibson, Elizabeth Partington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Operational response by firefighters requires an abrupt change from rest to near-maximal physical effort and incorporates almost instant stress management that must be made during extreme heat, limited time and partial information, yet little is known about the coping strategies incorporated to manage the physiological and psychological demands associated with this environment. A sample of 22 UK firefighters took part in focus groups identifying frequently used coping techniques based upon problem-focused and emotion-focused coping methods. Findings suggest problem-orientated coping comprised half of the total coping strategies quoted by participants, with a third of responses being categorized as emotion-focused methods, and 17% were considered to be both problem-focused and emotion-focused techniques. Responses indicate problem-focused methods are often utilized en route to the incident, and at the early stages of operational tasks. Emotion-focused responses are more common during periods of fatigue and exhaustion and post-incident, and problem-focused and emotion-focused techniques were found post-incident, although there was often an overlap between methods and they perhaps should not be treated as three distinct stages. The importance of peer support and potential benefits to firefighter well-being and operational performance are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)366-376
JournalStress and Health
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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