Fatigue Management for Fire/EMS
Fire and EMS teams have to always be “on” during their shifts. Their job is not a typical job where they clock out after eight hours and call it a day.
Firefighters and EMS might work 12 to 24 hours a day under stressful emergency conditions.
Fatigue becomes a real concern for firefighters and EMS. With the onset of fatigue, first responders run the risk of making mistakes, causing harm to themselves or their team, or worse, harming a patient. This is why fatigue management is critical for first responders
Fire Evidence-based Guidelines
The NASEMSO released evidence-based guidelines for fatigue management to combat the issue. Fire and EMS teams should implement these strategies to manage the fatigue of their staff.
- Conduct surveys of your fire and EMS teams to monitor their levels of fatigue. Use fatigue and sleepiness instruments that can measure fatigue levels. Then use the results to develop a fatigue management plan.
- Work shorter shifts. The 24-hour shift has been proven to cause fatigue. People cannot be “on” for extended periods of time with no rest. Shifts can be 12 to 18 hours, but make sure that your staff finds time for real rest.
- Access to caffeine is crucial for fire and EMS who have to stay up for several hours. Keep the coffee flowing. The fire and EMS teams need those coffee breaks in order to stay alert for their job.
- Provide opportunities for naps. Rotate staff during their shifts so that they can fit in a nap to recharge. Short naps can provide renewed energy for fire and EMS crews. Provide a quiet and comfortable place for staff to rest for an hour or so.
- Offer education and training about fatigue management. Managers and staff should know the signs of fatigue and how to mitigate the effects. Work together to create real solutions that manage fatigue and keep fire and EMS alert for their jobs.
Healthy and Alert
With these five evidence-based guidelines, fire departments and Emergency Medical Services teams can keep their staff healthy and alert. Fatigue management is possible, and first responders can get the rest that they need to do their jobs well.