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EFFECT OF WORK RELATED STRESS ON FIREFIGHTER/PARAMEDIC EASTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF FIRE STAFF AND COMMAND

Mark C. Shantz Eastern Michigan University Ypsilanti Mi. School of Fire Staff and Command Fourth Class

An applied research project submitted to the Department of Interdisciplinary Technology as part of the School of Fire Staff and Command Program. William Dangler

August,2002

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ABSTRACT This research attempted to identify the aspects of psychological on the job stress, its causation, its effect on job performance, and any effects stress might have on wellness and general well being. Also this research will explore stress reduction techniques and their effectiveness. Unmanaged firefighter stress is the problem, or more specifically recognizing the signs andsymptoms and taking appropriate action. “ Wellness in the fire service will, in great measure, involve the control, defusing, and management of firefighter stress reactions. Stress management technology is based upon an understanding of the stress response.” ( Lawrence N. Blum, PhD., Stress and survival in the fire service, pg3) The purpose of this research was to investigate how stress affectspsychological fitness and physical well-being of firefighters/ paramedics and to make recommendations for a positive stress reduction program. Psychological stress a complex phenomenon. Therefore to identify all the potential sources was problematic. Information regarding firefighter/paramedic on the job stress was found to be very scarce. Similar trade journals were utilized where it was germane tothe fire service. The research method used for this project relied exclusively on trade journals, professional papers, articles from magazines and newspapers, books and other applied research projects. Research questions asked were; (1) Does on the job stressors affect firefighter performance and off duty activities and behavior? (2) Are there effective techniques to reduce or eliminate on the jobstressors and detrimental effects of stress?

3 The procedures involved taking the most current data available from books, magazine and newspaper articles, professional trade journals, and related applied projects. This research included literature that was germane to the fire service. Studies and data pertaining to firefighter/paramedic on the job stress were scarce. Information on job relatedstress in related fields was also used. Some research results were surprising. Firefighter are stressed by their own station living environment, their protective gear, their officers and leaders, current management styles, coworkers, and the stress of leaving their families and loved ones during natural and man made disasters. Research also provided results that were not surprising. Certainpersonality types did not cope well with psychological stress. However they did cope better with proper indoctrination, education and training. From this we concluded that education and support must come early because fire personnel will be called upon to meet many challenges. The better understood the symptoms created by traumatic scenes they will be exposed to, they better they will be able toperform at work with a greater degree of proficiency and enjoy a higher level of well being. Recommendations; This research indicated when firefighters/paramedics were educated to recognize the effects of stress, how traumatic events can effect personnel, and management of traumatic stress through stress reduction techniques, individuals were more likely to enjoy a higher level of physical andpsychology wellness. Which also translates into less absenteeism and higher morale.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Abstract………………………………………………………………….……………….2 Table of contents………………………………………………………….……………...4 Introduction……………………………………………………………….………………5 Background and Significance…………………………………………….………………6 Literature Review…………………………………………………………..……………..8 Procedures……………………………………………………………………………….12 Table 1:...
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