Masters Thesis

Family dynamics in firefighter households: a program plan to assist with the issues created by the onus of public duty versus private commitment

The most invidious issue firefighter families face is having the firefighter absent for extended periods of time. It was found that even though the regular schedule—whether it be 2 days on 2 days off, 1 day on 2 days off, or some other regularly repeating schedule—can be strenuous on a family, it is when the firefighter is gone for weeks at a time that the most damage is incurred. This happens more rampantly during the height of the fire season. In the State of California, firefighters are permitted to work up to 21 days in a row on a wild land fire. Although it could potentially lessen the amount of overtime a firefighter could receive, this study recommends the maximum should be changed from 21 to 10 days in a row. The issue should be brought to the National Fire Protection Association and the U.S. Fire Administration (both of which have stake in creating regulations concerning schedules) for review. The minimum amount of time a firefighter would be able to be off in between shifts would be 48 hours. After the time off is fulfilled they would be able to go right back to fighting the wild land fire if they chose to. Another major problem within the fire service are CISDs. These Critical Incident Stress Debriefings were put in place to alleviate the pain firefighters who experienced a traumatic event while on the job might feel. Sometimes these are mandatory and other times they are voluntary. The problem with these is they do not work. This study could find no research or review of CISDs that made them seem effective or even beneficial. As a matter of fact, many firefighters claimed that CISDs had an iatrogenic effect on them. Because of the fact that CISDs often have a negative effect on firefighters, this study recommends they are immediately done away with and, if post-critical incident counseling is needed in the future, to refer firefighters to free community resources that are better adept at dealing with these issues. A plan is proposed to reduce suicides and PTSD of firefighters and suicides of children of firefighters by: requiring immediate discontinuation of CISDs, mandating less intervention on behalf of the fire service, ceasing to attempt to ameliorate suicide potential or suicide probable situations in children of firefighters completely within the fire departments and referring those at risk to existing community resources. This proposal is predicated on resolving issues firefighters face by implementing new strategies requiring less intervention and fewer resources allotted to particular issues, and, in doing so, making the issues not seem so inevitable. The recommendation is that this proposal be implemented because it has not been proven that less intervention is a successful way of dealing with firefighter issues. What has been proven, however, is the accommodations meant to help firefighters are, in large part, failing.

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