Exploring Firefighter Preference Regarding Critical Incident Stress Debriefing as a Post-Critical Incident Intervention

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The Ohio State University

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Firefighters have a higher risk of developing negative mental health outcomes due to the high-risk nature of the job and cumulative trauma exposure. Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) is a commonly utilized intervention in the fire service that aims to minimize psychological and emotional harm and prevent the development of negative mental health outcomes. However, limited research has been done to evaluate the effectiveness of CISD specific to this population. The purpose of this study is to explore firefighter preference regarding CISD as a post-critical intervention and examine self-reported secondary traumatic stress and coping self-efficacy. 540 career firefighters completed an online survey. Specific demographic and employment factors varied by each objective and analytic sample; however, the majority of study participants were Caucasian, non-Hispanic males. The study found that the majority of firefighters preferred CISD as compared to informal peer support, formal one-on-one counseling, and no intervention (47.9%); while no intervention was the second largest preference (27.8%). Firefighters who participated in CISD had significantly higher levels of secondary traumatic stress symptoms (STSS) as compared to firefighters who were offered and declined to participate after controlling for other factors (p <0.05), and the association was driven by men (p < 0.05). Lastly, firefighters who preferred CISD and those who preferred formal one-on-one counseling had significantly lower levels of firefighter coping self-efficacy and trauma coping self-efficacy as compared to firefighters who preferred no intervention (p < 0.05 and < 0.01 respectively). Findings from this study can be used to inform the practices utilized by the Columbus Division of Fire to address the stress and trauma experienced among its firefighters, as well as direct the implementation of future research to bridge the gap in knowledge on firefighter intervention preference.


College of Social Work Undergraduate Outstanding Research Award
Second Place in Public Health, Denman Undergraduate Research Forum


Firefighter Mental Health, Trauma, Stress, Post-Incident Intervention