Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) firefighters work a demanding schedule. Our standard shift is 24 hours long. It starts at 8:00 am and ends the next day at 8:00 am. We work one shift and then get 48 hours off. The total work week averages out to be over 50 hours long. Emergencies can and do happen at any hour. Many times, firefighters are called to respond on emergencies after midnight, and sleepless nights are a common part of a firefighter’s life. The citizens expect PF&R employees to perform flawlessly, but unrecognized fatigue and sleep disorders can significantly degrade a firefighter’s ability to think clearly and perform effectively. In addition, sleep deprivation increases the risk of intestinal and heart disease, and substantially increases the risk of a motor vehicle accident.
During the 2010 Safety Week, PF&R firefighters have the unique opportunity to participate in the firefighter fatigue management program titled, “Operation Stay Alert”. This program is administered by the Harvard Work Hours, Health and Safety Group and includes researchers from the Division of Sleep Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. PF&R’s Safety Committee, Portland Fire Fighter’s Association Local 43, and PF&R’s management team have all endorsed our participation in Operation Stay Alert.
This program includes:
- EDUCATION: A 30-minute online training video consisting of information about sleep health, sleep disorders, negative consequences of sleep deprivation and fatigue management strategies.
- SURVEY: A confidential survey will be administered on topics such as sleep, fatigue, stress, general health, personal relationships, job satisfaction, work schedules, motor vehicle crashes, and work-related injuries.
- TREATMENT: If the fire fighter’s survey responses indicate a high risk of a sleep disorder, researchers will refer them to a local sleep clinic. Follow up care is at the discretion of the employee.
I personally know many fire fighters who have been diagnosed with a sleep disorder. I am encouraging them to take the survey and let the researchers know of their experiences. Unfortunately, the busiest companies are hit the hardest and sleepless nights are common. The research being conducted may lead to solutions that will ease the stress of sleep deprivation and prevent the health risks associated with it.
Go to bed early tonight – get a good night’s sleep – and until next time, be safe!
Until next time – be safe!
Click on the links below to read Safety Chief Bancroft's previous Firefighter Safety Blogs:
Portland Fire & Rescue We Respond: Always Ready, Always There
July 1, 2010