Skip to main content

Developed and maintained
by the NFCC


Physical and mental effects on personnel alerted to respond to an incident

Hazard Knowledge

When operational personnel are alerted to respond to an incident, they may experience a range of physical and mental reactions. These reactions may:

  • Impair their appraisal of the situation
  • Result in errors of judgement
  • Increase the likelihood of accidents

As detailed in the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) publication, Reducing error and influencing behaviour (HSG48), factors that may contribute to human error include:

  • Working shift systems, working at night, or working very extended hours
  • Being ‘on call’, making it difficult to plan when to sleep or having disrupted sleep
  • Not having had sufficient rest before the start of a shift
  • Drinking alcohol or taking some types of drugs

Fire and rescue services may wish to consider which of their employees could be affected by these factors; they could apply to fire control personnel and operational personnel.

If personnel become severely fatigued, which could be the result of spate conditions, it may lead to impaired performance on tasks that require attention, decision-making or high levels of skill. For safety-critical work the effects of fatigue can result in increased risks.

When personnel are alerted to respond to an incident, the choice of words and phrases used in mobilisation messages may cause them to make a judgement about the urgency of the incident. This may cause a stress reaction that affects their physical and mental ability to respond safely.

Personnel should also be aware of hazards that can be caused if the alert to respond distracts them from their current activity. This could be a fire and rescue service task, but could also affect other employment, leisure or domestic activities.