Anxiety, stress and perceived workload during the command and control of computer simulated fire service training environments

Paul Young, Alan St Clair Gibson, Elizabeth Partington, Sarah Partington, Mark Wetherell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – Incidents requiring command and control require all personnel from firefighters (FFs) to the incident commander (IC) to make continuous decisions often with limited information and under acute time-pressure. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to explore the stress reactivity of specific roles during the command and control of an immersive, computer-based incident. Design/methodology/approach – Experienced firefighting personnel undergoing incident command training participated in this study. Participants completed measures of state anxiety and stress immediately before and after taking part in a computer-based simulation of a large-scale incident run in real time. During the simulation personnel assumed one of four roles: IC, sector commander, entry control officer (ECO), and command support officer. Following the simulation personnel then completed measures of perceived workload. Findings – No significant changes in state anxiety were observed, but levels of stress and perceived workload were related to task roles. Specifically, ICs reported the greatest levels of mental and temporal demands and stress when compared with ECOs. Research limitations/implications – Limitations include the lack of environmental factors (such as rain, darkness, and noise), a relatively small sample size, and the use of self-reported questionnaires. Practical implications – The application of immersive training environments as a method of developing FFs experience of incident command roles and skills pertinent to high-acuity, low-frequency events. Originality/value – The paper represents one of the first attempts to identify the self-reported anxiety, stress, and perceived workload of specific role demands during the command and control of simulated incidents.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-130
JournalInternational Journal of Emergency Services
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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