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Sleep, Workload, and Stress in Aerial Firefighting Crews

journal contribution
posted on 2024-04-09, 00:15 authored by Madeline SprajcerMadeline Sprajcer, Spencer Roberts, B Aisbett, Sally FergusonSally Ferguson, Damian Demasi, Alexandra ShrianeAlexandra Shriane, Matthew ThomasMatthew Thomas

BACKGROUND: The challenges of climate change and increasing frequency of severe weather conditions has demanded innovative approaches to wildfire suppression. Australia’s wildfire management includes an expanding aviation program, providing both fixed and rotary wing aerial platforms for reconnaissance, incident management, and quick response aerial fire suppression. These operations have typically been limited to day visual flight rules operations, but recently trials have been undertaken extending the window of operations into the night, with the assistance of night vision systems. Already a demanding job, night aerial firefighting operations have the potential to place even greater physical and mental demands on crewmembers. This study was designed to investigate sleep, fatigue, and performance outcomes in Australian aerial firefighting crews.

METHODS: A total of nine subjects undertook a 21-d protocol, completing a sleep and duty diary including ratings of fatigue and workload. Salivary cortisol was collected daily, with additional samples provided before and after each flight, and heart rate variability was monitored during flight. Actigraphy was also used to objectively measure sleep during the data collection period.

RESULTS: Descriptive findings suggest that subjects generally obtained >7 h sleep prior to flights, but cortisol levels and selfreported fatigue increased postflight. Furthermore, the greatest reported workload was associated with the domains of ‘performance’ and ‘mental demand’ during flights.

DISCUSSION: Future research is necessary to understand the impact of active wildfire response on sleep, stress, and workload on aerial firefighting crews.

Funding

Category 3 - Industry and Other Research Income

History

Volume

93

Issue

10

Start Page

749

End Page

754

Number of Pages

6

eISSN

2375-6322

ISSN

2375-6314

Publisher

Aerospace Medical Association

Language

en

Peer Reviewed

  • Yes

Open Access

  • Yes

Acceptance Date

2022-07-01

Author Research Institute

  • Appleton Institute

Era Eligible

  • Yes

Medium

Print

Journal

Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance