Chief Fire Officers Gather For Annual Conference

Chief Fire Officers Gather For Annual Conference

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Photo: © Pat Flynn 2016
Photo: © Pat Flynn 2016

A report into Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) systems in the Irish Fire Service will be launched at the 2016 Irish Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) taking place at the Malton Hotel, Killarney, County Kerry, this Wednesday and Thursday (6-7th May).

Hundreds of fire service personnel across Ireland were surveyed as part of the study which has been commissioned by the National Directorate for Fire & Emergency Management at the request of the CFOA.

The Research Centre for Psychological Health at the School of Psychology in Trinity College Dublin carried out the report.

Prof. David Hevey, Director of Postgraduate Teaching & Learning and co-author of the report said, “Fire Service personnel require comprehensive, coordinated CISM supports that provide initial training, support immediately after a critical incident and long-term support, if required. Based on the current project the different CISM systems implemented nationally are appropriate; they include both formal and informal support, and have referral mechanisms onto external mental health professionals where appropriate.”

He continued, “Timely provision of accessible and appropriate psychological and emotional supports means that the vast majority of those exposed to a critical stress incident will recover from the event without the need for further professional psychological treatment. Given the value placed on colleagues in both the literature and the present survey and interview data, the role of colleagues should be integral.”

“The camaraderie between individuals in the Fire Service ensures that colleagues mind other and act as front-line supports to each other post critical incident. The station culture has to be one that values the CISM system, which supports and values the professional integrity, capacity and resilience of Fire Service personnel,” said Professor Hevey.

The report’s findings will be revealed in full at this week’s CFOA conference by co-author Prof. Mathew McCauley of Trinity College Dublin’s Centre for Psychological Health.

The annual showcase event for Ireland’s Fire Services sector is being hosted by Kerry Fire and Rescue Service and will feature expert speakers from the Emergency Services Sector, Academia, Government, Local Government and the Fire Technology Industry from Ireland and overseas. Conference speakers include Mr. Sean Hogan, National Director for Fire & Emergency Management (NDFEM), Brian Sweeney, international advisor to the board of the NDFEM, Joe Flanagan, Chief, City of Boyleston, Mass. (USA), and Dr. Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, London Fire Brigade.

Jamie Shea of the Stirling Fire Department in Massachusetts, whose ancestors are from Cahersiveen and whose family have held senior positions with the US Fire Service for four generations also, is also scheduled to address the conference.

Topics covered during the two-day event, the theme of which is “The celebration of Irish heritage in the Fire Services in this commemorative year”, include decision-making by Fire Service incident commanders, stress management and operational discretion for Fire Service leaders.

Conference Secretary and Chief Fire Officer for Kerry, Michael Hession said this week’s conference “will be a memorable occasion for the Fire Services in this unique year. We welcome several speakers of the highest calibre, both Irish and International who bring a very rich heritage of service and leading academic views on the interesting topics we will address.”

“A unique aspect to the conference this year will be our focus on the rich Irish heritage in fire services in the United States and further afield,” added Mr. Hession. “We are very pleased to welcome Chiefs from the state of Massachusetts who with their families represent the wonderful contribution of the Irish over generations.”

The CFOA comprises the Chief Fire Officers of all Fire Authorities in Ireland. The Association is also a member of the Federation of European Fire Officers’ Associations and attends their twice-yearly meetings. Visit www.cfoaconference2016.ie for more.

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