The potential link between 48/96 shift schedules and sleep deprivation can pose unique risks for firefighters. The danger of sleep deprivation tends to be compounded by a high volume of calls. When a firefighter cannot get adequate sleep on the second day of a shift, cognitive performance can suffer, putting lives in danger.
This means that firefighters' issues with sleep - and the accompanying slip in performance - aren't exclusive to any one kind of schedule. Whether it's a 48 or 96 hour shift, close monitoring of performance and assignments is necessary.
Agencies may consider applying fatigue policies that counter potential sleep deprivation. These are much easier to control when public safety workforce management software is being used.
For example, fatigue rules can be setup to ensure that firefighter schedules are aligned with adequate sleep requirements. Medical logs can be used to track highly stressful incidents that could influence performance. And training can be assigned to help firefighters develop optimal coping skills during high call shifts. We owe this to our first responders - and to the communities they serve.
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