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Studies evaluating firefighter heart rates date back to the mid-1970s and clearly show that there is a tachycardic response (elevated heart rate above the norm) when firefighters are alerted to an emergency. The authors of a recent study on station-specific alerting and ramp-up tones wondered if there are ways to reduce alarm stress on firefighters. They hypothesized that decreasing the number of alerts per station, adjusting the tone volume, and decreasing the startling nature of them could reduce physiologic and mental stress.
Macneal, J. J., Cone, D. C., & Wistrom, C. L. (2016). Effect of station-specific alerting and ramp-up tones on firefighters alarm time heart rates. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, 13(11), 866-870. doi:10.1080/15459624.2016.1183018
We need our crews to be awake and alert, not chronically fatigued. Startling them awake every time they have a call is not ideal. The ramp-up tones are a simple, and likely beneficial step we can take to reduce stress on the body. If we can alert more gently without suffering response time delays, we have done our crews a great service.
— Research team of Macneal, Cone and Wistrom
Full text of this research article is available at Taylor & Francis Online.