Stress awareness in incident management training

Stress Awareness Month has been held every April since 1992, to raise awareness of the causes and cures for our modern stress epidemic. Read on as Evie Whatling explores our recent work with the Environment Agency’s Wessex Area Incident team to bring stress management into incident management training.

Written by Evie Whatling | Flood Resilience Analyst

Virtual and hybrid incident management

Stress is an inevitable component of incident management, there is no way of avoiding it – but being aware of the signs and adopting coping mechanisms can be very effective in managing stress.

Virtual and hybrid incident management is likely to remain, and we have identified that the risk of burnout has increased with this style of working. There is a strong link that these burnout rates have increased because of loneliness and isolation, and burnout is a symptom of stress, and so an interconnected system emerges.

We have been working with the Environment Agency’s Wessex Area Incident Teams to work on addressing some of these emerging challenges, as part of our wider Incident Management Training and Exercising Framework.

How does stress management training work?

Stress management training needs to help inform incident responders on what stress is and what can be done to help manage it.

The training now needs to include how we can adjust our virtual incident management operations to minimise feelings of isolation and loneliness. This in turn extends to how we can mitigate burnout, and support stress from virtual environments. Stress management training can also explore what we can do to build a sense of community, internally and with partners agencies.

Our work with the Wessex Area Incident Teams is addressing some of these emerging challenges and providing tools to help incident responders.

Some key tools we focus on include:

  1. Optimising how we communicate virtuallyEstablishing online etiquette to minimise information overload, and having responders consider specifically the output required.
  2. Prioritising breaks. Planning breaks and trying our hardest to stick to them is important to allow ourselves to decompress. Visually separating ourselves from where we are responding to the incident allows us to physiologically distance ourselves from the scene.
  3. Team support. Have colleagues ready to stand in and enable breaks, as well as establish work rotations in place so we can switch between high stress activities to lower stress functions.
  4. Establish buddy systems for mutual aid arrangements. Teaming up someone from a different area with someone from the responding area to mitigate feelings of isolation and loneliness.
  5. Stress bucket tool and adapting this to have people identify stressors they can remove; stressors they can’t remove but can control; and finally, any stressors that can’t be controlled or removed, and so learning how to accept these stressors in the incident.
  6. Mindapple tool. The premise of the tool is to have ‘1 of your 5 a day’, but this has been adapted to allow responders to: mark 5 things they can do for their wellbeing before the incident (i.e., update calendar, keep commitments to a minimum, have food in the fridge); 5 things that can help during the incident (i.e., take a break, do a grounding exercise); and 5 things to focus on after the incident (i.e., go for a walk, debrief, have a balanced meal).
S<strong>ome key tools we focus on include:</strong>
S<strong>ome key tools we focus on include:</strong>
S<strong>ome key tools we focus on include:</strong>
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Want to know more?

For more information about this training, please contact Evie Whatling.


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