"The profession is just different": Why Noncareer and Career Firefighters Have Different Experiences With Critical Incidents, and the Role of Informal Peer Support in Processing Them

Karin Dangermond, Ricardo Weewer, Joachim Duyndam, J.E.M. Machielse

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The differences between noncareer firefighters and career firefighters are unclear when it comes to experiencing critical incidents and the role of informal peer support in the processing of such incidents. To investigate these differences, data were collected by means of 20 participating observations and 72 interviews with Dutch noncareer and career firefighters from 37 different fire stations. The mindset with which they ride to an incident, the local bond between the involved firefighters, and previous experiences with critical incidents vary for noncareer firefighters and career firefighters, influencing how they experience and process critical incidents. During their service, career firefighters get support from their peers more readily than noncareer firefighters, who meet less often and for shorter periods. Management has less
oversight on noncareer firefighters, making it harder to determine whether they need aftercare. The personal environment plays a larger role in the processing of incidents among noncareer firefighters than among career firefighters. It is concluded that incidents are experienced as critical by both categories of firefighters, albeit for different reasons. Both impact and processing of incidents are related to the social ecology in which firefighters work. Insight into these differences helps optimize the help and aftercare for these first responders.
Original languageEnglish
JournalProfessional Psychology: Research and Practice
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Sept 2022


  • career firefighters
  • noncareer firefighters
  • informal peer support
  • fire service culture
  • social ecology

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