Strong together - Professional team training for more safety and less stress in fire fighting

Project No. FF-FP 0433


completed 01/2024


Dealing with dangerous situations and stress is part of the work of firefighters.

According to the accident statistics for volunteer firefighters, accidents and injuries occur repeatedly during emergency operations and especially during firefighting. Understanding and applying effective teamwork processes within the emergency force structures can reduce accidents during stressful situations. Teamwork processes can be specifically trained, although such training is not yet foreseen in current training guidelines.

The objective of the proposed research project was to develop, implement, and evaluate a professional team training concept specifically designed for fire protection. The goal of the training is to improve team processes in emergency response teams in terms of non-technical skills such as communication, coordination, decision-making, and leadership, for greater safety and less stress in the field. These are taught in a practical manner using typical fire department case studies and trained in practical training missions.


Within the action requirement analysis, demands, stressors, and resources of teamwork in firefighting missions were identified firstly with the help of interviews with 27 experienced firefighters of the professional fire department Cologne, volunteer fire departments and industrial fire departments, secondly with the help of observations of training missions and thirdly with the analysis of mission and accident reports. An online questionnaire was used to quantify the needs, i.e., to what extent the stressors and resources identified in the interviews and the document analysis occur in a larger sample. For this purpose, a nationwide survey was conducted with approximately 750 firefighters of professional, volunteer, and industrial fire departments.

Based on these findings, a demand-oriented team training was developed in which knowledge about team processes in firefighting missions was imparted. The new learnings were specifically trained in training missions. In addition, a debriefing guide was developed to reflect on teamwork-specific processes after the training missions. The team training was conducted and evaluated with 90 trainees as part of the fire protection training of the professional fire department Cologne and the fire department Frechen. An additional 80 trainees served as a control group. A before-after intervention and control group design was chosen. Questionnaires, observation of training missions, and physiological stress indicators were used to test effectiveness and evaluate research hypotheses regarding the effects of team training on the application of non-technical skills, collective orientation, flow, stress, and error prevention. In a final workshop at the professional fire department Cologne, ideas for implementation were collected and systematically recorded. In transfer workshops, the collected findings were transferred to volunteer, and industrial fire departments. Extensive manuals were created and the trainings were conducted with industrial fire departments.


The central result of the project is the systematic team training for use in fire protection training of the professional, volunteer, and industrial fire departments, as well as for experienced firefighters of the fire departments. A comprehensive training manual with practical exercises and detailed instructions has been produced. The trainees rated the team training very positively and confirmed its applicability in the training missions. With regard to the behavioral markers, trends in the expected directions emerged for subgroups, i.e., descriptively, task forces that received the training and worked in the outer team (squads working outside the training building) showed better teamwork processes. Subjective ratings regarding performance and teamwork processes did not change as a result of the training. Neither did collective orientation, flow experience, and stress.

In addition, various instruments and guidelines have been developed within the framework of the project, which can also be used in the fire department context in the future, for example to quantify stressors and resources of teamwork, to observe training missions and to conduct debriefings.

Last Update:

2 Feb 2024


Financed by:
  • Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung e. V. (DGUV)
Research institution(s):
  • Ruhr-Universität Bochum
  • Universität Bremen
  • Feuerwehr Köln

-cross sectoral-

Type of hazard:

mental stress factors


physical strain/stress, team work, accident prevention

Description, key words:

team Training, fire fighting, fire department