”When the sun goes down, and you fight it with long periods of work, that’s dangerous,” she said. “A lot of disasters happen from 3 to 5 a.m. because that’s when we’re supposed to be getting our deepest sleep.”
The same concept is applied to phenomena like seasonal affective disorder, where long periods in the winter without consistent sunlight can lead to depression. Smith said because humans are driven by day-night rotations, she encourages people who work jobs with odd hours to wear sunglasses during the day.
”Just getting a little sunlight in your eyes will wake up your body. At least if you wear sunglasses, you can try to stay in that restful mode,” she said.
Fire Chief Phil Rogers said he’s constantly working to improve his department, in both health and performance. The Fire Department usually does about 19 runs a day, and the majority of those are ambulance runs for the medics. While he acknowledged the stress of the job, he said his department hasn’t run into stress or sleep-deprivation problems, crediting his supervisory battalion chiefs like Towne.
“I would think more metropolitans that have problems because they run so much, and perform a variety of duties,” Rogers said. “The guys love what they do and are good at what they do. For the most part, it’s like being at home. But when the alarm goes off, you have to be ready to get up and go.”
Towne said it’s the job of the battalion chiefs to stay in tune to the challenges the rescue teams face. Everyone handles it a little differently, and while the older veterans usually have no problem, the younger, less experienced members of the force need to be watched.
“It’s a funny service. You can go to any department around the country, and we all deal with the same issues,” Towne said. “It’s a real fraternity.”