Updated 9th February 2016
Mindfulness and Fire and Rescue Services
In former times, mindfulness (in Pali, the language used by the Buddha, it is Sati) was equated with Buddhism itself because of the important place it holds in the Buddha’s teachings. The Buddha taught mindfulness Sati in conjunction with Sampajanna which means clear comprehension. The mind holds centre stage in the Buddha’s teachings, and he taught mindfulness and clear comprehension (Sati–Sampajanna) for the purpose of the deliverance of the mind which results in the ending of suffering – the end and aim of his teachings. The recent surge of interest in mindfulness in the West has led the community of practising Buddhists to call the new developments “secular mindfulness” to avoid confusion. Secular mindfulness seems to be characterised mainly by the practice of “living in the moment”. This is good, and seems to capture the Buddhist idea without having to go through years of study and practice.
MBC Manchester Buddhist Convention
The 2012 – 2015 MBC Manchester Buddhist Conventions included sessions on Faith and Fire. Venerable Piyatissa explained how mindfulness can be developed to help all the parties (firefighters and victims) to face and overcome difficult emergency situations.
Faith and Fire was represented at the April 2015 MBC day on Mindfulness. Some FRSs are offering in secular mindfulness to their personnel. Issues raised at this meeting were reported back to the FRS.
Oxford Mindfulness Centre
Professor Mark Williams former Director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre has explained that secular mindfulness offers the fruits of Buddhism.
CFRS Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service
Venerable Pidiville Piyatissa led a session on mindfulness, for CFRS Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service personnel and Cumbria Ambulance Service personnel, at Kendal Fire Station on 19th April 2013.
Fire Chaplains Conference held at Balliol College, Oxford University
Jacquetta Gomes spoke on Faith and Fire, at the Faith and Fire, at the Building a Bridge Through Spiritual Friendship Conference of Buddhist Chaplains from the UK and US, held at Balliol College, Oxford University in March 2014.The event provided a unique opportunity to share experience between two different parts of the Buddhist world on how each have started to develop Buddhist Chaplaincy, and on its benefits to both chaplains and to those receiving our support. The overall aim was to forge a collegial and spiritual relationship between UK and US Buddhist chaplains and chaplain communities. Chris Cullen from the Oxford Mindfulness Centre explained the value of secular mindfulness.
SF&RS Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service
SF&RS Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service appointed three Buddhists as Fire Chaplains: Venerable Pidiville Piyatissa and Venerable Galpottayaye Pemananda from Ketumati Buddhist Vihara Manchester and Jacquetta Gomes from Buddhist Group of Kendal (Theravada).
SF&RS Chief Officer Peter Dartford commented “I am delighted that we have widened the scope of the support, advice and guidance we are able to offer our staff. The well-being of members of our workforce is important and having means to address all aspects of an individual’s life is vital. Our Health and Well-being strategy has been developed to provide support for the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of everyone who forms part of our organisation. Providing a wide range of supportive arrangement swill ensure that we have the very best chance to meet whatever needs our colleagues may require during their careers”.
SF&RS Staffordshire FRS sees an important aspect of the role of Fire Chaplains to be to support the SF&RS health and well-being programme.
SF&RS Staffordshire FRS offers TRiM Trauma Risk Management to its personnel. TRiM, is a trauma-focused peer support system, which offers support and education to those who have experienced traumatic events. Trim practitioners are trained but do not need specialized medical or psychological training. TRiM is a NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) compliant model of psychological support. We are interested in looking at the possibility of the Buddhist Fire Chaplains becoming involved in TRiM.
The Buddhist Fire Chaplains have started to lead sessions on Buddhism and mindfulness for SF&RS staff and volunteers. These will be held at the SF&RS Headquarters, Fire Stations and at Ketumati Buddhist Vihara.
APPG All Party Parliamentary Group
The APPG All Party Parliamentary Group is studying the benefits of bringing mindfulness into public policy The Mindfulness APPG is supported by The Mindfulness Initiative, a coalition of Oxford, Exeter and Bangor Universities to advocate for a better understanding of mindfulness as a low cost intervention and its potential in a range of public services
The relationship between mindfulness and the Fire and Rescue Service
Some UK FRSs offer secular mindfulness training for their personnel to help staff with issues such as stress. In the FRS mindfulness is taught in a secular context (not Buddhist context).
Information is available on the internet about other work which looks at the relationship between mindfulness and the Fire and Rescue Service.
Interesting examples include:
Avoiding Firefighter Injuries and Accidents and Becoming Operationally Efficient Through Mindfulness and High Reliability by Jason D. Campbell Lynchburg Fire Department, Lynchburg, Virginia USA.
Inhale, Exhale, Fight Fire by Barry Boyce
“A group of firefighters who are employing mindfulness techniques in the workplace, encouraging situational awareness and saving lives. At a presentation at the Center for Mindfulness’ annual conference focused on training U.S. Forest Service firefighters in “mindfulness-based situational awareness.” James Saveland, program manager for Human Factors and Risk Management at the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Fort Collins, Colorado, talked about the training in simple mindfulness techniques that he and Ted Putnam, a retired forest service employee who does accident investigations, have been doing with fire crews.”
Innovative Research Study Will Investigate Effect of Mindfulness and Relaxation Training on Miami-Dade Firefighters. “Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department will partner with neuroscientist at the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences Dr Amisha Jha for an innovative research study to investigate how mindfulness and relaxation training can help firefighters better cope with the high stress and challenging nature of their demanding service.”
Mindfulness & Self-compassion in Wildland Fire: Developing Leaders. “This Human Factors & Risk Management and National Fire Plan funded dissertation research investigates the roles of mindfulness and self-compassion in wildland fire as they pertain to the development of leadership with the aim of improving decision-making abilities.”
“Sub-Project Mindfulness OiC’s Fire Brigade, Project innovative Command, Institute for Physical Safety, Fire Department Amsterdam-Amstelland, Netherlands.”
“Teaser Sub-Project Mindfulness OiC’s Fire Brigade, Project Innovative Command, Institute for Physical Safety, Fire Department Amsterdam-Amstelland, Netherlands.”