Bridget F. Melton1, Richard Cleveland1, Catherine Gallagher1, Nicholas Hunt1, Greg Ryan2. 1Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, GA. 2Peidmont University, Demorest, GA.

BACKGROUND: Mindfulness, the ability to focus on thoughts, bodily sensations, and external stimuli with acceptance, openness, and curiosity, mitigates the effects of stress and increases decision-making, which are critical skills among fire responders such as Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) and Firefighters (FFs). Limited research exists surrounding the differences between these tactical occupations. PURPOSE: The purpose was to compare LEO’s and FF’s mindfulness attentional awareness. METHODS: LEOs (n=25) and FF (n=36) from one southeastern rural municipal agency in Georgia were recruited to participate. They were asked to complete the Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) as part of their routine fitness assessment. Independent samples t-tests at the p < 0.05 level were conducted, exploring mean differences between the two groups (LEOs and FFs) on global MAAS scores and individual items. Cohen’s d test was used to investigate effect sizes. RESULTS:Dataset demonstrated normality and was appropriate for further statistical analyses. Independent samples t-tests of global MAAS scores and individual items found statistically significant mean differences between participating LEOs and FFs at the p < 0.05 level. LEOs demonstrated statistically significant higher means on global MAAS score (M=70.64, SD=11.98) versus FFs (M=64.77, SD=11.40), item #6 (M=3.92, SD=1.50 vs M=2.51, SD=1.34) and item #13 (M=4.40, SD=1.32 vs M=3.71, SD=1.22). Cohen’s d statistics computed for items #6 (d=1.01), #13 (d=0.55), and global score (d=0.51) suggested large and medium effect sizes. CONCLUSION: Limited research exists exploring mindfulness with tactical groups. The scant studies indicate correlations between higher mindfulness levels (i.e., MAAS global score) and increased mental wellness. This study provided participating agencies with a context-specific mindful-based intervention for both the individual- and crew/team-level. Reported levels of mindfulness via the MAAS were consistent with existent literature. To the authors’ awareness, this project is the first to actively explore differences in reported levels of mindfulness between LEOs and FFs. LEOs reported higher levels of awareness on two specific items as well as on overall mindfulness. This may be attributable to differences in role/training for LEOs (i.e., tactical training focusing on “situational awareness”) vs FFs, but more research is necessary. The submitted work was conducted without funding.

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