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California Fire Service since 1922

Navigating high mando workloads for firefighters

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From the CSFA Health, Wellness & Benefit Committee

Firefighting is an unpredictable profession. Some days are quiet, while others are jam-packed with back-to-back calls. The influx of “Mando” (mandatory) work, with forced overtime and extended hours, is the reality for many firefighters. While the duty to serve the community is paramount, the impact of these extended hours on personal lives and mental well-being can’t be ignored. Here’s a guide on managing these Mando shifts and finding balance at home.

Understanding the Demand

Mando work, though grueling, stems from an essential need: ensuring there are enough hands on deck to manage emergencies. With limited resources and an increasing number of emergencies, firefighters are often required to step in beyond their scheduled hours.

Handling Mando at Work

  1. Prepare Mentally and Physically

Before your shift, ensure you’re well-rested, hydrated, and have eaten a balanced meal. A well-fueled body and mind are more resilient to extended work hours.

  1. Stay Connected

Stay in touch with your crew. Sharing the burden, discussing challenges, and offering support can make a massive difference during extended shifts.

  1. Rotate Roles When Possible

If possible, rotate roles to avoid burnout from repetitive tasks. This can also provide mental relief and prevent physical strain.

  1. Prioritize Self-Care

Even during short breaks, engage in deep breathing, stretching, or even a quick walk outside. These can help reduce stress and reset your mind.

Handling Mando at Home

  1. Communicate with Your Loved Ones

Your family might not fully understand the demands of your job. Regularly communicate about your work schedules, the possibility of Mando shifts, and their impacts. This helps set expectations and reduces potential tensions.

  1. Re-establish Routines Quickly

After a Mando shift, try to re-establish your usual routines as soon as possible, whether it’s your morning jog or evening dinner with the family. It provides a sense of normality amidst the chaos.

  1. Seek Support

Reach out to professional counseling or peer support groups designed for first responders. They provide specialized guidance tailored to the challenges you face.

  1. Practice Relaxation Techniques

Engage in activities that help you relax and disconnect from work—whether it’s reading, meditation, hobbies, or simply spending quality time with loved ones.

  1. Schedule Personal Time

Mando work can make it seem like there’s no time for yourself. But it’s essential to carve out personal time, even if it’s just a few minutes. Use this time to recharge.

  1. Stay Informed and Advocate

Stay updated on departmental policies regarding Mando work. Being informed allows you to prepare and plan. Additionally, participate in discussions and give feedback on how Mando policies can be adjusted to ensure both the effectiveness of firefighting operations and the well-being of firefighters.


Mando work is a necessary part of firefighting, ensuring that the community remains safe. But handling the extended hours requires a balanced approach. By focusing on preparation, communication, self-care, and seeking support, firefighters can navigate these demanding periods more effectively, ensuring their well-being and that of the communities they serve. Remember, while the duty to the community is of utmost importance, self-care is not selfish—it’s essential.