VCOS Releases 2021 Yellow Ribbon Report on Responder Behavioral Wellness

Nov. 13, 2021
The IAFC-VCOS Yellow Ribbon Report Update includes focuses on gaslighting, emotional intelligence and compassion fatigue, and provides firefighters with an emotional tactical worksheet.

Chantilly, VirginiaThe International Association of Fire Chiefs’ Volunteer and Combination Officers Section (VCOS) is proud to announce the release of a new important resource for first responders, the 2021 Yellow Ribbon Report Update. The original report was released in 2017 and based on feedback for the need for more life-saving information the VCOS compiled this completely new document as a supplement to the original. In this update you will find added information on the topics such as gaslighting, emotional intelligence, compassion fatigue, learned helplessness, resilience, and more. In addition, there are a new set of eleven best practices, an emotional tactical worksheet, survey results on behavioral wellness, and key resources.

This new report is packed full of important information, but it also can be digested in small pieces so as not to be overwhelming. Readers are guided to focus section by section on the topics they want to learn about most. All fire departments and other responder agencies are encouraged to share this with your departmental leadership including your peer support team, chaplain, and employee assistance program. All ranks of the fire and emergency service are asked to read this. Please take the time to read this carefully as it can provide the knowledge and tools to save the lives of brother and sister responders, and even family members and friends. After all, responders spend so much time helping others they often forget to focus on one another.

VCOS Chair Chief Chuck Flynn stated, “I believe this updated report will provide the fire and emergency service with additional information, best practices and recommendations to assist us in executing an internal size-up, and a proactive approach to ensuring the mental wellness of our personnel and organizations. Read and use the report by breaking it down into smaller pieces and focusing on a few areas at a time. Identify some short- and long-term actions you can take to improve behavioral wellness.”

VCOS Educational Coordinator Chief John M. Buckman III commented, “The Yellow Ribbon Report Update provides public safety personnel with additional information on recognition signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress. The report’s contributors recognize that behavioral wellness is a very extensive issue that many fire departments feel overwhelmed by. Staff development is one of those ‘other duties as assigned’ expectations that leaders must focus on. The contributors hope that you use this report to assist your public safety personnel in managing the traumatic stresses they are confronting every day.”

The 2021 Yellow Ribbon Report Update can be viewed and downloaded here.

About the VCOS

The IAFC Volunteer and Combination Officers Section’s (VCOS) mission is to develop and enhance effective, professional leaders of the volunteer and combination fire service by providing tools, resources and representation to lead their organizations effectively. The VCOS vision is to be the leading volunteer/combination fire service organization in the United States, representing and educating leaders of the volunteer and combination fire/rescue service. For more information, visit

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