This study evaluates the applicability of the training and operational practices of a group of firefighters to disaster search and rescue duties. Using schema theory it is hypothesized that training effectiveness could be evaluated by assessing the incidence with which event characteristics are perceived as stressors. A comparison of the propensity of a group of firefighters and a group of predominantly nonemergency service volunteers (who were specifically trained for disaster relief work) to define event characteristics as stressors provided the means of testing the hypothesis. The results suggest that the training and experience of these firefighters did not prepare them for major disaster work. The difference in stressor susceptibility serves as a basis for identifying training and response factors that appeared to promote an adaptive response. The implications of schema theory for the design of training programs is discussed.