'My only regret is I didn't join fire service earlier'
WARWICKSHIRE Fire and Rescue Service is asking residents to think about whether they could become an on-call firefighter.
On-call firefighters dedicate a set number of hours a week where they are available to respond to incidents. They are paid a wage for being available and additional money for call-outs, training and drills.
The Herald, which is backing the service’s recruitment drive, asked three recently appointed on-call firefighters to explain the attraction of the job.
Ben Mace, from Stratford Fire Station, and James Fox and Chris Hanson, both based at Bidford Fire Station, tell readers why they and their families are proud of their role.
Applications for the latest recruitment programme close on 6th February.
For more information and to apply, visit www.warwickshire.gov.uk/oncallfirefighters.
Why did you become an on-call firefighter?
Ben Mace, Stratford: I wanted to help people and make a difference in the community.
James Fox, Bidford: I became an on-call firefighter to give my local and surrounding communities any help that I can give. Getting involved in your community gives you great satisfaction.
Chris Hanson, Bidford: I’m really proud of my local community and wanted to protect it and keep people safe.
What advantages does the on-call role have?
BM: You can work a full-time job, spend time with family, enjoy your free time and still serve the community through hours you choose to provide. It’s really flexible to suit what you can do.
JF: Loads of advantages to get stuck in with the public, meeting and greeting either when we go to awareness days or any fetes or street parties. Fits in well with any spare time I have and I feel my family are proud, so when a call comes through they get just as much as a buzz as I do.
CH: It’s a great, flexible way to tangibly help people, learn new life skills and be part of a team.
Everyone brings their own skills to a job; what skills would you say an on-call firefighter might need?
BM: The biggest ones for me would be that you need to be able to think on the spot and remain calm and confident under extreme pressure.
JF: Anybody can be a great help to the fire and rescue service.
CH: Just a commitment to learn new skills, provide a professional service and work as a team. I feel really honoured to wear the uniform and ride in the truck. You don’t need any qualifications, just common sense and a cool head
Describe what it means to be ‘on-call’.
BM: To me being on-call means knowing that at any point during the day I may get pulled away from whatever it is I’m doing to attend an incident. Whether I’m eating dinner, taking a shower or just falling asleep, it doesn’t matter. That pager goes off and everything else takes a back seat.
The process is simple enough, you choose the hours that you are available to cover each day and can change it as and when you need to. Whenever you are on-call you just have to take your pager with you and be sure you don’t go too far from the station.
JF: You get an app on your phone that allows you to book on or off. You can see who is already on and when they might need an extra hand if numbers get low. The pager you get is so loud you’ll never miss it that’s for sure.
CH: You will need to carry an ‘alerter’/pager and be prepared to leave the house or workplace quickly, ideally you should live or work close enough to your station to get there within five minutes.
I have to say that when the ‘alerter’ goes off it’s really exciting and gets the adrenaline pumping. You don’t know what the ‘shout’ is until you arrive at the station.
Teamwork must play a big part in this job as well as being good friends.
BM: Absolutely. The moment you get a station you start to form a bond with the people you work with. You don’t see them as colleagues but rather good friends who just happen to do the same job as you. At the end of the day these are the people who will be trusting you with their lives and vice versa while on a job. Being able to work as a team is made that bit easier if you all are on the same page and get along well.
JF: I haven’t been at the station that long but right from the start they make you feel part of the team. They all gel so well together and make you feel confident and comfortable with the tasks being done.
CH: Teamwork is a must and would be the most desirable characteristic the service is looking for.
What does your family think of your work as an on-call firefighter?
BM: They always tell me how great it is and how proud they are. My fiancée has told me on numerous occasions that she can’t help but bring up what I do when talking to friends or co-workers. There’s no better feeling knowing people appreciate what you do.
JF: They love it just as much as I do. They are proud that I’m doing it and help me get out the door as quick as I can to respond to the pager.
CH: They are super proud of me – my wife, my parents and my 11-year-old daughter. I feel really proud to say to people I’m a firefighter. When you join you realise you really are a role model in the community.
If someone is interested in becoming a on-call firefighter, what advice would you give them?
BM: Just go for it. It opens up so many doors for opportunities, builds confidence like nothing else and is the most rewarding job I could think of doing. From the moment I applied I knew it was the best decision for me.
It’s genuinely a brilliant opportunity for gaining skills that will last forever It’s very daunting when you do something for the first time, but the job gives a sense of accomplishment and meaning that is hard to come by anywhere else.
If you’re considering applying, then just go for it. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, the job is for anyone who is willing to put the work in. It’s not easy by any stretch but it is highly rewarding and that makes it all worth it.
JF: Do it! The feeling when the pager goes is incredible, that’s before you’ve even potentially helped someone. Definitely do it!
If you’re unsure go to your local station or find out when they have their drill night. You might even be able to watch what goes on... ask for some information, everyone is so helpful and patient.
CH: Don’t worry about formal qualifications or age. I’m 50 years old and I’ve always wanted to do this but couldn’t due to my previous employment. I feel as though I’m fulfilling a childhood dream. Also don’t worry about strength. Yes, you have to have a good level of fitness, but in terms of heavy lifting it’s all about teamwork and technique.
My only regret is I didn’t join earlier. From the moment I applied the team at my station were welcoming, patient and so helpful, you feel really valued.