A day in the life of an On-Call Firefighter from Worcester
We asked Steph to tell us more about herself…
I’m 26-years-old andI live in Malvern. I studied Sports & Exercise at Birmingham University and since graduating, I’ve been working as an administrator with the Church of England, literally just over the road from Worcester Fire Station. I also teach horse-riding, and I’ve been riding horses myself since an early age. I applied to join the Fire Service earlier in the year and I completed my initial training in June.
What motivated you to become an on call firefighter?
It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. My Granddad was part of Blue Watch at Worcester and another family member also worked for the Fire Service before he retired.
You completed your initial training in the summer – what did this involve?
The core skills training included first aid, hose running, ladder pitches, setting up pumps and hydrants etc. I’ve not long completed my BA (breathing apparatus) training as well.
And what about on-going training?
Monday night is drill night at Worcester and the retained crew meet up for a range of training activities between 6.30 – 9.30pm. This includes theory in the lecture room, practical skills in the yard and off-site training some weeks as well. There will be an opportunity to do other training in the future as well, including emergency driving training which I’m interested in as it’ll help with the extra training I need for driving a horse-box!
How fit are you?
I like to think I’m fairly fit! I’ve always enjoyed being active and I go the gym regularly as well as doing the horse-riding. I certainly passed all the physical tests without any problem and the recent breathing apparatus training was also a good test of fitness.
How strong do you need to be for the job?
There’s a certain level of strength needed as you have to lift ladders and other heavy equipment. On a call, though, it’s more about stamina. You need to be able to pace yourself as you could be at the job for several hours.
What other skills are important for the role?
You need to be good at working as part of a team - I’d say this was one of the most important aspects really. You need to be strong mentally, and keep cool under pressure, and you need to be able to deal with authority. You also need to be good with people as well as you’ll be in all sorts of situations where diplomacy and kindness are called for.
Would you say that you have developed any new skills since becoming an on call firefighter?
You learn a lot about yourself during training and I definitely have more confidence now. I already had some first aid skills before I started but these have reached a whole new level since doing the trauma training.
Have you had good support from your employer regarding your retained duties?
They have been really supportive. They wanted some reassurance to start with as they weren’t sure what it would involve but everyone has been fantastic. Working so close to the fire station, I do day-time cover and my colleagues take it in turns to cover for me when I get a call-out.
Has it had much impact on your family or social life?
It hasn’t really for me because of the type of cover I do. There are guys I work with who have a family and young children and they still make it work. There is some flexibility in the role which is good and long term, I’d consider moving nearer the fire station to be available to do more cover.
How do you prepare for a call-out?
Because I work so close and I only do day cover, it’s probably slightly different for me. I’m nearly across the road by the time my alerter has stopped sounding – it would be different if it went off in the middle of the night and I had to get dressed. I avoid wearing skirts to work though!
What sort of incidents have you been call to?
It’s early days for me but working in the city, I have been called to quite a few AFAs (Automatic Fire Alarms) and not all of these involve a fire. I see them as good experience though, as you learn something each and every time you get called out. One of the biggest incidents I’ve been to so far was a chip shop fire in the city centre.
How often do you get called out?
I’ve gone two weeks without a call-out and then had three in one week. Strangely I haven’t been to any in the morning yet and I also imagined I saw a bit of a trend at around 4pm on Friday afternoons but it’s random really. You just go with it!
What do you enjoy most about the role?
I enjoy all of it! I like being able to help people and I enjoy being active. It’s a contrast to office work and I like the variety.
Other on call firefighters have described getting a buzz or an adrenalin rush – do you get this?
Massively! And it continues even after I’m back at my desk in my day job. I can’t ever imagine this fading.
Do you get on well with other crew members?
Yes, there’s a mix of men and women and we all get on well. We have our Christmas ‘do’ coming up, which I’m looking forward to!
What would you say to anyone considering finding out more about becoming an on call firefighter?
Go for it! It’s a great opportunity to learn new skills, to develop more confidence in yourself and to be in a position to help people. You need to be prepared to put your all into it though!
The next Awareness Session will be held at Worcester Fire Station on Wednesday 28 November at 6.30pm. Anyone interested in attending can book a place by calling the HR department at HWFRS on 01905 368 343 or the 24-hour answerphone line on 01905 368 378.