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Hello, Guides: How to be a Firefighter Part 1

All photos by Eleanor Whalley

Firefighters are cool. There’s no denying it. They save people’s lives and get to drive around in  huge trucks that make loud noises. Whether you are young or old, there are things in that kind of life that are inherently cool. The comedian  Dara O’Briain puts it perfectly in one of his routines. In front of a huge crowd Dara calls out ‘Has anyone here saved a life?’. A see of hands go up and he randomly picks on a guy near the front:

Dara: Firstly sir what do you do for a living

Man: I’m a firefigher

Dara: (awkward pause). Well that’s your job (applause), I can’t compete with that..of course you’ve probably saved three on the way here today. You’re probably juggling orphans, oh here get them out of the fire, its the only way to carry three babies at a time when the orphanage is burning down. I can’t compete with you, you’ll always win this game…

At this point the audience bursts out laughing. But you get the point. Firefighters are cool from pretty much every angle.

But how does one actually become a firefighter? Also what do they actually do? This seems like a bizarre question but is it really all about ‘juggling babies’ out of a burning orphanage or do they rescue a fair few old ladies’ cats as well?

If you are interested in becoming a firefighter ( and I assume you are at least vaguely curious if you are reading this post). The first thing that is worth doing is actually going down to your local fire station and talking to anyone who might be there.  Local stations are a mountain of knowledge and the men who work there (at least in my experience) are incredibly friendly. Looking online is also important. If you live in London the first place to look would probably be The London Fire Brigade (LFB) website. However the LFB isn’t the only place to look. There are lots of websites out there that give suggestions or hints about what you need to do, these kinds of website tend to have a price tag attached to them if you want more information.

The  best online source seems to be   http://www.fireservice.co.uk/ which provides a really comprehensive guide and tips on the entire process.  The recruitment section of the website focuses on the main duties of a fire fighter

  • To prevent fire and accidents from occurring in the first place.
  • Educating the community by visiting schools, community centres and people in their own homes.
  • Advising people about planning escape routes within their own homes in case of a fire.
  • Actively seeking to understand and to value diverse individuals and groups.

Then the site gives a somewhat standard speech on how long it takes to become a firefighter and how ‘many people’ takes months or even years to prepare themselves for entry let alone becoming a firefighter.

There is also a really big section on the personal qualities needed to become a firefighter or PQA’s as they are referred to on the website. I think this reflects very well on the ‘recruitment’ for the fire service because it demonstrates virtually from the start that, your personal qualities are the key things to become a firefighter. Other qualities or qualifications are secondary.

Following on from this, there is also a section on criminal records. Due to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) of 1974 “anyone who has been convicted of a criminal offence, and received a sentence of not more than 2.5 years in prison, benefits as a result of the Act, if he or she is not convicted again during a specified period otherwise known as the ‘rehabilitation period’”. Essentially this means that even ex-cons have a chance to become firefighters.

There are also details on the physical tests, the psychological tests, the application form as well as the eye sight that is required to be a firefighter. What is fascinating is that the website really boils the application down to the basics e.g. when talking about the application form the website recommends that the applicant should photocopy sections of the application form and practice writing it out. It seems patronising but perhaps this simplicity is the key to encourage recruitment, someone who is just starting out looking into the profession would potentially find this really helpful.

The other thing that the website has going for it that it has a large section ‘recruit diaries’. Essentially people from all over the UK detailing their experiences right from trying on their uniforms to say if they fit on the first day through to graduation. This is a really entertaining and inspiring section to the website and is a good way to encourage future firefighters while giving them a realistic sense of what the training would be like.

Do you have a recruitment story you would like to share with us please tweet us @helloemergency

Part 2 of the Guide is here


All photos taken by Eleanor Whalley
Dara O’Briain quote taken from the dvd This is the Show
All rights belong to Dara O’Briain (its purely to illustrate a point and for entertainment purposes)

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