Distinctive Group

Fancy being an On-Call Firefighter while still doing your primary job – or allowing a member of your staff to do their bit for the community? Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service are looking for people just like you, and they will be at the Expo to explain all.

On-Call Firefighters provide vital support to the local Fire Service.

They work alongside full-time (known as Wholetime) Firefighters, responding to emergency calls which can include anything from house fires and road collisions to rescuing animals in distress.

Full training is provided, on par with Wholetime crews. On-Call Firefighters are paid a monthly retaining fee, and an hourly rate for responding to calls and training, which can add up to an income of £6,000 to £8,000 per year.

Currently, 342 On-Call Firefighters are affiliated to the region’s 25 stations, but there’s plenty of demand for new recruits, especially on daytime shifts.

As Group Commander Deb Davies explains, “You could be a self-employed plumber or a hairdresser or a part-time shop assistant. You just need to live or work within five minutes of any of our On-Call Fire Stations.

“On-Call Firefighters have pagers to alert them to incidents, so they can dash over to the station, get changed and provide vital support. When it’s over, they come back, get changed and return to whatever they were doing – it could take 30 minutes, or a couple of hours depending on the emergency.

“Anyone over the age of 18 is eligible to join if you can pass the fitness tests, and are not afraid of heights, small spaces or climbing ladders!

“There’s also no height or upper age limit – one of our recent recruits is 62 and incredibly fit. Our only restriction is colour blindness, as candidates must be able to identify primary colours.”

Deb herself was a Veterinary Nurse when she first signed up as an On-Call Firefighter and carried out her dual role for a lengthy spell before joining the Service full-time.

She adds, “It’s an amazing career – I’ve been doing it for 23 years and I love it!”

Initial training takes approximately three weeks, which is split over some weekends, to try to help spread the time away from work and home. During the initial training, new recruits learn how to operate the Fire Engine and handle all the equipment, including Breathing Apparatus.

There are also plenty of opportunities for personal development in the form of new skills and qualifications.

What are the benefits for employers?

Participating employers say they gain enormous reciprocal benefits from the scheme. The most obvious aspect is being able to demonstrate corporate social responsibility.

Deb says, “The main feedback is that employees become real team players. They are highly trained in Health and Safety, Risk Assessment and trauma care.

“They are more dedicated to their company and employers, because they feel valued and appreciated by being allowed to do this role alongside their primary job.

“And they also tend to be methodical, reliable, quick thinking, organised and good communicators.

“The nature of the job means being dynamic; it helps people to think on their feet and drive situations forward in a positive way.

“On Call staff also tend to be very calm with common sense attitudes. They’re not afraid of hard work, responsibility, using their initiative, and taking a leadership role. They actively work individually or part of a highly skilled team.

“And obviously, these skills are transferable to their primary jobs, with all the tangible benefits attached.

“It also makes good business sense to show your community that you care, by employing local people who are prepared to give back to others.

“As for our On-Call Firefighters, the role really gets ‘under the skin’ so to speak – being part of a team, responding to incidents and making a positive impact.

“It genuinely helps bond people to their local community and employers.”

Deb and colleagues from Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service will be at the Expo to explain the roles in more detail to prospective employers and employees, together with the recruitment process and the flexible shift contracts on offer. More details at https://www.hwfire.org.uk/join-us/retained-firefighter/ or contact Deb Davies DDavies@hwfire.org.uk