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On Call Firefighters

Firstly, many people, particularly within the Fire Service, will still use the term retained firefighter. During 2010 the use of the name 'on call firefighter' started to make an appearance and sort of says what it does on the tin!

What is an On Call Firefighter?

Well, quite simply it could be anyone. It may be your milkman, the young lady serving in the local shop, the plumber who fixed your central heating.

Any of them could be an on call firefighter. Ready, at a moments notice, to leave their place of work, that family get together or the pub quiz and dash off to their local fire station to deal with literally any type of emergency situation.

How 2 Become a UK Firefighter

There are over 18000 on call firefighters in the UK and in many parts of the country they are the fire service. These are the people that will be first on scene at a house fire, a car crash or flooding incident. In Suffolk we have 35 fire stations, of which only four have a wholetime crew on station 24 hours a day. All the other fire stations are either day-manned or solely crewed by on call firefighters. And that is the same for vast swathes of the UK.

Most people assume that when a fire engine turns up at an incident the crew have been at the fire station, drinking tea and waiting for the next shout to come in. But, even in large towns where there are wholetime crews, any shout that requires more than one fire engine will have on call firefighters called out too. Or there could be multiple incidents and the wholetime crew can only be in one place at a time! In Lowestoft, my home town, there are four fire engines but only one of these is crewed by the wholetime crew. To get the other three fire engines turned out relies solely on on call firefighters.

Could you be an On Call Firefighter?

It can be a big commitment but it's the sort of job that just gets under your skin - it becomes a part of you, a way of life.

Generally there are two types of cover that you can offer your local Fire and Rescue Service - full cover or three quarter cover. Full cover, as its name suggests is pretty much 24/7 but in reality you have to offer cover of a minimum of 120 hours per week. Three quarter cover is usually 80 hours to 120 hours and can be suited to those working shift patterns or with family commitments.

Early on in your career as a on call firefighter there will be a number of training courses to attend - basic training (5 - 7 days), two Breathing Apparatus courses (5 days each) plus others like First Aid, Road Traffic Collision and Marine Firefighting - much dependent on your location and the Fire and Rescue Service that you are working for.

To find out if your local fire station is recruiting just turn up on their drill night (there's usually a sign outside the fire station that will tell you when this is) or contact your Fire and Rescue Service.

How do On Call Firefighters get called out?


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