How to Become a Firefighter
Sounds like a career filled with action, doesn’t it? Being the hero of the day, running into smoke-laden buildings, rescuing the public from the burning flames, and being nominated for the Pride of Britain Awards. By the way, don’t expect to get any awards. As a fire fighter all the action is done in a typical days work. You’re part of the emergency services crew keeping the public safe. In essence, you remain an unsung hero, but the difference is knowing when you step off duty at the end of your shift, you’ve made it through a day successfully, and probably saved quite a few lives in the process.
The reality of a fire fighter is that you’re trained to respond fast, effectively and to take decisive action in the safest manners to proceed in any emergency situation.
Your training will be called on when it’s required, but there’s more to fighting fires in this line of work. Much of the work you do will focus on fire prevention methods. Educating the public on fire safety and raising community awareness on the issue. You could be visiting elderly residents in their home, advising on fire security, and providing them with escape plans in the event of a fire.
To raise awareness on fire safety, you’ll also be required to speak with schools in the local community, and attend community centre briefings with youth.
Communication skills are vital as you’ll be part of a crew, working as a team in synergy with each other crew member. You need to be confident, resilient and above all, adaptable to different working situations.
You never know what shout will come in. You could be called to attend a house fire, a factory blaze, or to attend the scene of an RTC involving a chemical spillage.
Risk is all in a days work of a fire fighter.
Training to fire fighter fitness standards is where most people fall short in the recruitment process.
The work is physically demanding, and mentally challenging, so fitness is at the forefront of candidate selection. The training will differ between fire brigades, but an elite level of fitness will be required. Most will tell you that you need to be in good health, and keep fit, but that doesn’t come close to the fitness requirements.
Consider the duties you can be expected to carry out:
- Heavy equipment being lugged around, sometimes up multiple flights of stairs
- Lifting people
- Climbing tall buildings with rope lines when the ladders don’t extend to the height required
- Running the hose lines out needs done with speed
Those aspects are what most people will train for and build up their muscular endurance. Super great for a fire fighter to have muscular strength, but that’s no use if the cardio isn’t there, and that’s going to be tested.
To understand the importance of physical fitness, you need to understand the working conditions you’re likely to encounter.
You’ll be carrying out an extensive search in smoke filled buildings looking for people who have become trapped under fallen equipment. To do that in extreme conditions requires your lungs to be functioning at optimum levels. Cardio endurance is what you need as it gives your body the ability conserve as much air as possible, which helps your breathing apperatus last longer, giving you and your team more time to carry out the search, and fight the fire.
Training needs to cover three elements:
- Muscle gains
Hardcore weight building can pack on muscle, but it isn’t going to do you any good if you aren’t flexible to get your body into a confined space.
Any fitness training should be geared around cardio and strength training, but never overdoing it on muscular gains. You may be able to run up the stairs of a multi storey building fast, but if you can’t do that while carrying heavy equipment, you’re not at your peak of fitness.
One of the best forms of fitness training you can do is bodyweight exercises. They’re exercises that improve functional fitness because they involve co-ordination and balance. Both elements are required in this career.
Besides fitness training, which you should be doing in order to maximise success in getting to the induction training, there are other elements you need to know about. You need to be in good medical shape, meaning no eyesight problems, health issues, or other ailments that would be likely to hinder your ability to the job.
A medical examination will be required, regardless of the Fire Service you’re applying to.
You can apply without any qualifications, but in terms of promotions within the Fire Service, existing qualifications can be taken into consideration. As recruitment campaigns aren’t run periodically, and sometimes as little as every two to three years, it’s best to keep up to date with your local fire station, or ask them if they have a waiting list for recruits.
The most challenging part is getting the position in the training program with any fire service. Once you’ve nailed that, you’ll be put onto an induction training program, lasting anywhere from 12 weeks or up to 18 weeks in some regions.
Induction training will cover:
- The behaviours of fire, and how to best fight it
- Basic rescue techniques
- Working in smoke filled rooms
- Handling of different types of fire extinguishers
- Using fire fighting equipment
- First aid
- Health and safety
Following your induction training, you’ll be placed onto a two year probationary period, when you’ll continue to learn on the job and be assessed continually.
In terms of qualifications, the ones you’re encouraged to take when you’re in the force include:
- A level 3 Diploma in Emergency Fire and Rescue Services Operations in the Community
- A Level 3 Certificate in Emergency Fire Services Watch Management
- A Level 3 and/or 4 Award in Intermediate Incident Command in Fire and Rescue Services
These can form a part of your continual training, but you will also be required to undergo a variety of training in accordance within the Integrated Personal Development System in order to maximise your future potential, and work your way towards a clear promotion structure with the Fire Service.