Suffolk fire service seeks recruits from ‘all walks of life’
PUBLISHED: 11:00 18 November 2016
A shop assistant, a factory fitter, a quantity surveyor and a mechanic, who all double up as on-call firefighters, have featured in a glossy new brochure which has been produced by the county’s fire and rescue service in a bid to attract new recruits.
The release of the information pack also coincides with an increase in the use of social media by the service to promote the role of retained firefighters.
There are 35 fire stations across Suffolk made up of four whole-time, 29 on-call and two day-crewed stations. But out of the 460 on-call firefighter posts, around 30 are currently vacant.
The shortfall is due to a number of factors including people no longer living or working close to their local fire station – particularly in rural parts of the county – as well as difficulty in finding employers willing to release staff during the day to attend incidents. The current level of commitment required, coupled with changes to the way people live and work, has made recruitment and retention a constant struggle.
But according to Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) area commander Jon Cook, on-call firefighters are a vital part of the service.
He said: “They are ordinary men and women from all walks of life, but they do an extraordinary job for the fire and rescue service and are integral to protecting the local community.”
The service is also trying to educate local businesses about the benefits of employing on-call firefighters. Mr Cook added: “They are highly trained professionals who can bring added value to any business.
“They gain many transferable skills which can be used in any workplace, including advanced first aid and trauma care, large goods vehicle training, health and safety training and many personal skills.”
Ken Ashby, on-call fire firefighter liaison officer with SFRS, said one of the bars to people becoming an on-call firefighter was the level of dedication required in terms of hours.
“Youngsters have lots of commitments these days and we ask a lot of them,” he said. “Current on-call contracts are either 90 or 120 hours per week but we have been in negotiations with the union and we will shortly be in a position to offer new contracts of between 50 and 90 hours.
“One of the target areas is young mums who can give cover during the day when we struggle the most. The new shorter hours contracts will help enormously.”
According to Mr Ashby, the feedback from the new brochures has been “really positive”.
He added: “The brochure is available at every fire station and in public places across the county. It explains the application process in stages and gives detailed information about what would be required of them.
“The four case studies, which include two of our female firefighters, explain from a personal viewpoint why they signed up and what they get out of it. Hopefully their stories will encourage other people.”
For more information, visit www.suffolk.gov.uk/oncall