How long have you worked for Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service?
In September 2009 I will be entering my fourth year as a Retained Firefighter based at Belleek Fire Station.
What additional skills do you feel you have gained through working as a Firefighter?
Well firstly there are all the main Firefighting and rescue skills using ladders, hoses, Breathing Apparatus, hydraulic cutting equipment and learning car cutting techniques, water rescue and many more practical skills.
Aside from this I am also a LIFE (Local Intervention Fire Education) scheme instructor. The LIFE scheme is an intervention programme for teenagers that helps build their personal skills and confidence. I also help deliver NIFRS Fire Safety Team programme in the local primary schools and carry out Free Home Fire Safety Checks throughout our community; these have helped me develop my communication and interpersonal skills on a daily basis.
Outline what a typical day is like for you?
As a Retained Firefighter I respond to a wide range of emergency calls, fires, road traffic collisions and other special rescue calls. Emergency calls can occur at any time of day or night and I am alerted to them by our Regional Control Centre in Lisburn who receive the 999 call and then activate my pager. I respond by making my way quickly to the Fire Station to meet the rest of the Crew.
Being a Retained (part-time) Firefighter means that I also have my ‘day-job’, I’m a Community Development Worker and have worked for Belleek and District Community Partnership for the last seven years. My job involves helping to increase services, training opportunities and social activities for the village of Belleek. I am very lucky in that my employers see my role in the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service as an extension of my work for the community and are therefore happy to release me for emergency calls and training.
Monday nights are my drills night at Belleek Fire Station. Each Monday we drill from 7.30 pm to 9.30 pm: these nights are when we keep our skills refreshed. Each evening starts with tests on the equipment carried on the Fire Appliance. When these have all been completed we carry out various practical skill drills, usually different skills each evening i.e. Breathing apparatus, water rescue, ladders and hoses, road traffic collision skills etc.
As a Retained Firefighter there is no such thing as a typical day as I could be heading to a Road Traffic Collision, a house fire, animal rescue, water rescue or gorse fire. The one thing that is typical is that it is never boring being a Retained Firefighter.
How does your shift pattern differ from that of a Wholetime Firefighter?
Retained Fire-fighters remain on call for 120 hours a week. At Belleek Station like all other retained stations we have a 120 hour planner; it is within this 120 hour planner that we record for the upcoming week where I make myself available, this leaves a period of 48 hours free time for me to book off. This system ensures that there is always enough emergency cover within the village should there be a call.
What do you enjoy most about working for Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue?
I really enjoy the physical, mental and personal challenges that being a Firefighter brings. I start most of my days with some form of exercise and I work hard at staying as physical fit and strong as possible as this can be a very demanding physical job. I enjoy the variety the job brings as no two calls are the same; each time the alerter goes you have no idea what challenges lies ahead or how you are going to be tested. The training you receive and the opportunities that come your way as a Firefighter are second to none. But I would have to say that being able to help people in probably their biggest hour of need, and to have a positive result is the most enjoyable aspect of being a community Firefighter.