How long have you worked for Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service?
I have worked for NIFRS in a Wholetime (full time) capacity for 3 ˝ years, and in a Retained capacity for 10 years.
What roles have you held during your career within Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service?
I was promoted to Crew Commander at Carryduff Fire Station in February 2004, and again promoted to Crew Commander at Newtownards Fire Station in March 2007.
Outline what a typical day is like for you?
Before my shift at Newtownards Fire Station commences at 11am, I check any e-mails, letters and the Station Diary to prioritise that day’s schedule.
The shift begins with parade which entails all Watch members dressed in fire kit (for a visual inspection), a roll call and then personnel are informed of what duties they have been nominated for.
The remainder of the day will include a combination of some of the following duties:-
Community Safety – this includes inspections of premises, Community Fire Safety (Home fire safety checks, leaflet drops etc) and community engagement (visits by/to local community groups)
Training - drills with watch personnel on station, technical presentations, physical training and personal development.
Operations – risk assessments of commercial/public premises, topography, hydrant inspections and off station exercises.
Station Continuity – this covers just about everything else from administration of all the above to personnel levels, leave and attendance management, appliance/equipment checks and updating of Health and Safety Bulletins etc.
All of the above ensures that appliances and personnel are at their optimum level for response to emergency calls.
My shift is completed at 11pm in Ards. Then I am available (via pager) for calls to my home station of Carryduff under the Retained Duty system until I leave for my next shift at Ards.
What skills do you need for your job?
There are a variety of skills required to fulfil a Crew Commander’s job. Two of the most important are:-
Good communication skills – not just with your crew and other internal NIFRS personnel but also with members of the public and other Emergency Services. These are put to the test under pressurised circumstances at incidents.
Technical knowledge/ability – as a Crew Commander it is important to demonstrate an excellent level of knowledge and ability, not only to set a good example but also so that your crew can trust your judgement at incidents to ensure a positive outcome.
You work on a Variable Crewed system, what does this entail?
Variable Crewing was introduced into NIFRS in 2007 following an examination of emergency response standards across Northern Ireland. It was determined that in total 7 Fire Stations required additional full-time cover between 11am-11pm each day and would work alongside Retained colleagues in providing emergency response in the area. Each Variable Crewed Station has two watches (Alpha and Bravo) and each watch consists of 5 Wholetime personnel. The shift pattern operates on a two-week cycle.
Week one will consist of five shifts for Alpha and two for Bravo, week two is five shifts for Bravo and two for Alpha. This cycle is continuously repeated. The wholetime watch will begin at 1100 hrs and finish at 2300 hrs and will operate one appliance with the other appliance manned by a retained crew. Between the hours of 2300hrs and 1100hrs, both appliances are manned by retained personnel.