How long have you worked for Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS)?
I joined NIFRS 24 years ago.
What roles have you held during your career within Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service?
I began my career as a FireFighter based at Northland Road Fire Station in Londonderry. On promotion I served a further 5 years at the same Station and subsequently relocated to Crescent Link Fire Station on promotion to Watch Commander in 2000.
What skills do you need for your job?
Leadership and managerial qualities coupled with being a good role model and motivator are essential to fulfil the demands of the post. Watch Commanders must be equipped to direct, co-ordinate and control personnel and resources. I must understand the needs of crews for example in training and welfare. Because I deal directly with the public on a daily basis good communication skills are a required asset. I must at all times keep myself updated with policies from Senior Management and relay these to Watch personnel. Oh, and might I add just like in all aspects of life a wee bit of commonsense goes a long way.
What are the highs of the job for you?
Responding to operational incidents when the Watch successfully saves a life or performs a rescue for example from a burning building or at a road traffic collision. It is at times like this that I feel proud to be a member of a team dedicated to saving lives and protecting people.
What are the low’s of the job for you?
Obviously the lows have to be incidents where there is loss of life. We in the service are all family orientated and are always aware that where there is loss of property, and worse still when a loss of life occurs, other families are left in distress and emotional turmoil. Although counselling is available to personnel at all times, experience would show that camaraderie, which exists in a Watch, is of great benefit to all.
Outline what a typical day is like for you
I work a shift system and when on day duty I will be on Station with my Watch from 9 am to 6 pm.
Although NIFRS has gone through a period of change we are still very traditional in that we have a structured programme for the day ahead.
After role call and uniform check, the personnel check the 4 Fire Appliances on Station and the equipment carried on them, whilst I run through the diary and daily planner. During the course of the day I may oversee training drills or take a lecture. Fire Safety and Community Education take up a lot of my time, as prevention is always better than intervention. We often address children in their school classroom, give talks to Residents’ groups or perform inspections as we are legally required to do. Furthermore it is a required element of my job as a Watch Commander that I update my Watch with any hazards in higher risk properties in our Station area should that be the local hospital, the airport or Industrial premises to name but a few. I am accountable for all the Watch and everything must be recorded which involves substantial paperwork. I try to fit a 45 minute recreation period into an average day as I deem a level of fitness to be an important element. All this said the diaries and planners are secondary to that 999 call when it arrives ….. adrenalin kicks in and I get on with the job I became a Firefighter for.