As individual employers, fire and rescue services may have different rules on who is eligible to become firefighters.
This guide aims to dispel some of the common myths surrounding the role of a firefighter by answering some of the questions fire and rescue services have been asked by potential applicants.
What does a firefighter do?
It is not all about putting out fires. Many fire and rescue services focus on prevention, which means firefighters helping to educate the community about the importance of fire safety. Working with local communities and local businesses is a large part of a firefighter's work. Firefighters also deal with many other types of emergency: road, rail and air crashes, floods, chemical spills or rescuing people and animals trapped in other circumstances. They also spend a lot of time training and doing routine activities, such as checking equipment.
Is it really a job for a women?
Of course it is! Fire & rescue services are equal opportunity employers and are determined to ensure that their workforce reflect the diverse society which they serve. They actively encourage applications from all members of the community, regardless of gender, marital/parental status, sexual orientation, religion, ethnic origin, disability or age.
If a woman is successful in the recruitment process, she will be a firefighter in the same way in which a successful male applicant will be a firefighter.
Should I be worried about having to share facilities with firefighters of the opposite sex?
Not at all – fire stations have separate facilities for female and male firefighters.
What are the career prospects in the fire service?
As your career progresses, there will be opportunities for development and promotion. This could include moving into a community safety role, a specialist area such as Fire Protection or promotion into a management role.
Are fire and rescue services family friendly? Can I choose my shifts?
Firefighters generally work shifts. The most common shift pattern is two day shifts, followed by two night shifts followed by four days off (known as 2-2-4).
Firefighters work in teams and therefore must be able to work the same shift pattern which their team mates do.
You can also become a firefighter alongside your current commitments, whether they be a full or part time job, stay at home mother, student or between job. Many employers support their communities by allowing their employees to be released to respond to incidents as an on-call firefighter when they are required to. You will carry a pager during your on-call hours and when you are alerted to an incident, you will drop whatever you are doing and join your fellow crew members at the fire station within 5 minutes. You will be paid an annual retainer, and when called out, you will receive the same hourly rate as full time firefighters.
You can find out more about the different shift systems and other ways to get involved in protecting your community on our awareness page here.
What are the minimum qualifications needed to be a firefighter?
As individual employers, fire and rescue services can set minimum educational requirements. However, not all services do. As part of the recruitment process, applicants may be required to complete, and pass, timed verbal reasoning, mechanical reasoning and numerical reasoning tests.
Am I fit enough?
Applicants for vacancies in all fire and rescue services are required to pass the physical and medical elements of the application process. Take a look at our fitness guide for advice and guidance on improving your physical fitness and stamina, and for examples of the different elements of the fitness test. You can also visit your local fire station for details of taster days in your area.
Am I too short, or too tall to be a firefighter?
A candidate’s physical size does not have any bearing on their application. This is a popular misconception. Candidates are expected to pass strength and fitness tests as part of the application process. These are at a level that is achievable by men and women of all different sizes and builds.
I have a disability, can I still apply?
The Equality Act 2010 describes a disability as:
‘a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities'
You will be asked if you have a disability as part of the recruitment process and asked to give details of the type of adjustments you may require in order to take part in the selection process and to fulfil the role of a firefighter, should you be successful.
Each case will be considered on an individual basis and if reasonable adjustments can be made to enable you to take part in the selection process and to fulfil the role of a Firefighter then your application will proceed.
I am a person of faith and will wish to pray at different periods during the day and early in the morning
Fire and rescue services will make every effort to provide a private place for you to pray. However, there will be times when you are involved in a rescue or other activity that will mean you may need to defer your prayers until the incident is finished.
Can I be a firefighter if I have a beard?
There are health and safety reasons why facial hair below the top lip cannot be accepted. As a Firefighter you will be required to wear a facemask when you are wearing breathing apparatus. To ensure that the facemask forms a seal around the face, it is necessary to keep the face shaven to prevent any dangerous airborne chemicals entering the facemask. Fire services work closely with the manufacturers of the equipment to look for new ways of overcoming the issues with facial hair, however an acceptable alternative that would meet health and safety requirements, has not yet been found.
Does having tattoos prohibit you from applying?
Any person who has a tattoo which could be construed as offensive to any religion, belief or is in any way discriminatory, violent or intimidating will not be considered as a suitable candidate for employment. This is irrespective of where the tattoo appears on your body.
I am unsure if having points on my driving license prohibits me from applying?
Most services will accept three points on your license for minor offences. Your driving license will be checked with the DVLA with your consent if you are offered a position.
I have a criminal record; will this prevent me from applying?
Generally, if your criminal conviction is spent, this will not preclude you from applying. If your conviction is not spent, the fire and rescue service which you apply to will consider the nature of the conviction and any impact upon employment on a case by case basis. Please check with your local fire and rescue service for their expectations.