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How to become a firefighter in the UK

Becoming a firefighter in the UK is a lengthy and challenging process and it can take months from making the initial application to fire fighting training. Firefighters are an essential part of the local community, saving lives and protecting the public, and it can be an exciting career.

Skills needed

Being a fire fighter is not all about tackling fires. The fireman's job can range from dealing with Road Traffic Collisions, chemical spillages and rescuing people from burning buildings. Becoming a fire fighter in the UK Fire and Rescue Service is not easy, and many firefighters spend a long time preparing themselves beforehand. Problem solving skills and initiative are vital as firefighters have to resolve issues quickly and calmly. Necessary personal attributes, listed by The Fire Service UK, are: Confidence
Resilience
Adaptability
Integrity
Commitment to diversity. An ability to communicate effectively is also required, as dealing with members of the public, who may be distressed and confused, requires a sensitive approach. Find out when your local Fire and Rescue Service is recruiting. You will be sent an application questionnaire asking about your suitability and also asking you to complete a declaration of any criminal convictions that you have, and which are unspent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. With the introduction of National Firefighter Tests, candidates are required to provide examples of where they feel they meet the essential requirements of the role, and only those who meet the requirements are invited to the next stage of the selection process.

The next stage

After the selection process, applicants for fire service jobs undertake physical tests which aim to assess levels of fitness, strength and manual dexterity and their level of confidence in simulated exercises. The six National Firefighter Physical Tests include: Ladder Climb Casualty
Evacuation Ladder Lift
Lower Simulation Enclosed Spaces
Equipment Assembly
Equipment Carry Would-be firefighters have to have a minimum standard of eyesight (decided by The Fire Service) and have to have an appropriate level of colour perception. Psychological tests are also an essential part of firefighter recruitment. These assess an applicant’s ability to: Process information
Problem solve and work with numbers. There is also a questionnaire to assess their personal qualities and attributes. Towards the end of the selection process, applicants attend a medical, where they are examined by a Fire and Rescue Service doctor. They also have to complete a questionnaire covering their medical history and undergo hearing, lung function, chest x-ray and physical stamina tests. Firefighters undertake a continuous training programme to maintain their skill levels. Once trained, firefighters are expected to ensure their fitness levels are maintained and to develop their own skills.

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