And so it begins, it all starts with an interview with your watch manager, if that goes well and he feels you can commit the time required to be an effective addition to the station, with regards to availability, then you move to having a fire fighter fitness assessment , this entails carrying 70mm hose, up and down the drill yard as well as hard suction hose, the hard suction strainer (all items of equipment used when drawing water from an open water source) and there Is also lots of running up and down the yard, there is dragging a dummy around, and all in all, a very physical fitness test, as you would expect as you are trying out for without doubt the best emergency service on the planet. Anyways, if you manage to make it through the assessment, the next phase is your one day assessment session at the Bowthorpe training centre, this involves climbing ladders, a taster of BA to see how you respond in tight spaces when in high temperatures and very hot in full PPE, and pushed under some pressure through what is known as the Rat run, this is a maze of approximately 1m cubed cages which narrow down in different ways and require a calm and composed approach to make it through in your full PPE and BA set, make this and you have broken the back of it.
Then you are booked in for a medical which is vision, fitness, health and hearing, this is where the first time I applied I failed, I was absolutely devastated as I had a small hearing issue, buy hey rules are rules, I have to say I straight away went back to HR and asked if there was any options to help me get through the hearing test, we had a chat and I then went to a high street hearing aid supplier and they advised me extremely well and I bought some very small in ear hearing aids, I had to wait almost a year before I was able to re-apply as once I didn’t make it, the position was filled by the next in line, after just over a year another position became available, and so unfortunately if it goes over a year you have to go through the whole process again!! Ahh well its good character building! So this time I suggested doing the hearing test first just so that I didn’t get all the way through it all and then fail at the last hurdle??, this time I passed the hearing and then went through the whole process again, it helps the second time round as you know what is coming.
After getting through all of that process, you then have the initial two week course, this is what it’s all about, being a fire fighter, this is where the action starts, I feel that the training you are put through is nothing short of amazing, the new skills you learn and the professional and disciplined way the training staff teach you to deal with all situations when taking on new and at times dangerous challenges, you are able due to the top training tackle it all with total confidence, this is being a Norfolk Fire and Rescue Fire Fighter, you are now part of a very big, very skilful very courageous family, and no matter what station you belong to, no matter if you are retained or whole time, everyone looks out for everyone and we all have each other’s back despite a little inter station banter.
I am now two years in and fully competent, I have since passed my Trauma care course, BA course and am not far off starting to drive, I have a top crew at Long Stratton and am looking forward to at least another 10 years in the brigade, I shall keep you all up to speed on my career over the next few months as seen through the eyes of a slightly more mature Fire fighter.