Meet Michelle Lowe, an on-call firefighter in Norfolk – when she’s not busy running a stable yard, that is. And she is part of a national campaign for more firefighters to help fill vacancies across the county
For Michelle Lowe, a career in the fire service was always on the cards. Her grandfather was a watch manager at Stalham and her dad is still a serving crew manager, so she grew up with a curiosity and interest that was only ever going to be satisfied by being a part of it. Michelle’s other love is horses and she successfully runs her own yard, teaching riding, offering equestrian rehabilitation services and competing in events. Michelle joined the service in 2007 and has enjoyed being able to run her two dream jobs alongside each other.
She says: ‘To me, it was always about joining Stalham, being part of the team and helping the community. There are lots of opportunities to progress within the service once you are a competent firefighter, if you want them.’
Michelle is now Watch Manager at Stalham and also recently took on the role as an instructor at the fire service’s Bowthorpe training school, this includes teaching the newest on-call recruits as part of their initial training, as well as carrying out the animal rescue training to staff.
Now she is part of a national recruitment for more on-call firefighters. Residents of Norfolk looking for a new challenge and a chance to make a real difference are invited to consider a career as an on-call firefighter to help fill vacancies across the county and protect Norfolk and its people.
With more people now based at home, and the last year underlining how communities can really pull together, now is the perfect time to consider if it’s for you.
Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service is supporting the National Fire Chiefs Council’s national on-call recruitment week. The campaign, #WeNeedMore, will run from March 1-7 to raise awareness and to encourage people from all backgrounds to consider a rewarding career in the fire service.
Working as an on-call firefighter means being involved in a wide range of activities in your local area, from responding to emergency calls to carrying out work in local communities and supporting their needs – or providing fire prevention advice to help to keep people safe.
On-call firefighters must live or work within five minutes of an on-call station and respond to 999 calls via an alerter system. They also attend weekly training nights.
Our goal is to galvanise the community spirit of people, from all walks of life, and show them that they have the potential to fill this role
Margaret DewsburyCabinet Holder for Communities and Partnerships at Norfolk County Council
Margaret Dewsbury, Cabinet Holder for Communities and Partnerships at Norfolk County Council, says: ‘We want people to understand the role of an on-call firefighter and, if they like the idea of being part of one of the teams, encourage them to come and find out more.
‘When we talk to our on-call firefighters, here in Norfolk, they tell us that they enjoy having an exciting and challenging role that fits around their life and main career. They also enjoy the sense of belonging to their community, which so many people have demonstrated over the past year.
‘So, our goal is to galvanise the community spirit of people, from all walks of life, and show them that they have the potential to fill this role.’
We’re not looking for a particular type of person as every member of our team brings something different and valuable
Stuart RuffChief Fire Officer
Chief Fire Officer Stuart Ruff adds: ‘We’re not looking for a particular type of person as every member of our team brings something different and valuable. If you are interested, please contact us – let us help you to see what you might be able to achieve.
‘In Norfolk, there is a particular need for daytime cover at some of our rural stations and with more people now working from home in their primary career, they could be the perfect candidates.
‘We are really grateful to employers across Norfolk who release staff to be able to commit to supporting their communities. Employing on-call firefighters brings great benefits to our service, to local communities and to those businesses as their staff learn a range of transferable skills.’
Norfolk Fire & Rescue Service has produced some new brochures highlighting what’s involved so people can find out more about the application process, training and career progression available. There is also a brochure for potential employers of on-call staff so they can find out about the commitment involved.
There are also details available about the average number of callouts and incidents at each of Norfolk’s 39 on-call stations, so people can see the level of commitment involved where they are.
Michelle again: ‘If you’re thinking of joining the service then I’d say go for it. Give it a go, what have you got to lose?’
Peter is an on-call firefighter at Downham Market. He works as an electrician for a local employer and says: ‘Responding to people in their time of need is really rewarding and it’s great to feel part of a team that is constantly adapting and learning as demands on the service change. Now we are able to use mobile phones to give our availability, it’s easy for me to tell the service when I am available for duty and when I’m not. This means that I can be really flexible depending on what is happening with my working day, and my colleagues and employer are supportive if I need to go. Equally, I am flexible too and if I have been out on a fire call, I’ll stay a bit later to get my work finished.’ Peter cites learning first aid skills and people management as two key areas from his fire service work that has been useful in his everyday life. ‘If anyone is interested in joining, I’d say definitely have a chat locally and find out a bit more and then apply.’
Following the #weneednmore on-call campaign week, the service will be hosting a Q&A session for people to find out more. This will be held online on Thursday March 18 at 7pm. To register interest in attending, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. There is also the facility on the website for potential applicants to request a call back with a member of staff, so they can discuss any details before they apply. Norfolk Fire & Rescue Service can offer flexible work to fit around study, work and family commitments, provide first class training and development opportunities and a chance to make a real difference in your local community. There are currently vacancies at: Attleborough, Dereham, Diss, Downham Market, East Harling, Great Yarmouth, Heacham, Hingham, Holt, Hunstanton, King’s Lynn, Loddon, Massingham, Outwell, Reepham, Sandringham, Swaffham, Watton, Wells, West Walton and Wroxham. For more information about on-call recruitment go to www.norfolk.gov.uk/oncallfirefighter