On-call firefighters FAQs

Most firefighters don’t fit into the traditional stereotype you might have seen in the movies. This means some people assume they don’t have what we are looking for, but you might just be surprised.

We aren’t looking for super heroes, so no need for a cape and definitely don’t wear your pants over your clothes! Read on and let’s see if we can answer some of the questions you might have.

What’s an on-call firefighter?

Most fire stations are empty until there is a ‘shout’. Firefighters will make their way from their home or work to the stations and respond to the incident. These are called on-call firefighters.

On-call firefighters book themselves as available to respond to an incident. This means that you can combine working for the fire service with your career or personal circumstances.

Of course, you also get paid – as a rough guide fully competent, on average you can expect to earn about £6,000 - £8,000 per annum.

Do I need any qualifications?

No, there are no specific qualifications needed. Part of the recruitment process will assess if you have the levels of numeracy and literacy needed. Fire services will help and support you with this, so don’t discount yourself if school days weren’t your best days!

You will need to live or work near a fire station. We need you to be able to get to your station, safely in about 5 minutes. In some areas you will have more time depending on the service and location. But, no marathon running or driving at breakneck speed to get there!

You need to be 18 but there is no upper age limit and your gender doesn’t matter. The only other thing is we would ask is if you have been nurturing a hipster beard it will have to go. It’s not that we don’t like facial hair but you need to be clean shaven around the jawline area for the breathing apparatus to make an effective seal.

You will need a reasonable level of fitness, having a healthy, active lifestyle is usually enough. You will get support in learning about fitness and preparing for the fitness levels needed for the role. Take a look at this firefighter fitness guide for more information.

How many hours can I work?

It’s quite flexible – usually you have to be available to respond for about 40 hours a week. This doesn't mean you are working for 40 hours - you are available if we need you. This varies between fire services though. If you have lots of availability you can make yourself available for up to 120 hours a week. It depends on your personal circumstances. 

Generally if you get called out you would be gone for a couple of hours. If the incident looks like it's a long one, you would be relieved by another crew after a time. So, if you have childcare or caring responsibilities you would need some support network around you to help, but you won't be off on an all-nighter.

You will have to go along to drill once a week. This is usually between 2 and 3 hours a week, during the evening at your local station. You would train with the team and learn to maintain any equipment.

Do I need permission from work?

You will need permission if you are employed. If you have indicated you are available to respond you would need to leave work and get to the local station within the agreed timescale. If you have a really interesting metting you don't want to dragged away from then you can prearrange not to be on-call for that period.

Don’t be afraid to approach your employer to ask. Many employers already offer flexibility in the workplace, rather than expecting people to be clocking in at 9 and leaving at 5.30.

There are also benefits to the employer in allowing staff to be on-call firefighters. Your fire service will be able to support them in finding out more and what the benefits to their business are. Tell them to take a look at the national website www.oncallfire.uk and get in touch with your local fire service. They will be happy to answer your employer’s questions.

Letter from Minister of State for Policing and the Fire Service