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My office could be a raging river or a factory in flames

March 13 2020

There aren’t many jobs where your workplace could be a raging river or a factory in flames, or you might have to deal with extreme heights, searing heat or ice-cold floodwater.

It’s intense and demanding. You could be dealing with a house fire, a road traffic collision, a chemical spill, almost anything.

Retained On-call Support Officer, Michelle Dudman

There are few jobs that will boost your confidence while pushing you to your limits, increasing your skills and providing a huge sense of achievement.

Retained on-call firefighters are needed at locations across the county by Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Retained On-call Support Officer, Michelle Dudman, is based in the West area of the service and is clearly passionate about her roles. She also serves as a retained on-call firefighter at Tutbury.

“It’s intense and demanding. You could be dealing with a house fire, a road traffic collision, a chemical spill, almost anything.

Although the role - which has the same prevention, protection and response responsibilities of a whole-time firefighter - can be physically rigorous and require mental resilience Michelle says there are great benefits.

“It gives you a tremendous confidence boost and a real sense of achievement, as well as the chance to do something vital in our communities. On a practical level you can learn great skills such as trauma training, LGV driving, amongst others.”

Michelle says there may be a traditional idea of what a firefighter looks like, but this isn’t reflected by her crew and others across the county.

“We have a radiographer, Rolls Royce worker and Nestle employees, a firefighter who is self-employed making rocking horses, as well as a full-time dad and two crew members who are retired from their other careers.”

“It’s a demanding role and not for everyone, but the rewards are great.”

Most retained on-call firefighters have permanent jobs and carry an ‘alerter’ with them. When it sounds there is a rush to get to the station and get to that call. Michelle says it requires an organised mind and understanding partners and families.

“It could come at any time and you have to think where are my keys, where are my boots, while getting to the station as quickly as possible.

“We don’t know what it is when the call comes in and often have to build that picture as we drive there. It could be that someone is trapped inside a house or building that is on fire. We’re absolutely committed to doing our best for them.

“We’ve attended all sorts of jobs from burning heathland and forest to hazardous material spillages, collisions on motorways, flood water rescues, working at height in high rises and releasing trapped animals. We never know what will happen when the call comes.”

Due to the nature of the emergencies retained on-call firefighters must live or work within five minutes of their station.

“You’ll need understanding employers, but many firms and organisations in Staffordshire are and they recognise the vital work we do and the enhancement in skills and confidence it brings for their staff.

It is a rigorous selection process with an online application, interview and further tests, as well as medical and physical checks, before training begins.

“We place demands on our retained on-call firefighters but they love what they do. There is a real feeling of a team working together and helping each other and this is a vital part of the support system when we deal with distressing incidents.”

Retained on-call firefighters are needed at locations across Staffordshire including Brewood, Tutbury, Kinver, Codsall, Barton, Longnor, Biddulph, Rising Brook (Stafford), Gnosall and Eccleshall.

Anyone looking to become an on-call firefighter must by over 18 and live within five minutes of their nearest station. For more information, visit our retained on-call firefighter page.