• Question: What was the biggest event you had in your fire service job and did any of it come into what you do now?

    Asked by jessamy to Laura, Nicola, Norman, Sandra, Thanasis on 17 Mar 2013.
    • Photo: Sandra Phinbow

      Sandra Phinbow answered on 17 Mar 2013:

      My work with the fire service was for 2 years and much of it was training and carrying out practise drills.

      I didn’t go to any ginormous blazes like the ones you see on telly, but I did do some cool stuff. I have used the water pumps on the back of the fire engine to provide the water, been in attendance at a large chemical spillage on the beach – in full safety suit! I’ve used the ‘jaws’ cutting equipment and sliced cars in half like a hot knife through butter, amazing bit of kit!

      I could be called upon to any number of emergencies ranging from chemical spillages or to a serious vehicle collision, I had to be skilled and prepared for any eventuality.

      I had to carry out a lot of physical tetst to proove I was up to the job – one of which is called the Ladder Test.

      You wear full safety gear and have to climb up a 13.5m ladder, which is pretty high! It’s a real test of confidence working at heights. Once you are at the top of the ladder you carry out a ‘leg lock’ this is where you hook one leg into the rungs of the ladder. Then you lean right back with your arms outstretched and then to have to describe a shape that is down on the floor. Then you can lean back in and climb back down the ladder. It is scary. But you are very safe because you have locked your leg in, you won’t fall.

      And you have to be able to drag a 55kg casualty backwards around a 30m course, to mimic draggin a person to safety from a fire.

      And you have tests of confidence, agility and to check for claustrophobia – you have to wear full heavy kit again and full breathing apparatus and face mask and work in very small confined spaces. You have to crawl through a course, some of it you will have clear vision and at least half of it is obscured in darkness and smoke, and you have to carry out specific tasks along the way. This is timed aswell.

      I had to be able to do exactly the same as the men, be as strong, carry as much etc. There are quite a few physical test you have to pass, and always be practising these too.

      And although this is all very different to my work now, I still have my firefighting knowledge, lots has changed but the basics are the same. And the skills I learnt then are skills I use now – problem solving, ability to think quickly, team working, being aware of the situation – judging space and distance.

      I only left because in those days (early 90’s) there was a minimum height requirement and I never got to that height requirement, so I wasn’t allowed to stay in 🙁 But the station crew kept all of my uniform in a box for 6 years in the hope I would be able to come back. I loved it and it was the best I have ever been involved with.