Emergency Services control room job

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Marie Wilson is a trainee fire control operator for a Fire and Rescue Service. Every day she receives 999 calls requesting fire crew attendance. She works in a very industrial area, so fire crews and their control room colleagues are acutely aware of the special dangers they might face from fumes and gases.

How do you deal with 999 calls?

Initially, I obtain the relevant information from the caller, such as the exact address and what is on fire. Then, I have to decide which fire appliances to send. In addition, I may have to inform fire officers, other emergency services, hospitals and utility services. Sometimes, the call is from other firefighters asking for extra resources to the incident – perhaps more staff or equipment.

What equipment do you use?

Mostly, I use the communications equipment which sends instructions to the mobile data terminals in the fire appliances. I also use the telephone and radio systems. As a trainee, I am continually learning about the equipment we use in the control room.

Have you always worked for the Fire and Rescue Service?

Yes. When I left college at 18, I had the opportunity to become a trainee clerk at the training centre. I've progressed through the service, working in training, personnel and now onto fire control.

Do you have a typical day?

Yes and no. I have certain administrative duties to complete during any shift, but I never know what the next 999 call might bring. Recently, for example, some of my colleagues had to deal with a fire at a building that stored chemicals. There were multiple explosions and we didn't immediately know what the chemicals were. When something like this happens we have to work to very carefully prepared procedures so that the right resources are efficiently co-ordinated.

Do you work shifts?

Shifts run over a five-day period, called a tour. I work 48 hours a tour. This works out as two nine-hour days (from 8am to 5pm), followed by two 15 hours night shifts (from 5pm to 8am).

What kind of training have you had?

I had to undergo a three week induction course, involving weekly written examinations, before I was allowed to go onto the watch. I'm still in my probationary period (which lasts two years) and I'm still training, with exams every three months! The exams cover subjects like knowledge of the different appliances and all the policies and procedures I might need to know.

What do you like best about your job in the control room?

I love the variety. I never know what's going to happen and I like learning new things. There's also a lot of responsibility attached to this job and it's really satisfying when I put my training to good use.

What are your work plans?

As long as I pass my qualifying examination, I would like to aim for promotion to leading control operator.

Marie's route to working in a Emergency Services control room

  • GCSEs.
  • NVQ Level 2 and 3 in Business Administration.
  • Health and Safety training.
  • First aid qualifications.
  • NVQ in Fire Control Operations.
  • Vocational training in control operations.

Marie's tips

  • Concentrate on your education – do courses that you enjoy and are most likely to succeed in.
  • Visit your local fire station so that you can have a better understanding of the atmosphere before you decide whether it's the right job for you.

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Salary working in an Emergency Services control room

  • The starting salary for a new recruit is £17,100.
  • Once trained, salaries range from £17,813 to £22,017, reaching £37,137 as a principal fire control officer.

Entry requirements vary slightly from one fire and rescue service to another.

As a guide, Emergency Services applicants will need:

  • One or more GCSEs/S grades or equivalent, especially English. Applicants are tested on their numerical and verbal skills.
  • Computer literacy and keyboard skills, such as RSA 1 typing.
  • Relevant previous experience, such as a job within the uniformed services or work experience in a customer-facing environment.
  • Evidence of being able to work well within a team and to remain calm and decisive under extreme pressure.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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