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A career in the fire service

Advertised vacancies last week attracted over one thousand job seekers to the Jamaica Fire Brigade recruitment centre in Kingston. Fire service communications officer with the brigade, Emeleo Ebanks, surmises that the promise of job security in this government department was the attracting factor.

"Because the brigade is an essential service, persons who lose their jobs fire themselves by their own actions. There is hardly ever a downsizing of the fire service which is over 140 years old."

There are many specialisations possible in the fire service but all applicants will first need to be trained as operational firefighters and work for two years before deployment in other areas.

In the event of an emergency, basic firefighting skills will always be called on from all members.

Firefighters are the Government's first-guard action during national emergencies, including hurricanes and also respond to fires, motor-vehicle accidents, floodings and people trapped in various locations. There are 1,500 members with vacancies for approximately 100 more.

Ebanks notes, "Some people love the idea of contributing to nation building. The pay may not be competitive but the feeling of saving someone's life and causing someone to survive an accident is satisfying. There are others who love jobs which keep them on their feet and provide an adrenaline rush. For them, this is an ideal job."

Units within the brigade include emergency medical services, fire, prevention education, the fire investigating unit and a maintenance department.

Ebanks states "we also deal with building plans, building inspection and certification. There is a building maintenance section as well as a fleet-management section. He notes that specialist roles come with allowances, including travelling and tradesmen's allowances, which add to basic salary.

Firefighting roles involve mastery of land units and fire boats, rescue, evacuation, building-plan review, building-subdivision inspection, fire-drill simulations, fire-hydrant inspection, general administrative duties. Other employment categories include instructors, telephone operators, radio operators, storekeeping, computer operators, accounting and clerical duties, technical trade areas, drivers, mechanics, hose binding and hose repair, masons, plumbers, carpenters, painters, electricians and welders. All are trained firefighters, first of all.

At entry level, the basic firefighting course lasts for 12 weeks with refresher and upgrade courses, drills and simulation exercises as the philosophy of the service is that "practice makes perfect".

Training institutions which are used by the fire brigade include the Vocational Training Development Institute, the Caribbean Maritime Institute, the Management Institute of National Development, the Jamaica Defence Force, the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the University of the West Indies extra mural department.

After two years of basic firefighting, you will qualify for a promotional exam. If successfully promoted, your pay will go up. There are examinations every year open to those who want to be promoted.

After examinations, there is an evaluation and a six-month probation period in every new rank. Through examinations and successful probation, one can move from firefighter to lance corporal, corporal, sergeant and district officer. After this level, ranks are advertised and one is interviewed for the posts of assistant superintendent, deputy superintent, senior deputy superintendent, assistant commissioner and commissioner.

Training overseas is also pursued at the Dade County Fire/Rescue department in Miami, USA, for EMS training and firefighting techniques.

Firefighters also attend advanced courses at the fire service college in the United Kingdom for various development courses for the roles of junior leader, crew command, divisional command, operational command, fire prevention and brigade command courses.

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com


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Fire brigade entry requirements

All prospective candidates for the brigade must be:

Of Jamaican citizenship

Between the ages of 18 to 28 years

Medically fit

The holder of academic certificates with minimum passes in five subjects or equivalent. (English language and mathematics are compulsory).

Last updated: July 03, 2009

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