Frequently asked questions about recruitment and equality and diversity

In this section you can view frequently asked questions (FAQs) about recruitment, selection and equality and diversity in the fire and rescue service.

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Please also view the information about on-call firefighters and wholetime firefighters and learn about the firefighter selection process.

Use our quick links to locate information on this page:

 

Age: Are there any age restrictions for becoming a Firefighter?

The minimum age before you can join Cornwall Fire, Rescue and Community Safety (CFRCS) Service is 18 years old. However, you can apply from age 17 years 6 months, as it takes around 6 months to progress through the selection. 

There is no longer an upper age limit.

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Armed services: Do you give preference to applicants from the armed services?

No. Some firefighters do enter the service from the military, but it’s certainly not a requirement, and no preference is given to armed service applicants.

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Criminal convictions: I have a criminal conviction – does this mean that I couldn’t become a Firefighter?

It depends – we look at each case individually. However, firefighters do need to be people in whom the public can have complete confidence, as the work involves visiting the homes of older and vulnerable people. They also need to be very responsible people with a high level of self-discipline and a sensible attitude to risk, and in most cases a current conviction is evidence that an individual doesn’t have those qualities yet.

We undertake a basic criminal records check on firefighter applicants which will highlight any criminal record that is not considered spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. If this check highlighted something that you have not declared, then it is very likely that we would withdraw any offer of employment.

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Disability: I have a disability – could I be a firefighter?

We adhere to the Equalities Act (2010) and will make reasonable adjustments where possible to recruit people with disabilities into the Service.

Some physical and learning disabilities can be accommodated. Dyslexia is fairly common within the fire service and we do our best to minimise its impact. With conditions like diabetes and epilepsy, it really depends on how well it’s under control – obviously a sudden seizure or hypoglycaemic episode could pose a severe risk to you or your colleagues. In the UK today there is a serving Firefighter who has an artificial leg, and some who use hearing aids. However it’s unlikely that we could employ someone with a serious visual or mobility impairment as a firefighter, for safety reasons.

Our on-call and wholetime firefighters go through a long and rigorous recruitment process. Therefore, if an applicant was worried their disability may prevent them from becoming a Firefighter, we could investigate this upfront at their request. This may include asking them to complete a medical questionnaire, contacting their GP, seeking our Occupational Health Team’s guidance and/or potentially putting them through the Firefighter medical exam first. This would ensure that we do not waste your time. 

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Drugs: I’ve used drugs in the past - is that a problem?

If you no longer take illegal drugs, or abuse alcohol or other substances, you should pass the medical exam. Of course, if your drug use has permanently damaged your health, that might mean you fail another part of the selection process. 

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Eligibility to work in the UK: I am not a UK resident / citizen – could CFRS sponsor me to be a Firefighter under the points-based programme?

The UK Border Agency requires that before sponsoring a Tier 2 (Skilled) migrant worker under the points-based programme, an employer must demonstrate that they have been unable to fill the vacancy from the resident labour market. As we have plenty of Firefighter applicants from within the UK/EU, we could not sponsor an applicant under the Tier 2 scheme. If you qualify under the Tier 1 (Highly Skilled) category, or you have permission to work in the UK due to the type of visa you hold, you don’t need us to sponsor you - you can just apply.

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Eyesight: Do I have to have perfect eyesight to become a Firefighter?

No, you can wear glasses and become a Firefighter – but your uncorrected eyesight does have to meet certain standards, including requirements for colour vision. If you have had laser surgery, you have to wait for at least a year before you can apply.

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Family: Do you give preference to job applicants who already have family working for CFRS?

No, and family members of applicants are strictly excluded from any selection decisions involving the applicant. It is true that a lot of firefighter applicants have family members who are, or were, firefighters, but that’s just a result of them knowing more about the job and how much their relative enjoys it.

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Fitness: Do I have to be super-fit / a bodybuilder to become a firefighter?

Not really. Fitness is important because the job can require a high level of physical exertion – wearing several kilos of protective fire kit and a breathing apparatus cylinder in hot conditions.

Muscle strength is important, both in order to do the job and to protect you from injury, but the required levels are not extreme – women often find that they have to do more work on their upper body strength than men, but the level required is achievable by most people within a few months.

For more information, please view the firefighter selection process.

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Food: If firefighters eat together, does that mean I would have to eat or cook foods that are forbidden or offensive to me?

We can work around most dietary requirements – lots of firefighters have restricted diets. Strict kosher would be impossible to accommodate within cooking rota arrangements, and you would need to bring all your food ready-prepared from home.

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Height: Is there a height requirement for Firefighters?

No, there is no longer a minimum or maxiumum height requirement for firefighters.

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Non-operational/other roles: What other jobs are there at CFRCS Service?

We have about 90 members of staff who support the work of our operational staff. These include people who work in admin, policy, projects, procurement, workshops, planning, IT and technical support, as well as our training department. We also have a Critical Control Centre team who answer 999 calls.  Support jobs for Cornwall Fire, Rescue and Community Safety Service can be found at: www.cornwall.gov.uk/careers

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Positive action: Does CFRCS Service undertake positive action?

Please view our information on Positive Action.

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Role/job - physical contact: As a female firefighter would I have to have physical contact with male colleagues?

This is inevitable as there are some tasks that require firefighters to work in very close contact. For example, a fire hose at full strength can only be controlled if the firefighter holding it is braced by another firefighter standing right behind them, using their body to support them.

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Qualifications: Do I need any school or college qualifications to become a firefighter?

No, we use the national firefighter selection tests which are geared towards what a firefighter needs to do. These tests do include working with numbers and understanding written information.

For more information, please view the firefighter selection process.

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Religion – prayer: I‘m a Muslim – would I be allowed to pray at work?

Yes, but depending on what job you do we might need you to be flexible about when you pray. As a firefighter, you would not be able to pray when involved in operational duties or drills – you would have to delay your prayer time. Likewise if you were a control operator and the switchboard was very busy, or if you were a community fire and road safety advisor attending an event at a school – some jobs just don’t have a regular activity pattern and stopping to pray might not always be practicable or fair to your colleagues. We will try to adjust around your prayer times as far as we can, but we could not promise always to accommodate a rigid schedule.

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Religion - Ramadan: I’m a Muslim – would I be able to keep Ramadan?

This would only be an issue for firefighters. Operational incidents and training drills can be very demanding on the body. Wearing full protective kit is very hot even when there isn’t a fire, and it is very important for your health that you don’t become dehydrated – heat exhaustion is a real possibility and in a fire situation it can kill. It’s unlikely that you could function effectively as a firefighter if you were not willing to drink water during incidents and training drills. During long incidents you might also need to eat in order to keep your blood sugar up – otherwise there is a risk that you could become dizzy and faint. You could request to take all your annual leave over Ramadan, but this might not always be possible as we have to maintain minimum crewing levels, and we also have to be fair in the allocation of leave to other staff.

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Religion - Sabbath working: My religion means I’m not supposed to work on the Sabbath, could I have every Saturday/Sunday off?

Firefighters and control operators are on an 8-day rota, so you would be required to work on every day of the week at some point. Voluntary duty swaps can be arranged but it’s unlikely that someone will want to work an additional Saturday or Sunday on a regular basis, and it would not be fair for us to insist that they do – most people value these as days off to spend with their family. You must therefore be prepared to work on those days if no alternative arrangements can be made.

Most support jobs are weekday attendance only, but some do require attendance at weekends, either to ensure continuity of operational service or because they involve community activities. For those jobs, weekend working is an essential part of the role and it cannot be avoided.

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Role/job: What do firefighters actually do apart from putting out fires?

Firefighters only spend a small percentage of their time putting out fires. Other emergencies that they deal with include rescuing people who are trapped (e.g. in car accidents, floods, lifts, under building debris etc.) and dealing with chemical spills or other environmental hazards. They also sometimes rescue trapped animals.

A lot of a firefighter’s time is spent undertaking training and checking equipment. They also do a lot of safety education work (e.g. visiting schools and community events) and carrying out safety checks in people’s homes. Then there are unfortunately a few really irresponsible people who make hoax calls or set off fire alarms, which wastes a lot of time and money and means that firefighters aren’t available to respond to real emergencies.

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Role/job - additional jobs: Is it true that most firefighters have two jobs?

A lot do, yes, but this question really needs two answers. The shift pattern means that wholetime firefighters (and control operators), who previously learned another trade have the opportunity to work on some of their days off, providing they don’t exceed working time regulations and other health and safety legislation.

However, as most of our stations are manned solely by on-call firefighters, most of our firefighters work the on-call duty system. This means they only get called in when there is an incident. They will have a full time job, in close proximity to the station, and many work in a range of building trade jobs (plumbers, builders, plasterers etc), or as gardeners, car mechanics, fitness instructors, taxi drivers.

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What career opportunities are there for firefighters?

At the moment we don’t have a ‘graduate entry scheme’ or direct entry to officer posts in CFRCS Service, so most of our officers started as a firefighter. Once you are deemed competent as a firefighter, which usually takes 2-3 years, you can apply for a Crew Manager post, then after that Watch Manager and work your way all the way up the ranks. You could be the manager of a fire station within about 12 years, especially if you are prepared to move around the county a bit. There are also opportunities to move into specialist areas such as fire investigation and technical fire safety. However many firefighters choose to stay as firefighters because they prefer that role – and that’s fine.

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Role/job: How dangerous is being a Firefighter?

Probably not as dangerous as you think – certainly the death and injury rate is nothing remotely like it was portrayed in London’s Burning! High levels of training and risk assessment mean that risks are made as low as possible – firefighters are not expected to try to rescue people regardless of the risks to themselves.

Sadly firefighters do occasionally die while on duty, and when they do it makes the news headlines, so everybody hears about it. In fact there are other jobs that are more dangerous, but deaths in those industries don’t make the news, so public perception of the risk is skewed. Statistically you are about as likely to be killed working as a firefighter as you are if you work in the construction industry, and about half as likely as you are if you work in some jobs in the agriculture, fishery and forestry sector.

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Sex / gender: Are there facilities for female firefighters in fire stations?

There are separate shower and toilet facilities at most fire stations in Cornwall. Fire kit is worn on top of trousers and t-shirt, so changing in or out of this is usually done in an open changing area. Male firefighters tend also to use this area to change into PE kit, so you may encounter men in their underwear. Some female firefighters are happy to do the same; others change into PE kit in the shower room.

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Team working - jokes: Is it true that firefighters play practical jokes on each other?

Probably not as much as they used to do, but it still happens. Firefighters have to deal with some horrible situations sometimes, and pranks can be a way of letting off steam. They are almost always intended in a spirit of camaraderie, not malice. A humiliating ‘initiation ceremony’ would be treated as a disciplinary offence, even if you didn’t complain about it.

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Team working – nicknames: Is it true that firefighters have nicknames?

Many firefighters do have nicknames. They might relate to their real name, or something they’ve done, or a famous person that they resemble – the possibilities are limited only by firefighters’ imaginations, which are pretty far reaching. Some are so obscure that everybody has forgotten their origin. If you were unhappy about a nickname then you would only have to say so.

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Uniform and dress: Would I have to wear a uniform if I work for CFRCS Service?

That depends on what job you do. All firefighters and Control Operators wear uniforms. Some support staff wear a uniform most of the time because the nature of their jobs means that they need to be clearly identified as a CFRCS Service employee – these include community fire and road safety advisors and workers in the training team.

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Adjustments: The uniform is not suitable for me – could adjustments be made?

Yes. All firefighters are measured to ensure that we order a uniform that is the correct size for you. However, firefighters need to be able to put their fireproof leggings and tunic over their uniform so there are limits on how far it could be adjusted. Different fabrics can be obtained if the standard fabrics cause a skin reaction.

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Dreadlocks: Could I keep my dreadlocks?

Yes, provided that, if you are in a uniformed role or you deal with members of the public, they are kept neat and tidy, and if you are a firefighter they don’t interfere with wearing fire kit – these are the same rules that apply to all employees’ hair.

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Facial hair: Could I keep my beard?

For control or support staff, there are no problems in having a beard. However firefighters must keep most of their face free of hair or stubble because it affects the seal of their breathing apparatus. Breathing apparatus is not just there to supply oxygen, it’s there to keep out smoke because smoke from many fires is extremely toxic (many fire victims actually die from cyanide or other poisoning). We cannot allow anything that makes breathing apparatus less effective, so firefighters can only have a moustache or a small goatee beard that doesn’t interfere with the seal.

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Could I wear a hijab?

For control or support staff, there are no problems in wearing a hijab. For a firefighter there would be some safety concerns about a hijab and it might get in the way of breathing apparatus, but that really depends on the style of the hijab – a style that fits closely around the head could work. We’d have to look at things on an individual basis.

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Could I wear a turban?

For control or support staff, there are no problems in wearing a turban. A firefighter would have to remove a turban in order to put on their fire kit.

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Where can I find out more?

Please explore the rest of our Service careers webpages as they contain loads of useful information about becoming an on-call firefighter or a wholetime firefighter and the firefighter selection process.

Another useful and informative website is www.fireservice.co.uk which is run by some fire and rescue service staff. However, our recruitment process is not exactly the same as this and it is an unofficial site so we cannot guarantee it is 100% accurate.

If you still can’t find the answer, talk to our Resourcing Team on 01872 323800 or email careers@cornwall.gov.uk

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