Becoming a firefighter

Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service is committed to working towards making Norfolk a safer place to live and work.

To do this, we depend upon our dedicated team of 300 wholetime and 530 retained firefighters.

Fighting fires and rescuing people are only part of the role of the firefighter in the modern Fire and Rescue Service. An equally important part of our work is preventing fires and accidents from happening in the first place.

In the 21st century we face a range of challenges such as floods and storms, transport accidents, unforeseen events like oil spills and the growing threat of terrorism.

Protecting society against all of these dangers requires people with special skills and abilities and the selection process to become a firefighter is rigorous. You will be required to participate in a range of assessment activities including physical tests, written tests, an interview and medical and fitness assessments.

What you can expect during the selection process

Core values

We value service to the community by:

  • Working with all groups to reduce risk
  • Treating everyone fairly and with respect
  • Being answerable to those we serve
  • Striving for excellence in all we do

We value all our employees by practicing and promoting:

  • Fairness and respect
  • Recognition of merit
  • Honesty, integrity and mutual trust
  • Personal development
  • Cooperative and inclusive working
  • Diversity

We value diversity in the service and the community by:

  • Treating everyone fairly and with respect
  • Providing varying solutions for different needs and expectations
  • Promoting equal opportunities in employment and progression within the service
  • Challenging prejudice and discrimination
  • Improvement

We value improvement at all levels of the service by:

  • Accepting responsibility for our performance
  • Being open minded
  • Considering criticism thoughtfully
  • Learning from our experience
  • Consulting others

Key Objectives

The objectives of a modern fire and rescue service are to:

  • Help build a safer society by working in partnership with others
  • Reduce death, injury and damage to property
  • Protect the environment from fire
  • Assist with other emergencies

Work Patterns

When applying to become a firefighter, there are various duty systems available:-

Wholetime Days and Nights – This shift system is based on an average working week of 42 hours worked on a rota basis consisting of two day shifts, followed by two night shifts, followed by four days off.  This system is worked in our wholetime stations at Norwich City, Sprowston, North Earlham, Great Yarmouth and Kings Lynn.

Wholetime Days - This shift system is based on an average of 42 hours a week, with nine days worked in each fortnight, Monday to Friday.  The rota is drawn up on an ‘advancing day’ basis. This system is worked on our wholetime station at Thetford.

Retained Duty System - Retained firefighters are ‘on call’ and are required to respond to emergency calls during their periods of availability.  Retained firefighters are also required to participate in weekly drill nights.  You are required to be close to your station during periods of availability so you can respond quickly.  This duty system is worked on 41 stations across the County.

Personal Qualities

If you are thinking of becoming a firefighter, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service is looking for people with special skills and abilities. Firefighters come from all walks of life – school or college, graduates or from those with looking for a change in job or a second career.

Much of the job involves working with the public so you will need to be a good communicator in order to:

  • Give fire safety advice
  • Deal with people in emergency situations
  • Organise a team

You will need to:

  • Listen to people to understand them
  • Know how to make yourself understood
  • Be firm with people at the scene of an emergency
  • Have a good level of fitness
  • Be calm under pressure
  • Enjoy working as part of a team
  • Be resourceful
  • Follow instructions carefully
  • Offer your own input where appropriate

The Fire and Rescue Service recognises in the selection process that candidates need to have particular personal qualities and attributes. 

  • Commitment to diversity - you should understand and respect diversity and adopt a fair and ethical approach to everyone
  • Openness to change - you should be open to change and actively seek to support it.Confidence and Resilience - you should be confident and resilient even in highly challenging situations
  • Working with others - you should be able to work easily with others both within the Fire and Rescue Service and in the community
  • Effective communication - you will need to be able to communicate effectively both verbally and in writing
  • Commitment to development - you should be committed to personal development for yourself and others
  • Problem solving - you will need to be practical and be able to solve problems in a safe and organised way
  • Situational awareness - safety is paramount. You will need to be able to maintain an active awareness of the environment to promote safe and effective working.
  • Commitment to excellence - you should have a conscientious and proactive approach to work to achieve and maintain excellent standards

Next steps

If you are interested in joining us as a Retained firefighter, there are more details and up-to-date vacancies on this page.

If you are interested in joining us as a wholetime firefighter, you should be aware that we are not currently planning to recruit any trainees.  When we are in a position to run a recruitment campaign, we will advertise here, in the local press and on Facebook and Twitter.

If you would like further information about the role of a firefighter and the selection process, then watch the 'So you want to be a firefighter?' video.  This video will help you think through the demands of the role and whether it is suitable for you.

The firefighter selection process

The firefighter selection process is the same for all applicants regardless of whether you want to be a retained or wholetime firefighter.  Applicants are required to pass all stages of the process to be considered for a place on the recruits course.  There are five stages as described below.

When you apply to join us as a firefighter, you will be asked to complete an application form.

The application form is in two parts.  In the first part we ask you for your personal details; in the second part we ask you to tell us about your skills and experience in relation to the personal qualities and attributes described in the section above.  Applicants for the retained duty system won’t be asked to complete part two until after the written and physical tests.

In part two of the form, you will be asked to describe specific situations where you have demonstrated the particular behaviour or personal quality which is being assessed.  You will need to write a short paragraph for each, describing what you did, why you did it and what happened as a result.  Full details and further guidance is set out in the form.

If you are shortlisted for the next stage of the process, you will be invited to take a range of written and physical tests.

There are four written tests which are designed to assess your ability and aptitude for becoming a firefighter.

Working with numbers

This test assesses your ability to understand and work with numerical information of the type you are likely to experience as a firefighter.  For example, you have to be able to complete basic numerical calculations to work out how much hose is needed at a fire and understand simple graphs, tables, dials and gauges.

The test consists of a number of scenarios that present numerical information in a variety of formats.  Each scenario is followed by a number of multiple choice questions and you must use the information given in the scenario to answer the questions that follow.

Situational awareness and problem solving

This test is designed to look at your ability to ensure the safety of yourself and others and your ability to use information to solve problems. The test consists of a number of scenarios. For each scenario you are asked to choose which answer from four alternatives best describes what you would do in this situation.

Understanding information

This test assesses your ability to read and understand written information of the type you are likely to experience as a firefighter, for example fire safety information, training course materials, service orders and instructions etc. The test consists of a number of scenarios that present information in a variety of formats such as memos, newsletters and training manual excerpts followed by a set of multiple choice questions.  You must use the information given in the scenario to select the correct answer.

National firefighter questionnaire

This questionnaire is designed to provide information about your personal style and behaviour.  Your responses to the questionnaire will be considered alongside other information from the selection process to help us decide if you are suited to becoming a firefighter.  The questionnaire consists of a number of statements together with a rating scale.  You are asked to decide how strongly you agree or disagree with each statement.

You will be required to undertake a range of physical tests to assess your fitness, strength and confidence in relation to the firefighter role. The tests simulate some of the situations you may face as a Firefighter - click on the links below to watch a video demonstration of each test.

During the physical tests you will be wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE).

During the enclosed space test, you will also be wearing a breathing apparatus (BA) facemask, which will be obscured, and a BA cylinder.

You should have a good general level of fitness before you undertake the physical tests.  For guidance on fitness levels and the firefit 12 week programme to prepare you for the tests, please read Guidance on Physical Training Preparation for the national Firefighter Selection Tests.

If you are successful in the written and physical tests, you will be invited to attend an interview.  The main purpose of the interview is to assess your general aptitude for the job and to gather examples of when and how you have used skills that are important for potential firefighters.  There are five areas that will be assessed:-

  • Working with others – this is about working effectively with a variety of people whether they are in your team or in the community
  • Commitment to excellence – this is about adopting a conscientious and proactive approach to work and achieving and maintaining excellent standards
  • Commitment to development – this is about being committed to develop yourself and others
  • Commitment to diversity and integrity – this is about understanding and respecting other people’s difference and treating people fairly and ethically
  • Communicating effectively – this is about how effectively you verbally deliver information, make yourself understood and how you understand information

If you are invited for interview, you will be given guidance on how to prepare and examples of the sort of questions that you might be asked.

The final stage of the selection process is the medical and fitness assessment.  Candidates are required to attend an appointment with our occupational health advisers who will test your hearing, eyesight, BMI, blood pressure, lung function, urine and immunisation status and undertake a full clinical assessment.  You will also undertake a fitness assessment with our physical fitness adviser who will check your aerobic capacity, grip strength and leg and back strength.