Firefighter frequently asked questions

We have put together some of the most frequently asked questions regarding joining our service. These have been broken down into the following four sections:

Entry requirements

What is the role of a firefighter?

The emphasis for Firefighters is on prevention, which means helping to educate the community about the importance of fire safety. Firefighters also deal with many other types of emergency; road, rail or air crashes, floods, chemical spills or rescuing people trapped in lifts or other confined spaces. They also spend a lot of time training and doing routine things, like checking and testing equipment. In fact, most Firefighters probably only spend a fraction of their time dealing with fires.

Is there a minimum age limit to join the fire service?

You will need to be a minimum age of 18 to join our service.

Is there a maximum age limit to join the fire service?

We do not have an upper age limit.

I have a disability, would I still be able to join SFRS?

As an inclusive employer we welcome applications from a diverse range of candidates. We welcome applications from applicants with mental or physical disabilities and will endeavour to implement reasonable adjustments where possible throughout the recruitment process, and once in post.

Do I need to have a driving license?

You will require a category B manual driving license that enables you to drive in the UK.

Can I drive a fire engine on my current category B driving license?

A fire engine is classified as a Large Goods Vehicle and will therefore require a Category C driving license. It is strongly encouraged that potential employees apply for a provisional category C license, which will allow them to undertake specialised training course (which will be arranged by our training team) successful completion of this is essential before the candidate is able to drive one of the fire engines.

Please note that obtaining a LGV licence may mean incur a cost which the potential candidate may be expected to meet prior to starting.

Do I need to live within a certain radius of a station to apply to join Surrey Fire and Rescue Service as a Firefighter?

Please check the advert for details to whether there are post code restrictions.

Please note that postcode restrictions apply for those who wish to apply as an On-Call Firefighter. Please see the following webpage: if you are interested in becoming an On-Call Firefighter for further information on the requirements.

I would like to change my career and become a firefighter. Is that possible?

We welcome applications from a diverse range of candidates, irrespective of previous work experience. There are a number of transferable skills that can be applied to the role of a firefighter as well as other roles within Surrey Fire and Rescue.

What qualifications do I need to become a firefighter?

As detailed in the job description, we ask that you have five GCSE's grade A* to C including Maths/English or equivalent level 2 qualification . For any candidates who do not possess GCSE Maths and English (grade C and above or equivalent level 2) or those wishing to re-take the qualification, courses for both subjects are provided by Surrey Adult Learning. Additional support can be provided by the Training and Development team for support with the apprenticeship.

I have a criminal record. Can I still apply and join as a firefighter?

In accordance with the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, if you have a conviction or spent convictions and the nature of the offence is relevant to the job that you have applied for, we will seek to review the individual circumstances of the case and may decide to withdraw you from the process. You must disclose all previous convictions whether they are spent or unspent.

Recruitment process

What does the recruitment process consist of?

During the application process, you will be asked to complete a behaviour-based assessment assessment, which are provided by Arctic Shores.

If you want to know more about Arctic Shores on line assessment visit the Candidate Knowledge Base website

Providing you complete these and achieve the relevant thresholds you will be invited to the next stage, as appropriate. The next stages consist of a group discussion (interview) . If you are successful at this stage, you will undergo a physical and fitness assessment, this includes the bleep test where you expected to achieve level 8.8.

Successful candidates will be advised by the Recruitment Hub if they have been placed in the pool awaiting an opportunity to join the service. Please note, being placed in the pool, does not guarantee an invitation or a place on a Wholetime Trainee Course.

At the appointment point, (at the point of offer) a medical appointment with a member of Occupational Health will be the final stage before offer.

Are behaviour-based assessments (BBA) inclusive?

Arctic Shores behaviour-based assessment is an inclusive, fair and objective method of assessing an individual and should not be seen as a barrier to employment. Under the Equality Act (2010), candidate's with disabilities have the right to request reasonable adjustments to all aspects of the workplace, including the selection process. The behaviour-based assessment enables the scoring to be adapted based on the specific neurological conditions of the candidate. Adjustments can be made as appropriate so that they provide a fairer reflection of a candidate's attributes, whilst ensuring employers are recruiting the best person for the job, irrespective of whether they have a disability.

What support is there available for reasonable adjustments?

In the behaviour-based assessment, reasonable adjustments are made to the scoring of certain traits, specifically those associated with the ability to process information. Adjustments are applied as appropriate. It therefore strongly encouraged that the candidate discloses any and all information which may aid the Recruitment Hub in their joinery as a candidate with our service. Disclosing this information at the earliest opportunity (creating an account) is key to allow the team (including Learning and Development) to be able to support you appropriately.

Is the behaviour-based assessments timed?

The behaviour-based assessment is not a timed assessment. Due to the nature of the tasks that Arctic Shores have used, adding time would not decrease the observed differences. For example, in the task Navigation, the core effect of the task is to generate inconsistency between the thinking time and the response. Therefore adding time to this task would eliminate the effect altogether and the results generated would not be helpful in a candidate's individual differences

What are some examples of neurodiverse conditions?

Dyslexia: Dyslexia is a common learning difficulty that can be characterised by difficulties in verbal memory and verbal processing speed. It can cause someone to read or write more slowly with more errors, and to experience difficulties with planning and organisation. Despite this, intelligence is not affected.

Dyspraxia: Also known as developmental coordination disorder, is associated with challenges in coordination, movement, memory, processing and related cognitive skills. Individuals with Dyspraxia find challenges with planning, time management and organisation and may have some hand-eye coordination and speech difficulties.

Around half of any dyspraxic/dyslexic population is likely to also be dyslexic/dyspraxic.

Numerical adjustments are made to specific behavioural metrics during the scoring stage for each of these disabilities. These metrics relate to processes such as memory span, reading comprehension time and processing speeds across many types of problem-solving.

Candidates with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and ADHD/ADD and with other specific learning disabilities

Arctic Shores are aware that Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a condition that affects social behaviour, verbal and nonverbal communication, and processing of information. ASD includes markers previously clustered under Aspergers' Syndrome.

Arctic Shores conduct ongoing research into how people with a range of disabilities and individual differences interact with the assessment.

Arctic Shores continue to research ADHD/ADD, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, Executive Functioning and/or Memory disorders within the context of behaviour-based assessments.

What about candidates with hearing impairments?

Arctic Shores have developed the behaviour-based assessment to cause no disadvantage to those with hearing impairments, thus reasonable adjustments do not need to be provided in this case.

Please note: standards as per the requirement of the service and in line with NFCC standards for both eye sight, hearing and ability will need to be met to satisfy the conditions of employment.

What is the difference between an On-Call Firefighter and a Wholetime Firefighter?

The roles are the same in nature. A Wholetime Firefighter is a primary occupation. An On-Call Firefighter will support our service in a secondary role and have primary employment.

To be an On-Call Firefighter, you will be required to live within the stipulated turn-around time from the station to be able to respond to emergencies. We welcome applications with proposals to support our service whether from home or a work address, whereby you will be expected to provide a certain amount of availability each week.

Is the recruitment process the same for On-Call as it is for Wholetime?

Yes. The recruitment process is the same as detailed above. Candidates will undergo the same level of training over evenings and weekends.

If I become an on-call firefighter will this lead to me becoming a wholetime firefighter?

The two routes are not exclusive and not guaranteed entry to the service. Should an opportunity present itself, there would be a recruitment process you would need to satisfy to transfer into a wholetime role.

Do you recruit for firefighters all year round?

The requirement for recruitment is defined by workforce planning and establishment need. If vacancies are determined, the relevant posts will be advertised on our website accordingly.

Do I need to be a certain height or weight to apply?

There are no height or weight restrictions.

What do the physical and fitness assessments entail?

There are a different range of practical assessments, prospective candidates will be asked to complete. These will assess physical ability, aptitude and manual dexterity in line with requirements of the role. Further information on the physical assessments you will be asked to complete. The fitness assessment will be a bleep test, which you would be expect to achieve level 8-8. (as detailed above)

Would I be able to undertake a step test instead of the bleep test?

The bleep test is an occupational requirement and as such it is not reasonable for a step test to be used as a substitute. In addition, the bleep test is also reliable indicator of the candidates ability to carry out other tasks that involve running such as hydrant and hose drills without impairment, as much as it is about demonstrating a level of aerobic output.

I am worried I won't pass the physical and fitness assessments, is there any support available?

We are keen to encourage prospective candidates attend #surreyfirefit. These provide those interested in joining our service with a better understanding of the fitness and physical requirements they will need to display.

I have tattoos, will I be able to apply?

Tattoos are only acceptable if they not perceived to be of an offensive nature. You may be requested to cover your tattoo in a public setting where there is likelihood that it might cause offence or project an unprofessional image.

Are beards, goatees or moustaches allowed?

Only where they will not impede the wearing of breathing apparatus in any way.

Do you store CVs?

Unfortunately we are unable to accept and store CV's as part of speculative applications. Any roles we are recruiting will be advertised on our jobs web page.

Do men and women wear the same design Firefighter uniform?

All uniforms are made to the same design although necessary considerations are taken in account for the differences between the male and female form. All personal protective equipment, which includes tunics and trousers are tailor made.

What is a recruitment pool?

We use a recruitment pool to identify those who have successfully completed the recruitment process (barring a medical and satisfactory references). If we have more candidates than vacancies, they will be added to our recruitment pool. Once confirmed as being placed in the pool, a validity period is advised and applied.

If successful in the process and placed in the pool, is this an offer of employment?

Being placed in the pool does not guarantee an offer of employment. The offer of employment will made once all stages of the recruitment process have been completed.

Medical

What checks does the medical encompass?

The medical will encompass the following:

  • Blood pressure check
  • Pulse reading
  • Hearing test
  • Lung function test
  • Measurement of your height and weight
  • BMI (Body Mass Index)
  • Percentage body fat
  • Eye-sight test

You may also be requested to have a follow-up appointment with the Occupational health doctor for the LGV medical.

How does the service deal with health conditions such as diabetes?

We do not have a blanket approach for health issues but treat each case as an individual assessment. We do sometimes seek, with the person's consent, additional medical information or evidence to confirm fitness for role.

What medical grounds could I fail on?

Individual applications are considered on a case by case basis in line with the specific requirements of the role. The Equality Act 2010 requires that reasonable adjustments are considered when an applicant identifies that they have a disability. The service's medical adviser will discuss any medical conditions with an applicants prior to making a final decision. Please see the medical-related questions below for further information.

I would like to become a firefighter but I wear glasses or have had laser eye surgery, is that a problem?

During the selection process, as part of the medical, there will be a clinical examination of your eyes. The need for corrective lenses will not stop you getting a job with us as long as the following standards are met:

  • Unaided distance vision of 6/9 is currently thought to be a reasonable level as a minimum for safety critical work. Near vision is currently recommended for those under 25 years old as an unaided minimum measurement of N6.
  • Soft contact lenses (silicon hydrogen lenses) only are permitted and are considered safe for use on the fire ground.
  • If you have had laser eye surgery it is currently recommended that entry to the Service should be postponed for 12 months following surgery for stabilisation.
  • All cases are assessed on an individual basis and advice will be sought from our occupational health advisors.

I think I am colour blind, is this an issue?

You should have an appropriate level of colour perception. Individuals with either normal colour vision or slightly abnormal green colour vision are suitable for appointment to the fire service. The recommended test procedure uses the Ishihara test as the initial screen, with an additional assessment, if you fail the screening, to determine the severity and type of colour vision deficiency.

I struggle sometimes to hear things, will this be an issue?

Firefighters need to have a minimum hearing level to be considered 'fit for role', which would normally be H2. Individuals who are below H2 may require a capability assessment before any decisions can be made on fitness for the role. It is unlikely that individuals with hearing below H3 level (with aids if appropriate) would be safe on the fire ground. The worse ear is used to grade the individual in their placement with the service. A clinical assessment is conducted at the medical stage.

What if I have a neurodiverse condition?

Informing the service at the earliest opportunity is strongly encouraged. The earliest opportunity a potential candidate can do so, which will be in the questions to complete an account on our recruitment portal Tribepad. This will allow the service to be able to support all candidates and as necessary put in place reasonable adjustments to aid them in a successful career with our service.

Neurodiversity is the concept that all humans vary in terms of our neurocognitive ability. Everyone has talents and things they struggle with. However, for some people the variation between those strengths and weaknesses is more pronounced, which can bring talent but can also be disabling.

Neurodiverse/neurodivergent people tend to find some things very easy and other things incredibly hard. This usually leads to an inconsistent performance at school or work.

Neurodiversity can be a competitive advantage when the individuals are in the right environment, making use of their strengths, instead of constantly trying to overcome challenges. To achieve this we must create inclusive spaces to work and learn that reduce disabling factors and amplify diverse abilities. Taken from the Genius within

Our Service is committed to working with the workforce and support in any way that it can. Reasonable adjustments can be made throughout the recruitment journey. Should you start an application, please reach out to the Recruitment hub via sfrs.recruiting@surreycc.gov.uk

A common adjustment may need to be made for those who have dyslexia. As such we are able to put appropriate measures in place to support you through the selection process. At the different stages of the process we will ask you to contact us to confirm what, if any, support you require.

What if I have asthma?

Asthma does not necessarily prevent you from becoming a firefighter. However, firefighters are exposed to smoke and other toxicants as part of their job, which are irritating to the lungs and upper respiratory tract and can exacerbate the symptoms of wheezing in firefighters with asthma. Your condition will be assessed at the medical stage, after which a decision will be made as to your suitability for the role of firefighter.

Do I have to be fit to apply?

You will need to be fit and maintain your levels of fitness throughout your career as a firefighter. As part of the selection process you will need to satisfactorily pass a series of physical assessments as well as a fitness assessment. The fitness assessment will need to determine your cardiovascular fitness, which needs to be 42.3 VO2 Max or above.

Appointment

What will my offer be dependent on?

An offer of employment will be dependent on you completing all stages of the recruitment process highlighted above including passing the medical assessment. This will also be dependent on there being a training course within the validity you remain within the pool for. We will also need to have received satisfactory references to cover the last three years as well as a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

Would I need to complete a training course if I were to join as a trainee?

If joining as a trainee, you will be enrolled onto a training course. The training course can take place at either our training centre at Reigate Fire Station or an alternative external location. Often the training courses are residential (Wholetime Trainee Course specific) In that case, for all residential courses food and accommodation will be provided.

In terms of you development, as a trainee you will also be enrolled onto a Level 3 Apprenticeship course.

What happens once I finish my training course?

Once you have successful completed your training, you will move from being a trainee firefighter to being a developing firefighter. This will be reflected in your pay and rank. You will also be posted to a fire station. Where you are posted will be determined by the service and therefore it is essential that any potential candidate is prepared to serve from any of our locations, which includes the different working patterns.

If successful, would I get a choice over which station I am based at?

Operational need will determine the station you will be based at. It is therefore expected that you will be prepared to serve across the whole county of Surrey.

Are there any career opportunities once I join SFRS?

Career opportunities in our service are shown as Careers Pathways. Career Pathways enable our employees to develop themselves to drive their careers and this is discussed at points throughout the year through performance conversations. Our service consists of operational and non-operational roles, and it is possible to cross over. This is entirely led by individuals and guided by their career aspirations. Our structured pathways approach is designed to help employees in their career development.

What are the working patterns in Surrey Fire and Rescue Service?

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service operate many duty systems. We operate:

  • 224 (Hours of work 9am to 6pm and 6pm to 9am)
  • Adapted 224 (Hours of work 7am to 9am and 9pm to 7am)
  • Day Crewed (Hours of work 7am to 7pm)

Can I undertake a second job whilst working for the Service?

We have a Secondary employment policy which clearly outlines the guidelines associated with secondary employment to ensure your safety. Approval from the Service is essential to ensure there is no conflict of interest.

I am a current Firefighter and wish to join SFRS. Is this possible?

Yes, this is absolutely possible. How you wish to join our service will be your decision and may depend on whether you are developing or competent.

You can apply through an Inter Service Transfer recruitment process (which has previously asked for those who are competent in role) ahead of Wholetime selection.

Where can I find more information?

You can contact the Recruitment Hub via sfrs.recruiting@surreycc.gov.uk should you have any queries. Equally you are also encouraged to visit your local fire station to speak with crew members. *For the safety of yourself and the crew, please ensure you follow any safety measures in place*