THE 'BURNING' QUESTIONS WE ALWAYS GET ASKED...
(We get asked these lots, and we TRY TO BE as transparent as possible!)
Q: How quickly can you be on station for a callout?
A: The first firefighter can be on station within 15 seconds.
Q: How fast can you be on route to an emergency?
A: The first appliance is on the road within 3-4 minutes or less. A lot of our firefighters live quite close to the station, which is a major advantage. We are set a target by Fire and Emergency New Zealand for fast response within 5 minutes, so we well and truly beat that target.
Q: How fast can you get changed into your fire gear?
A: We can be changed in 20 seconds or less. After a bit of practice, we learn quick ways of getting the gear on!
Q: When the siren sounds, do the number of up/down tones mean a different emergency, eg: 3 times means car accident, 4 times means fire, 5 times means medical, etc?
A: No, the siren will sound as long as it does until it is shut off by the first responding firefighter. The number of up/down tones doesn't reflect the type of emergency at all. The siren automatically turns off after 1 minute if it isn't manually shut down.
Q: Then, how do you know what the emergency is?
A: We have detailed messages sent to our pagers and cell phones. They look something like this:
Other abbreviations alongside 'STRU':
MED - Medical response, MVA - Motor Vehicle Accident, PFA - Privately Monitored Fire Alarm, AMB - Ambulance assist, NAT - Natural disaster
Q: How many sirens are in Thames?
A: Two. One at the station, the other at the Centennial Pools.
Q: Why do you have a siren?
A: The siren is a reliable source of alert system. There are two answers to this:
- Unfortunately, we can’t always rely on cell phones and pagers, and quite frequently some firefighters don’t get a message at all.
- Volunteer firefighters are generally at home or work when a callout comes, not based on station like Ambulance and Police can be. We don’t hold personal radios, run shifts/watches either. Sometimes a firefighter might also be in an environment where they don’t hear a message come through, but where a siren can be better heard.
Q: Can anyone just drive the trucks?
A: If you have a class 2 licence, yes, but you cannot drive them under lights and sirens until you pass an internal driver's course. You also need to pass a pump operators course too, as it's the driver's job to run the pump at an emergency where we require water.
Q: How many people can go on a truck at once?
A: A maximum of 6. An officer and a qualified driver/pump operator in the front. Four in the back and at least two of those firefighters need breathing apparatus qualifications. We can take a minimum crew of 4, as long as two of them are able to wear breathing apparatus.
Q: What type of incidents do you go to the most?
A: Generally, medicals are up there as our most frequently attended callout, followed by Motor Vehicle Accidents, then fires.
Q: Why do you get called to medicals?
A: Our amazing St John Ambulance crews sometimes need assistance and being as we are first aid trained, we’re the next port of call to help them. We have a Memorandum of Understanding with St John.
Q: Are there rosters?
A: No. We’re all volunteers and if we’re available, we’ll turn up. We do let our crew know out of courtesy if we aren’t available, however.
Q: What if no one turns up?
A: It's unlikely for us, but if our communications team receive no message to say we're responding, they'll either sound the siren again or call a neighbouring brigade. We have a very slick comms system within Fire and Emergency NZ.
Q: The ‘Jaws of Life’ must be interesting to use?
A: They’re an amazing piece of equipment to use; they save lives and get people out of difficult situations. Quick fact: did you know the 'jaws of life' is a made up name? Albeit a neat name, we officially and simply call them ‘cutters’.
Q: Would you use salt water if putting a fire out near the sea? (question from an 8 year old)
A: Sea/Salt water is a very last resort, but yes, we would if we were desperate. The salt water could cause a fair bit of damage to our equipment, so we'd be more likely to use a hydrant - but if there's not one of those available, we'll use our own water from the truck, and the next option is to call in water tankers from some of our surrounding brigades.
Q: Does -AG- after every Facebook post mean 'All Good'?
A: No! It's the initials of one of our admins, Andy George (QFF). You will also see 'SF' (Siobhan Flanigan, Senior FF) and 'KB' (Ken Brokenshire, Senior Station Officer).
Q: How do the brigade ranks work?
A: In order: You turn up to training nights and observe / Recruit (RFF), Firefighter (FF), Qualified Firefighter (QFF), Senior Firefighter (SFF), Station Officer (SO), Senior Station Officer (SSO), Deputy Chief (DCFO), and Chief (CFO). We also have Operational Support members, who can help us on calls with traffic control / general well being of the firefighters etc.
Q: How do you move up the ranks?
A: With constant learning. You are given amazing training on station and are also sent on courses to a very sophisticated facility to officially train and qualify you to move up. It takes time, but there’s no rush!!
Q: How many types of uniform do you have?
A: Several. We have uniforms for training nights, formal meetings/events, Summer and Winter. We have “Level 1” gear for motor vehicle accidents and medicals, “Level 2” gear for structural fires, and “Level 3” gear for chemical spills. We also have overalls for vegetation fires, and waterproof gear for flooding /bad weather calls. There's a fair bit of gear!
Q: Do you have to be fit?
A: It's definitely a bonus if you are. You do have to pass a medical check to join, and there are annual medical checks to help keep you on track.
Q: Is it easy to join?
A: Yes, we train in Thames every Thursday at our Pahau Street Station. If you’re interested, come along at 7.15pm to see if it’s for you. Ask for our Chief, Greg Rendall, DCFO Shane Bromley, or Senior Station Officer Ken Brokenshire.