The Role of a Firefighter | More Than Just Fires

Jon Southgate is a Station Commander, his role being that of Deputy District Commander of the South District of Suffolk’s Fire & Rescue Service

Last month I covered the recruitment of full-time Firefighters into Suffolk which leads me to explain about the wide ranging roles that we undertake within the Fire & Rescue Service.

The career path starts on a 3 year development programme to reach competency though in reality, we never stop learning – I’ve  completed over 32 years in the job and to me, every day’s a school day!! Whether it’s dealing with new products that catch fire, new equipment to tackle incidents or a new method to fight fire, Firefighters constantly train and learn – but, that’s all reactive.

Outside of our Response crews (Firefighters)  are other equally important departments that Firefighters can choose to enter and make a real difference. I’ll cover them below:-

Protection Dept

Dealing with the legislation side of building protection, inspecting premises, consulting on new builds, modifications and compliance with statutory regulation but only in commercial properties. We have no jurisdiction in private dwellings and can only offer advice & suggest best practice.

Risk & Resilience

Covering emergency planning for Suffolk, identifying high risk premises &  agreeing emergency plans. Working very closely with other emergency services to plan for major disasters, natural disasters and terrorist incidents. We also have our own Health & Safety department here.

Operational Policy & Equipment

Research & development of new equipment for use in the service, writing & reviewing policy & procedures which we work to.

Training & Development

Training instructors  delivering training across the service also assessing Firefighters to meet national standards. There’s also a vocational development team who deal with recruitment, career progression and ongoing development of every member of staff.

Response policy

Responsible for On – Call recruitment & retention, a constantly evolving task as the majority of Suffolk Firefighters are On - Call. We also have a team of Firefighters who work at any fire station where additional personnel are required for short periods to ensure the Fire Appliance remains available.

Blue Light Integration

We are developing more shared properties with both Police and Ambulance services to increase all round efficiency. Sometimes this involves adapting current premises or even new premises to replace two ageing properties.


Ensuring home safety and road safety, delivering safety messages to our community across a variety of ages and social backgrounds. Offering free Safer Home Visits to elderly and vulnerable residents in their own homes. The team is also supported by a group of volunteers.

As you can see, it’s a really varied job!