A job for the girls too

Firefighter Lisa Osuere. (0908PG33)
Firefighter Lisa Osuere. (0908PG33)

Lisa Osuere joined the Fire Service three years ago. She did an initial 12-week training period and has just completed her three years as a trainee firefighter. Lisa is one of only two full-time female firefighters at the Crescent Link Fire Station and it’s a job she says she wouldn’t swap “for the world.”

“There is some banter being only one of two women but it would be the same in any workplace. When I applied there were almost 8,000 applicants and it was such a long process. I think it took 14 months and it was a tough process but it was totally worth it,” she said.

A former IT specialist, Lisa always wanted to be a crew member with the Fire Service but never thought it possible, the perception being that “it was always guys only on the trucks.”

“I then saw a girl on an appliance who was half the size of me and thought if she can do it so can I.” And when Lisa (35) saw the job advertisment, she jumped at the chance.

“Even though we were training every day it’s not all about brawn, there is a lot of emotional and mental preparation necessary also. Thanks to the Service’s family friendly policies, solid training and camaraderie, they are able to recruit and retain the best talent available. The promotion opportunities within the Service are fantastic also, as are chances to specialise in driving, RTC recovery, underwater rescue and specialist rope rescue teams for example.”

Asked what she likes most about the job, the former Carnhill High School pupil, said: “It is the fact that no two days are the same. Anything can happen.” Training, retraining and practice drills take up a lot of Lisa’s time.

“If you are out on a call there can’t be any delays in using the equipment. It really is a matter of life and death. Before the Fire Service hired me, I had no idea about engines, pneumatics or hydraulics for example. Now I use them every day.” She has had to deal with many traumatic call-outs, including a number of fatalities.

“That can be difficult. The screams of crash victims can be particularly difficult but you are there to do your best for the people involved. We are focused entirely on meeting the golden hour, that is rescuing whoever is trapped and getting them medical treatment within 60 minutes. You have to put everything else to the back of your mind.

“There are support services available both within the wider service and as part of your own crew. I always think, I didn’t put these people here but hopefully with the skills the Service have given me, I can help them. We get cards from people we help from time to time and that really brings it home that we helped.”

Describing the past three years as “a massive learning curve,” Lisa explains the most startling lesson was one of her first training sessions.

“We were learning to deal with road traffic collisions and people should realise how little there is to a car. You are basically driving a corn beef tin at high speeds. Why people don’t slow down I’ll never understand. We have too many young ones losing lives and family members because they don’t appreciate that they are essentially driving a tin can at high speed.”

Educational outreach work in the community is also an important part of the role of the Fire Service.

Asked had she any advice for possible recruits, Lisa said: “Just apply to start with. You can work on your fitness and skills throughout the process. Remember the Fire Service aren’t looking for someone to do it all on their own. They want someone who knows their limitations and can be part of a team. There is so much job satisfaction and laughter is the tool we use most often. That said if you are into perfect nails and eyelashes this might not be the job for you!” For an application pack log onto www.nifrs.org. The closing date for the latest recruitment is Thursday.