There are four branches to the emergency services: Fire and Rescue, the police, the ambulance service and emergency planning. Some police officers specialise in a specific branch such as CID or the traffic police. Emergency planners co-ordinate the other three services in the event of an emergency. The fire service and police force also offer opportunities to study towards relevant NVQs, diplomas, degrees and post-graduate qualifications.
Some fire brigades prefer GCSEs or equivalent. The Police will accept graduates with any degree. You must be at least 18 years old to become a police officer or a firefighter and will need to pass a series of practical, physical and written tests. Under 18s can get involved in the fire service by joining a Young Firefighters Scheme. Some colleges work with local fire brigades to offer an access course. If you want to become a paramedic you can take paramedical qualifications (a foundation degree, diploma or bachelors degree) or apply for a student paramedic position with an ambulance trust. To work in emergency planning you don’t need any specific formal qualifications but you do need a good general education. See www.epcollege.com for details of training opportunities in emergency planning.
Firefighters usually work 42 hours a week, including day and night shifts to cover a 24-hour service. Retained firefighters you may have another job but are available for emergency situations. Police officers work 40 hours a week on a shift system with two rest days each week. The ambulance service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You would work 37 hours a week, with a rota for unsociable hours. Emergency Planners work standard office hours at around 37 hours a week.
Firefighters earn £21,000 -£28,200, station managers up to £40,100. Retained firefighters are paid a fee of around £2,500 a year plus pay for each incident they attend. In the police force the starting salary is around £20,000 - £23,000 rising to £36,500 with experience. Sergeants can earn around £40,000 and inspectors earn around £50,000. Student paramedics may be paid around £15,500 - £18,600 and £21,200 - £27,500 when qualified which can rise with promotion. Emergency Planners earn around £22,221 - £36,312.
Contact local fire brigades and other fire services and institutions, such as the British Airports Authority or the Defence Fire Service, contact the police force you wish to join or contact your local NHS Trust for ambulance crew vacancies. Check the emergency planning society website for emergency planning vacancies.