Name: Emma Gibb
Company: Fire and Emergency New Zealand
How long worked here: Four years
What does your job involve?
The list really is endless. Basically when someone is in need we are responsible for being operationally ready to respond as quickly and safely as possible.
Fighting fires is no longer the biggest part of our job, this being due to the fact our buildings/homes are now constructed with more fire-resistant materials and people are better educated around fire safety.
The range of emergencies we attend is very diverse and can range from medical emergencies, motor vehicle accidents, search and rescue, to Civil Defence and natural disasters. Then there is the education component. This includes presenting the Get FireWise programme in our local schools, checking fire alarms in homes and businesses, and offering safety advice wherever it's needed.
And there is the administration side of it - data input, station and equipment cleaning and maintenance. Even making the odd batch of scones. Everyone pitches in!
Why did you get into this profession?
For as long as I can remember, all I ever wanted to be was a firefighter. Becoming a firefighter has its challenges but if you want it bad enough and are willing to put in the effort it's all achievable and well worth it.
What do you like about your job the most?
Everything! It is a second family and home. The camaraderie within our crews is awesome, not only when things are going right but also when times get tough. Everyone chips in and has each other's back. Then being there for our community and doing whatever we can to help those in times of need really just tops it off. No two days are the same.
What's the most challenging aspect of your role?
I'm not the tallest of people therefore at times that has its own challenges! The most challenging aspect for me would definitely be the raw emotional trauma we see people in. Although we do everything in our power to help and make a bad situation a little more positive, the emotions of people at the scene gets me every time. What's your proudest work moment? To be honest I can't narrow it down to one exact moment, everything about being a firefighter makes me proud. From being there for my community, seeing kids smile when you simply wave back to them from the truck, right through to the simple act of installing or checking an elderly person's smoke alarm for them. What training and experience have you had to prepare for your role? General life experiences and skills are invaluable without a doubt but as far as training goes, you start your career off with a 12-week 'live in' recruit course at the National Training Centre in Rotorua. It is there the foundation of the basic skills of what it takes to be a firefighter are instilled. From there the learning/training never stops. You progress through the ranks with time and on the job study.
What's the best career advice you've received?
"If you don't need to see it, don't." When you first come out of your recruit course as a "rookie" you're super keen, you want to see everything, however you soon learn the wide range of diverse circumstances we attend, some having positive outcomes and others the complete opposite, takes its toll eventually, so limiting your exposure where possible definitely pays off in the long run.
What's the most important thing your current role has taught you?
Slow down! In your car that is, speed really does kill and if not it makes a horrific mess.
Describe your work wardrobe. Our most common wardrobe would feature about four different kits, these being PT gear for training, level ones or blues, which is our everyday uniform, wildfire gear, which is lightweight and worn for scrub fires, medical emergencies and motor vehicle accidents, and level 2 kevlar bunker gear and breathing apparatus, our firefighting kit.