Kim Blunt, planning agent at consultancy Southern Planning tells us about her other job – as a firefighter.
Q. How did you get into firefighting?
A. It was almost by accident– I never intended to do it. Before I retrained as a planning, I worked in administration in a hospital in Shaftesbury. Occasionally the toast burnt – a red engine arrived every time due to protocol. After a while, one of the fire officers said: “We have been here a few times. We are short of retained firefighters – can anyone help out?” The hospital manager said she couldn’t let frontline staff go, so I volunteered. I said I would go but was sure I was not suitable.
Q. Was it easy to get accepted?
A. I was sure I wouldn’t be suitable. I am not exactly young and am now a grandmother. But before I knew it I was in a uniform. There is a certain level of fitness required, but no upper age limit.
Q. How much time does it take out of your week?
A. I am contracted to be available for 70 hours a week – but it is only in evenings and weekends so it doesn’t interfere with my day job.
Q. Can you carry on with normal life when you are on duty?
A. Oh yes. I have to be close to the station so I can respond to a call quickly – we all have pagers and when it goes off I have to drop everything and get to the station. But I carry on doing my shopping or socialising. The local curry house always reheats my curry for me to have when I get back, and Tesco looks after my shopping. I can’t drink alcohol when on duty but I have no problem with that.
Q. What is the biggest fire you have dealt with?
A. Southampton University had a big fire in one of their blocks which required a large number of appliances from Hampshire to attend. I have also been to a lot of big barn fires which get very hot. There is always the potential for danger but that is why you work as a team.
Q. Are there any similarities between firefighting and your day job as a planner?
Both involve a lot of teamwork and information gathering. The difference is with planning, I collect information and let the client make a decision on how to proceed, whereas with firefighting, I am making the decisions within the team. In both jobs you have to be very resourceful.
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