retained adj : continued in your keeping or use or memory; "in...the retained pattern of dancers and guests remembered" [syn: maintained]
- past of retain
In the United Kingdom, retained firefighters, also known as retained duty system firefighters are part-time or on-call professional firefighters who have full-time employment outside of the fire service but respond to emergency calls in their local area when required. Retained firefighters are employed as part time staff, and trained by the local authority fire and rescue service where they are to serve. They are required to live and work near to the fire station to which they are posted allowing them to respond to incidents to meet attendance times. Typically retained firefighters are employed in rural areas or in large villages or small towns where there is little need or justification for a full time fire station. Retained firefighters provide cover to 90% of the area of the UK - there are 14,000 in England and Wales. Of the approximately 8500 operational firefighters in Scotland, about 32% are retained. The London Fire Brigade and Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service are the only two fire and rescue services in the UK that do not have any retained firefighters.
Unlike volunteer firefighters, retained firefighters are paid for being on call and responding to incidents. Most retained firefighters receive an annual "retainer fee" of approximately £1,000 and get paid on a 'per emergency call' basis. RDS firefighters are entitled to join the Fire Brigades Union, and are represented by its National Retained Committee. The Retained Firefighters Union (RFU) is also a representative body of retained firefighters.
Emergency responseSome retained firefighters provide 24 hour fire cover unlike their full time colleagues who do not usually respond to emergencies during the time when they are off duty. Generally, wholetime or full-time firefighters do not respond to calls when they are off-duty as they are assigned to a watch on permanent shifts. However, most retained firefighters can only provide cover at set times due to their full-time employment commitments. For example, it may be that some personnel can provide cover during the day in any given week or only evenings and weekends per week. Often it is a mixture of both. Availability to receive calls depends upon the flexibility of the retained firefighter's full time employer and the individual's personal circumstances.
A critical level of fire cover must be provided at all times and retained firefighters are expected to give as much commitment as possible. In fact they are not normally permitted to give less than 60 hours per week in terms of cover. On average retained firefighters across the UK provide between 80 and 110 hours week on standby.
When available for a call retained firefighters carry radio pagers to alert them to an emergency call. They must live or work a maximum five minutes from the fire station at which they serve and respond to the fire station before manning the fire appliance and attending an incident.
In Ireland some on-call firefighters are called by means of an air raid type siren mounted upon the local fire station.
Role within the communityMany people choose to become retained firefighters to serve the community in which they live. The retained service operates exactly in the same way as the full time service. In the UK retained firefighters are responsible for undertaking community fire safety work alongside their full-time colleagues. This involves talks to local school children, home fire safety checks, and fitting of free smoke detectors in homes.
Some part-time fire stations receive hundreds of call-outs per year comparable or sometimes greater than some full-time fire stations. Other retained stations receive a relatively small amount of calls. Some fire and rescue services employ a system known as 'day manning' or day staffing' where the fire station is operated by a full-time watch during the day, and covered by retained firefighters at night.
Training and competencyTraditionally retained firefighters did not receive the same level of training as their full time colleagues, because of their employment commitments which would have made this impractical. Full-time firefighters attend training school for an initial period of 13 to 20 weeks depending on the fire and rescue service.
Much of the training required was done on-station at evenings and weekends instead of at the fire service's training school. The on-station training was however followed up by a series of two week modules undertaken at training school where the skills learnt would be tested and examined before the firefighter was deemed competent. Ill feeling has traditionally existed between full-time firefighters and their retained colleagues with claims from the former that retained personnel were simply "have a go heroes" or "weekend warriors" and more of "a hindrance than a help". In December 2003, recognising the need for a review of the retained duty system, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the department responsible for fire and resilience (at that time) called for a report. Published in February 2005, it noted
''"The system of flexible local fire cover needs to attract a new pool of applicants who would not have considered the opportunity previously. The recruitment problems stem in part from the level of pay, the lack of a pension, the lack of development opportunities and the often inflexible availability system."''
The ill feeling has in recent years subsided and retained and full time firefighters are now recruited and trained in the same way. Retained firefighters undertake the same training modules as full time recuits spread over a greater period of time due to full time employment job commitments.