by Henry Hill
Monday, 29
November 2021
Spotted
11:28

Wanted: firefighters that can rescue people from fires

The Fire Service's recruitment policy is no longer based on efficacy alone
by Henry Hill
Credit: Getty

What is the primary function of an institution or organisation: to fulfil its official objectives as well as possible, or to provide equitable access to itself?

If you picked the first option, you’re either an optimist or perhaps a time traveller. For the latter is very much the spirit of our age.


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One doesn’t have to look far to see examples of this sort of thinking. The House of Commons, for example, has been transformed since the early Noughties by the quest to make it “family friendly”.

This is a doomed quest; what use is clocking off at 5pm if, like most MPs, your family life is not in London? But deep cuts to sitting hours, and thus to MPs’ ability to actually perform their role, are outweighed by the goal of securing a different mix of MPs.

Despite this, sometimes it takes a more practical example to really bring home the consequences of this thinking. This weekend, for example, there was the realisation that the Fire Service no longer expects recruits to be able to pull an average-weight adult from a burning building.

If you take the view that the Fire Service should be about giving everybody who wants to join it an equal chance of doing so, it makes sense. Rigorous physical tests, especially those involving carrying heavy weights, would strongly favour male applicants, and indeed appeared to do so.

But those standards were surely devised for some reason other than a conspiracy to keep women out of the fire service. Even as long ago as 2011, the tone struck by a Fire Service spokesperson reveals how completely this way of thinking had already taken over:

People who express these views are dinosaurs and very chauvinistic and need to get with the programme. It’s 2011, women are firefighters; get over it.
- Fire Service

The influence of such thinking needs to be checked, and not just because you might someday find yourself trapped in a burning building with a firefighter unable to lift you.

Covid-19 has cruelly exposed serious shortcomings in the United Kingdom’s state capacity. Aside from a lucky break with the vaccination programme, the State’s response to the crisis has been deeply underwhelming.

If the Government is serious about delivering a much-needed overhaul of the public sector and the Civil Service, a shift back towards merit — defined by the actual requirements of the role, and not an idealised vision of the composition of the workforce — must be part of the solution.

Perhaps ministers could consider an ‘Efficacy Act’, a counterpoint to the Equality Act, imposing a statutory duty on public sector bodies to put performance outcomes first. It could also create an independent mechanism for ensuring they do so, rather than having management mark its own homework.

Such a programme could actually be great for accessibility; CV-blind recruitment and entrance exams, for example, would be a boon to able applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds. But it would frustrate diversity managers by placing the final shape of the workforce beyond their control.

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Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago

As this policy seems to be to allow more women to join the fire-service perhaps they should poll women:

  1. Do you want the opportunity to become a fire-fighter?
  2. Do you want, in the event of a fire, to be pulled to safety?

Tick one option only.

I’m willing to place bets which option would win out here.

I’m sure that there are many functions within the fireservice that women can fulfil, and maybe there are some women strong enough to meet the former requirements, however, being excluded because you don’t meet a vital requirement is not sexism Personally speaking, if I’m in a fire I don’t care about the sex, sexual orientation, race, religion etc of the person rescuing me, just so long as they are able to rescue me.

Last edited 1 year ago by Linda Hutchinson
Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago

if I’m in a fire I don’t care about the sex, sexual orientation, race, religion etc of the person rescuing me, just so long as they are able to rescue me.

So constructively you do care about the sex of the person rescuing you, because if they’re a man, they’re far likelier to be able to…

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

No. If its a tough, six foot five woman with muscles in her eye-b***s I don’t care.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago

A six foot five woman is a 5-sigma rarity (average female height is 5’4″ and one sigma is 4″), i.e. about 1 in 3.5 million. There are 34 million women in the UK, so about 10 of these women are six foot five.
Assuming their ages to be distributed roughly evenly, about three would be between 20 and 45 i.e. of the right age to be a front-line firefighter. Of course, there’s no guarantee that any of these three Amazons is in the fire brigade.
If you are rescued by anyone who’s six foot five, it’s going to be a man.
This is probably a lot more likely.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jon Redman
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago

The 1854 Northcote-Trevelyan Civil Service reforms that transformed the existing nepotistic civil service by introducing merit based examinations needs to be revisited for the 21st Century to ensure that all public services are recruited on the basis of the mental and physical requirements of the jobs involved.
Too often recruitment seems to be based on reflecting the population rather than the requirements of the job. I recall that when a woman police officer was asked why the police did not come out to intervene in an office burglary the answer was that they had to think of their own safety. What is wanted is burley coppers to deal with villains. There is clearly a place for women in the police to deal with say fraud or family issues but for physical crime you want physically imposing and fit men. The same must go for firefighting.
No consideration should be given to the sex, sexual orientation or colour etc of the job applicant beyond their fitness to meet the job requirements.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I remember seeing a video of a woman pc trying to control an unruly group of young men. They treated her with derision. She had to call in a male pc for backup. When he arrived the atmosphere changed markedly.

Last edited 1 year ago by Judy Englander
Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

Look at 18 mins into video. How many women police officers would it need to control one of the the members of the RMCs Arctic Warfare Cadre ?
Royal Marines – Behind The Lines: Episode 7 – Bing video

George Glashan
George Glashan
1 year ago

when David Amess was killed, politicians identified the problem as twitter meanies. it will take an MP burning to death whilst being failed to be rescued by a woman and and a “trans”man for action, even then they will identify the problem as not enough women or transman, and twitter meanies too.

Last edited 1 year ago by George Glashan
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago

Societal Psychosis.

I mostly do Carpentry, but also the other trades. I only have known two women carpenters in all my time, and they were not that good, likely because they were a team who began without much experience and learned it themselves, and catered to people who wanted to hire women, rather than working up in the trades on crews, beginning as laborers – as is usual.

But the thing is, women do not do construction. This is not because the men do not want women doing it – they would not care if the other worker can and does the job. Also – women are physically capable of doing the trades. I can carry 90 pounds up a ladder, and most women can not – but that is not really done a lot. Most of the work is just hard work within the strength of women. Someone else can do the very heavy stuff.

The fact is women do not like construction. Jordan Peterson often talks of how the freer a society is; the more people tend to separate into the traditional work the sexes always were prone to. He uses the Nordic countries where studies show anyone can do any kind of work, the laws are there to enable that – but still engineers and tradesman are men, the child care, nursing, office work, are done by women – and to a greater degree than in the rest of the West where social pressures like the above Fire Service goes out of its way to get women to try fire fighting. That if they did not actively recruit women they women would not chose to be fire fighters.

As different as men and women are physically, they are different behaviorally. The cat wants to catch and kill mice, the rabbit does not, this is how genetics work – on a physical level, and then on a behavioral level to utilize the physical characteristics given. The role of men and women in society is not the same, and neither is the preferences for vocations.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

come on, if you down vote tell us why. I really am a professional tradesman, one who does construction with the gnarly construction workers – although am lately studying at home to get a Builders License, so post here excessively – but I have known thousands of tradesman and the women:

2 Carpenters, 1 plumber, 1 drywall finisher, some painters… and that is about it. So why do you think that is? If a woman electrician came on the job site to wire the house no one would bother her, or care, she would just be someone working… but women chose not to do that.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

I would have thought that pulling somebody of of a burning building could lead to strained muscles. Health & Safety would not allow this. But the fire fighters could be taught to talk to the people in the building until they actually catch fire and burn to death, thereby improving the mental health of the victims.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Brilliant

Sean Penley
Sean Penley
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

If the buildings are on fire due to a ‘mostly peaceful’ protest then the people inside should be grateful for this opportunity to contribute to positive change and have no desire to be pulled out.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago

‘Fahrenheit 451’ by Ray Bradbury has a different take on Firemen.

“Guy Montag is a fireman employed to burn outlawed books, along with the houses they are hidden in.”
“In the following days, while at work with the other firemen ransacking the book-filled house of an old woman and drenching it in kerosene before the inevitable burning, Montag steals a book before any of his coworkers notice. The woman refuses to leave her house and her books, choosing instead to light a match and burn herself alive”

Now this kind of Fireman job can be done equally well by men or women, and my Guess is Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and Google will be hiring more tens of thousands of them after they finally become Government Departments and get real power in the next dozen years.

Currently they employ thousands of their ilk, call them ‘Fact Checkers’ have them working to censor the internet – but one day…..

D Ward
D Ward
1 year ago

a statutory duty on public sector bodies to put performance outcomes first”

oh my goodness it will never catch on.

Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
1 year ago

I still await the righteous angry exodus of feminists from low paid jobs like retail into well paid jobs like sewer maintenance and industrial boiler cleaning.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago
Reply to  Terence Fitch

Their yearning for equality does not extend to equality in dirty or dangerous jobs, nor are they keen on achieving equality of deaths at work (97% of which deaths are men’s). I can’t imagine why.

Alyona Song
Alyona Song
1 year ago

Firefighters must be muscled up, top-fit individual, whether men or women. They’ve got to be able to train and sustain inordinate physical duress. It has nothing to do with chauvinism or feminism, or any other “-isms” out there. There are diversity agnostic professions out there that require real qualifications, skills, fitness, and idealistic dedication.

Mangle Tangle
Mangle Tangle
1 year ago

No need to worry on this one – soon we’ll have AI robots lifting us out of burning buildings. Mind you, if they get Skynet type ideas then they might be the ones causing the burning buildings…

Jan Hinchliffe
Jan Hinchliffe
1 year ago

When Fire ‘Brigades’ were first formed, it was in order to address certain, well-defined, risks to society (to lives and property). The remit was unequivocal, and ‘outcomes’ clearly indicated the efficacy (or otherwise) of what had been put in place.
If anyone had suggested, then, that Social Engineering should determine what was allowed to be put in place to meet these threats, they would have been met with incredulity – but in 2021 we’ve grown used to such foolishness, in every aspect of modern life.
I do believe, however, that ‘outcomes’ will come back into fashion eventually.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jan Hinchliffe
David Morley
David Morley
1 year ago

Surely, even women who do not meet traditional, western, patriarchal, slim privileging beauty standards – will be onboard with this one.