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Promotion to FDS Officer


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Hi All,

For those who've made the leap from Watch, to Station Commander...

How did you find the change, and would you do it again, are you glad you did it?

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Its been half of my career. I started as T/ADO in 2002 aged 33 just coming up to 15 years in the job, I did it for a few months and jacked it in around the time of the strikes, But by early 2003, having been back on the Watch as a Stn O, and fed up woth persons shut in lifts and cars fires at 3am, I realised I had been spoilt sleeping in my own bed and only waking up for proper jobs. i picked up some T/ADO within a few weeks at my own station and never went back again.

I did that until I got promoted to GM in 2010, I got it first time out so never acted up to DO/GM. Again, being at HQ and missing life as a Stn Commander I was desperately miserable being office bound and having no action. Although by that time, with 23 years in the thoughts of pension were on my mind so reverting wasnt an option. I soon got back out as a Borough Commander at a busy inner City Borough, added to my ILO and Fire Safety tags I'm now as busy as I've ever been as a Senior Officer and (apart from the Article 31 Fire safety jobs) enjoy going out to decent incident a few times per month. I can usually ensure I'll go out a couple of times on weekend 24's if I'm not duty ILO and pick up jobs in my Borough quite a bit during the day and further afield of a night.

I'm just about on 30 years now and will go next July when I am 50. I've no regrets now as I was fortunate enough to stay on the old pension and I count myself very lucky for that. I have the benefit to be able to get out of bed, go for a Pee, brush my teeth go downstairs have have a drink, like any human should, before going out to jobs in the night. Probably because I've got used to not doing it, but with 50 just over the horizon, I don't think I'd like to be flinging myself out of bed to loud bells and bright lights to have to be on the road in 60 seconds these days.

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I made the jump 6-7 years ago from Herts to the LFB. I found it difficult to say the least! I had a number of personal factors that made it difficult. My dad had recently died and so the thought of being able to "camp out" in NE London at my mums house seemed like a good idea, and then my wife mis-carried with twins! This was obviously difficult to deal with, and combined with the challenge of starting all over again in a new environment compounded the problems. It wasn't long before I was on the phone asking for my job back!! This was not the LFB's fault it was just really bad timing both personally and professionally.  I guess on reflection it was the familiarity of Herts that I needed at that time.  Fast forward 7 years and there isn't a day that goes by that I wish I had stuck it out in the LFB. My one and only professional regret!!!!

Im now visiting the SM role again in Herts but in all honesty Im not sure it will satisfy me (nowhere busy enough operationally)  If I could offer any advice as a Station Commander it will be to be "yourself" if you are fair, consistent and professional now? then having another impeller on your shoulder must not change that! I have seen several Officers who have made the step to FDO then change into something else. Firefighters aren't stupid they can see when an officer is going about his business to satisfy his ego or next promotion, they can also tell when the Watch Commander that they knew recently hasn't lost touch with the troops even though they are now an FDO. The other thing that cannot be ignored is that your personal life has to be on an even keel due to the increased workload, this is as important as the professional change of role. I suggest listening to guys like Steve who have far more experience at this "game" than most........the sleeping at a fire station is no longer any fun for me too.

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Thanks Ian, and Steve, that advice is appreciated, and i will bear your words in mind. Sorry to hear about your experiences with the move to LFB, that must of been extremely stressful.

I love the idea of having my own station, with more people to look after, positively influence  and bring on. I love the idea of level 2 command, getting to run the bigger more complex jobs. And also the benefits financially and the car, thats attractive - I'm only human!

But, id be leaving my Watch who i love, the trucks, the shift I'm on, exams, courses, workload and also i will have to camp out too.

Ive always intended to do it, i never intended to retire as a Watch Commander and now an opportunity may of arisen for me.....

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I would love to go for it, if it not were for the non-operational stuff/politics/managerial stuff that doesn't interest me.  I also thoroughly love what I do! 

The only thing I could add is your reference to leaving your watch.  One of the big pulls to remain on the trucks as a WMB was my watch.  I had a great one and loved every minute of it and was worried I would regret leaving when I went into FI.  As soon as I started my new role I knew I had made the right decision.  The watch will never stay the same and I have kept in touch with my mates off that watch, some of which have also moved on.

A new role with its new challenges and responsibility fills any gaps left when you leave a role I'd say so I will echo others and wish you luck :) Go for it, you will otherwise continually be thinking 'what if'

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Dyson, think carefully about the camping out bit and how long you'll be doing it for. Not sure how exactly your FDS rota works, but the basics will be the same across the board, instead of doing an average of 42 hours a week, on top of this you'll be doing at least another 30 on call or standby. If you're at home in your own bed its fine as other than getting calls you won't do anything else, but if you're camping out the brigade owns you.

I've done a few temporaries and on the last one the camping out started to get to me a bit, not enough to jack it in, but enough to think about whether it would be worthwhile if it was a permanent post.

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2 hours ago, Dyson said:

I love the idea of having my own station, with more people to look after, positively influence  and bring on. I love the idea of level 2 command, getting to run the bigger more complex jobs. And also the benefits financially and the car, thats attractive - I'm only human!

Station Commander, which is the only job I did as an ADO is now a royal pain in the ar$e. The past couple of years in LFB the SC and BC role have just become all about performance management and a target for cuts. I had four SM's in Hackney, now I have two. Although just a couple of weeks ago they recognised two of my station that were twinned (with one SM) are so busy and one being strategically important, they are going to give me one back.

The car is also a poisoned chalice now. I was paying £280 per month 11 years ago, but getting about £150 for mileage and no tax burden. So I had a nice BMW 5 series Estate where all I needed was to add fuel for £130 per month.... irrespective of how much private mileage I had.

When the Tory's got in and the cuts started, everything got pared back. We lost home to office mileage and the 25p per mile went down to 11p... so we had a good scheme but were cut back to basic HMRC. The loss of home to office mileage also meant that disappeared from the P11D and you end up looking like 80% of your mileage is 'private' so I end up with a £1200 tax bill. So now, although my lease car is much cheaper because of market forces (Only £130 pm) I have to pay all of my fuel now as I end up with about £15 per month in mileage and my tax breaks down to £100 per month.... I'm worse off and if I had time left, I'd go back onto the essential user’s scheme and have my own. Plus the 'Green agenda' in London is going to make it pretty hard soon not to have anything other than a BMW i3 or a Nissan Leaf... unless the Mayor exempts us which doesn’t look likely.

This is all LFB specific, but bringing a bit of balance to my original post, it isn’t all good.

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Dyson, I Camp out,have done so for about 4 years, it doesn't bother me although I know others it eats away at them, you certainly get more development opportunities, we have service cars (bmw X3) so can't comment on that.

Do I regret it, no - but as Steve eludes to certain roles are very much target driven (I was borough commander and it sometimes seemed that way) don't get me wrong when I say that station life can become quite monotonous, but you certainly experience the wider fire service as you move away from station watch based roles.

As long as it's not ego driven I recommend it, although you will get dragged into more and more politics, but you get to understand some of it (not all of it )

Just my view.

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Mmmm, Im not too sure. I have been faced with this dilemma for a while now. Im very similar to @Dyson, in the fact I am happy where I am, have a good watch, very busy and enjoy what I am doing. I have also had a taste of SM FDS although only for 2 years as a secondment which its the same thing. However, I have just over 6 years to go and when I add up the difference in pension vs the increase in hassle, Im not sure I can stomach the politics and bollocks that come with it. 

OK, I will retire with a decent pension, but could I make up the difference in lump sum within a year or so doing something just as enjoyable or do I spend 6 years being miserable just to get the pension. Think I would rather be happy for the 6 years. 

Never say never, but it would have to be an interesting post to convince me. 

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Well, thanks for advice guys, i really appreciate you all taking so much time, and i will bear everything written here in mind. Think i'll put in for the Temporary stint, if i can. Then see how i get on, assuming i don't biff up the selection process :)

Its an opportunity, and they don't come up very often, do they?. As you said @Noddy, i don't want to be the "what if" guy.

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It's always a hard call. Everything Steve has said about the financial knock of the car, seeing the hassle ADO's have to go through these days has mostly put me off the idea. That plus my home being 100miles away means it isn't for me. Never say never, but I'm happy running the station (since the ADO is elsewhere chasing targets and data) for the two days & nights of 'my' tenure.

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You're right Cashy, i totally agree. Its not something i was looking to do, its kind of come to me, if you see what i mean? And now it has, its an opportunity to be either taken or missed.....

I figure if i enter into this with an open mind and a smile on my face, and give it a go, then i won't be the what if guy :)

If I'm rubbish at it, or the shift and camping out affects my real life in a negative way, then great, ill have more experience to use when I'm back on my watch? 

Its just a bit of Temporary, what could possibly go wrong? :D


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  • 3 months later...

Well, thanks for asking :)

I went through the process, came top, so got offered the 1st T/SC job, 

The thing was, although it was FDS it wasn't station based, it was a job i don't think was right for me. A great job I'm sure, but not for me.

So i politely declined the offer. Im not sure if ill get another offer, but thats cool, I'm really happy as a watch based WC, i love my job. The extra responsibility and people, and the pay increase and the car are attractive to be honest, but after all is said and done, i love my job, i love to ride the trucks and to do what i joined for, which is to help others.

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Im in the SM process but will struggle to leave the watch I have created. I absolutely live being a WM on a busy station. We have a laugh, go away together, socialise and generally I'm enjoying the shifts more than I ever have. Comfortable is the word I guess. 

However, I need to pass the Science Paper at Level 4 to get made permanent before going on the flexi. Not sure I have the brains to do the Science and don't want to sit in development for years having left a great watch.

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Yeah thats pretty much the same mate. Ive said consistently that i wasn't going to apply for the upcoming process for substantive promotion, until I've done it Temp to see how i get on with jump. Its  a massive change, and I'm not totally convinced its for me, although the benefits are attractive. 

Certainly for the time being i intend to stay on Watch, be as good at that as i can be, ensure my Watch are as good as they can be, and to continue to deliver excellent FRS stuff to our community.

What will be will, if its the right thing then it will happen, if its not, it won't :)

PS - There is another way of looking at it. Above is my selfish view. The Selfless view is that if we don't do it, who will? Does the time come mate,  where we are duty bound to step up and lead? Are the experience WC's the people who should be stepping up, for the good of the Service .......?

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  • 1 month later...

Everything I wrote Dyson on 17th April still stands. I am SC of 5 stations (nope not a typo) and I really enjoy it.....I do not miss the trucks in the slightest! I find managing my own time  liberating and waking up at home is far more civilised than waking up on a station. I still get out and about as I cover a busy area during the day and at night Im largely left alone. I genuinley wish you the best!

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