We want to shine a light on our members—to tell their stories and highlight their achievements. Because we’re really proud of the skills that exist in our membership and grateful to those who help to support our work with yearly contributions.
This month we showcase Amy Down, who joined as a member of Women in the Fire Service in 2019.
Amy attended our national training and development event in 2018 and is Architectural Data Services Lead at Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service where she’s been working for over three years.
What’s your favourite part of your job?
It’s the variety of projects I’m involved with now. I’ve moved around a few departments and seen different parts of the Service. I love the opportunities I have to make a real difference and get involved with our Safer Together Programme. I get to work with uniformed and non-uniformed staff at multiple levels of the organisation. I’m constantly inspired by everyone’s passion and commitment. Learning from uniformed colleagues is fascinating, and gives me a real appreciation for their needs on the incident ground. This invigorates me to go back to the office and find the best solutions I can to support their work, and make our ICT and Data work for them.
What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment to date?
I have a secondary role as a loggist in the Service. I’m really proud of the help I provided recently during the upheaval with Storm Dennis. The work I did to record and monitor river levels, information coming in from other agencies, ongoing incidents and the national picture really helped our crews and partner agencies to provide a robust response to the event. I made sure that decisions were captured logically and comprehensively as soon as they were made which really helped us to keep track of the incident.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in the fire service?
Colleagues ask this question fairly often. The honest answer is that it was initially an accident! I took on a short-term role initially whilst applying for PhD funding and found very quickly after joining I didn’t want to leave. DSFRS has a very open and friendly culture. I’ve found people here who believe in me, and who are helping me to progress personally and professionally. The desire to help the public feeds everything we do as a Service. I really feel part of something bigger than myself as a result. I enjoy going home feeling proud of the work I’m doing and what it stands for, and with the knowledge that it supports colleagues on the ground keeping people safe.
Supporting each other
An important skill you developed at the WFS event?
How to have a go at things that were physically and mentally challenging for me without worrying about the reactions of other people. In the ‘Be a Firefighter’ workshop we were all in the same boat. And it didn’t matter at all that I couldn’t roll out a hose in anything like a straight line; if someone struggled with the dark during the BA exercise; or that we only found the casualty we needed to rescue by treading on it (luckily a dummy…). We all pitched in and supported each other regardless.
How do you hope your involvement with Women in the Fire Service will influence your career?
Meeting women from other fire and rescue services opened my eyes to the huge variety of different jobs that women are doing across the UK and internationally in the sector. This broadened my knowledge of what might be possible for my own career. I saw women succeeding at the highest levels and hope that I can emulate that. Dany Cotton’s keynote speech in 2018 was particularly inspiring. A year after Grenfell she was dignified, determined and completely supportive of her firefighters. Without WFS I wouldn’t have seen that speech, or taken from it the dedication and personal desire to give as much to DSFRS as she gave to LFB.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of attending our national training and development event this year?
Go for it! I have applied to attend again this year, and recommend it to all my colleagues (not just women). There are plenty of workshops for all, and for those who aren’t looking to become a firefighter. Trying it, being with other women from the fire service and understanding what your colleagues do will teach you so much about yourself and your wider Service.
Thanks to Amy for taking part in this Q&A.
Join our community — be a member
Your membership helps us to continue our work to inspire, develop, and grow support for women in the fire service.