Local Representative champions WFS UK training and development event

Lisa Howsden is a Community Fire Risk Management Information System Administrator in the Fire Engineering Department at Cleveland Fire Brigade. She is also the new Cleveland Local Representative for Women in the Fire Service UK. 

Representatives working at a local level provide valuable support and encouragement to others, and input ideas and feedback through their regional representative. Local reps play a really important part in acting as advocates and promoting our aims and values.

In June 2019, Lisa attended the WFS 19th National Training & Development Event for the very first time. We spoke with Lisa to find out how she benefited from taking part and how that led to her volunteering to be local rep.

You attended your first training and development event this year. Can you describe the event in three words? 

Scary, Exciting, Fantastic.

What or who inspired you to attend the event? 

I heard about the event from someone who attended a few years ago and it sounded great. This year, because I was turning 50, I thought I’m going to do as much as I can, trips away with family and friends, concerts, theatre shows, training and getting to know more people.

You were the only delegate from your service. How long did it take for you to feel at home? 

Being the only one it was a bit overwhelming when I walked into the Fire Service College, it had been a long journey (over five hours) and there were so many people. Within about 10 minutes I was introduced to Joanne Henry who happened to be the local rep for my area! She made me feel so welcome.

What was your favourite workshop? 

Hard to choose as they were all great, but maybe the best which is quite relevant was the workshop on the Menopause. Something myself and my friends/colleagues will end up going through.

What would you say to those thinking about coming to next year’s event?

I really want to encourage more people from my brigade to attend. It was an amazing weekend, it gave me so much confidence, and I met so many people lovely people, some I’m keeping in touch with. The workshops were very interesting and the venue was fantastic. I even got up early to do boot camp, loved it even though I ached the next day.

Did anyone encourage you to become a rep? 

At the regional meeting on the first night, I was asked if I’d like to be the local rep for Cleveland, and I thought yes why not give it a go. I’ve been given the support from my Brigade and attended my first WFS National Executive Committee meeting last week in Birmingham at the Emergency Services Show, where I met some lovely people.  

What do you hope to achieve in the role?

I would like to promote WFS within Cleveland and get more people to attend the training and development event next year. After attending the event myself, I am now a part of Cleveland’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Forum and on the sub group for Culture.  If there are any issues raised there hopefully I can resolve them with help from WFS.  

Chief Commissioner of LFB features in 100 First Women UK exhibition

Photographer Anita Corbin has created a unique collection of 100 portraits of 21st-century women – celebrating those who have pushed boundaries to achieve ambitions in their field. The 10-year project includes trailblazer and Patron of Women in the Fire Service UK, Dany Cotton.

Dany, Chief Commissioner of London Fire Brigade is well-known and admired for showing what can be achieved if we challenge ourselves and the society we live in.

“I want to share their inspiration with as many people as I possibly can. These stories can open up the aspirations of the next generation, and capture what can be achieved when strong people dare to say yes to their dreams.”

– Anita Corbin
Photographic portrait of Dany Cotton on display at New Walk Museum and Art Gallery.
© Image by Beth Walsh Photography courtesy of New Walk Museum & Art Gallery.

We caught up with Anita, who gave us an insight into the story behind Dany’s portrait.

“I photographed Dany in May 2016 at The Old Kent Road Fire Station.

I had been wanting to include Dany in the collection for a couple of years and it was very rewarding to finally have a date in the diary. I arrived early at the station so I could have a look around, there was a strong sense of camaraderie and an air of anticipation… Dany would arrive soon!

At just about the same time as Dany arrived there was a ‘shout’, this was very exciting for me as I saw firefighters in action. I’d never seen that before or felt the atmosphere change to a serious and intense one as the fire became more demanding across the other side of London.

However, at this point, I told I was able to continue with the First Women Portrait set up, so I chose an outside location with the bright red doors of the station behind – which opened to release the flashing tenders as they went off to the Fire.

Dany needed to be fully kitted out, just in case she was needed to take control of the incident. Her assistant helped with all her safety gear and then very kindly also helped hold my light. This was the perfect scenario for me, as I am passionate about creating images of real women and this moment was certainly very real!

I started shooting immediately, knowing that Dany could have to leave at any moment if ‘it went to 16 tenders’. Dany remained calm on the outside, listening intensely to her radio as the incident unfolded. She was very focused and I wanted to capture the seriousness of her role and the responsibility she held for the safety of London.

The composition of the image is very stable, Dany exudes trust, she is grounded. I love the fact that the portrait captures the palpable intensity of her role through her eyes, and the fact you can see her plait under her helmet.

She is the First Woman to be Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade in 152 years and the First Woman to be awarded the Queen’s Fire Service Medal in its 50-year history.”

Like this story? Get our newsletter straight to your inbox. Sign up for news from Women in the Fire Service UK.

The First Women Exhibition is currently on tour with dates through to late 2020.

East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service Regional Development Day

East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service (ESFRS) will run a second ‘It Starts With You’ development day at their Service Training Centre in Maresfield on Thursday 7 November 2019. The themes for the development day include unconscious bias, the importance of language and what inclusion means to the Fire Service.

‘It Starts With You’ is organised by ESFRS Gender Inclusion Network, a women’s network which aims to encourage equality, inspire positive change, and create an inclusive working environment.

What’s on:

  • Hear from Dr Sab Cohen-Hatton, Chief Fire Officer, West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service
  • Interview techniques for interviewees and decision-makers
  • Hear from speakers including WFS Chair, Julie King, on why communication matters
  • Discover the power of mentoring with The Girls Network
  • Intro to Incident Command workshop for ops and non-ops delegates

There are thirty free places available on a first-come, first-served basis, open to all fire and rescue service staff in any role. The cost for those from other services is £45 per person. 

Register your interest to attend on eventbrite.co.uk

East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service is a corporate member and supporter of Women in the Fire Service UK.

“Fabulous weekend and overcame some fears supported by others”

There were 248 delegates who attended the Women in the Fire Service UK’s 19th National Training & Development Event on 21-23 June. Women and men from all different roles across the sector represented their service, from firefighters, control room officers, community safety advocates, and HR administrators to business analysts. 

Recent survey results showed a great satisfaction rate, with delegates finding workshops inspiring and insightful, and enjoying both the practical and classroom sessions. Delegate feedback provides valuable guidance on how our future events can be even more effective. The response was overwhelmingly positive – for many, this was their first time taking part. 

What people said about the benefits of attending:

  • ‘Meeting people from other departments and services has given me a wider understanding of the fire service’
  • ‘Feel proud of myself for pushing myself to do new things’
  • ‘It’s been great trying out something different and has opened my options for the future’
  • ‘100% I intend to make positive change when I go back to work 100%’
  • ‘I feel reinvigorated and motivated to aim higher – it’s reminded me I am capable’

Humberside Fire & Rescue Service and South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service (Corporate Members), sent us the following comments from staff on their experience: 


“Wonderful opportunity, I mixed with people both male and female from other brigades even from other countries … definitely no Ops/Support divide felt at all, complete opposite, I was given encouragement and support from everyone I met. Felt very much a part of a team during the workshops, even though with strangers, who felt like friends by the end of our day … Feel very lucky to have been included to take part.’

“Really great weekend, a chance to try new skills to see if that’s a career option in the future, meet new people and have lots of fun too.’

“I would like to thank HFRS for the opportunity to attend another fantastic weekend organised by Women in the Fire Service. I have attended workshops like Urban Search and Rescue and Be a Firefighter, got to crawl in all sorts of tunnels carrying a casualty on a stretcher and even wear BA and put a car fire out! I would like to say to people who have not been before, both operational and non-operational, men or women to sign up for next year and go attend some amazing workshops and meet some inspirational people.’

“Fabulous weekend and overcame some fears supported by others.’

“Amazing opportunity to challenge myself! … I got through tunnels I didn’t think I could fit in and abseiled from heights with little fear. Amazing support from instructors and women in general. Meeting new friends and colleagues from far and wide creating opportunities for new exciting challenging pursuits.’

‘ … the highlight being getting to drive an appliance (blindfolded too) and practice self-defence moves on a colleague. We laughed so much. Getting to know colleagues better from HFRS, and meeting others from Services at home and abroad was great too.’


‘ … I was able to push myself out of my comfort zone and overcome personal fears. Being able to choose activities I would not usually come across on a day-to-day basis was helpful as this enabled me to develop new skills … a newly qualified firefighter I haven’t had much experience with confined spaces, therefore being able to participate in the USAR programme was very beneficial. I haven’t had a premise fire job and in all honesty, I would not have much idea of what to look for visiting the scene afterwards. Fire investigation has given me an insight as to what to look for regarding patterns of fire, source of fire, spread of fire etc.’

‘ … I didn’t know what to expect … but as soon as I got there I was put at ease, everybody was really welcoming. I enjoyed the speeches from some really inspirational women who just show that you can achieve anything you put your mind to. As for the training, I found it really beneficial to work with carbonaceous fires, to learn in a safe environment and to gain experience in different roles where I otherwise would not have had the opportunity. It was also really interesting to see how other brigades operated and to discuss procedures and obtain feedback from them. Everything I experienced I have found that I have taken back to the station and it has helped with my development.’

‘ … what I enjoyed the most was the multi incident scenario because … it was a great opportunity for me to have three more carbonaceous drills, to keep improving my team leader skills and just general BA skills, it also created a challenge as everyone I was partnered with was from different brigades they all have different procedures so it was good to be able to problem-solve … I’m quite proud of how I performed in the drills so it has definitely made me more confident. I’m now looking forward to the opportunities that may be available to me by becoming a WFS member.’

Our 20th annual event will be running from the 19-21 June 2020. To register your interest email contact@wfs.org.uk

Training event inspires and empowers women in the fire service to succeed

Woman abseiling at Women in the Fire Service event at the Fire Service College

Wow. What an amazing weekend.

We are still celebrating the success of Women in the Fire Service UK’s 19th National Training & Development Event which took place on 21-23 June.

‘Celebrating Difference, Improving Delivery’ was the theme for the event and women and men came to learn together to build on existing skills and to learn new ones. 

The Fire Service College, Moreton-in-Marsh, was partner and host to 248 delegates from 40 UK Fire & Rescue Services and five international services, including Switzerland, the Netherlands, Canada, Lebanon and Spain. 

A team of thirty dedicated volunteers from our National Executive Committee worked tirelessly to organise the event and facilitate and deliver some of the workshops and activities. 

“Wow. What an amazing weekend. I have met so many amazing and inspiring women, made fantastic friends – and achieved things I never believed I could.

If someone had told me two months ago I would be crawling through tiny dark tunnels and driving a fire appliance I would have laughed so loud. Thank you for helping me see my own abilities!”

— Jackie Evans, Data Protection Officer, Mid and West Wales Fire & Rescue Service

Some of the workshops on offer were:

  • Be a Control Operator
  • Large Animal Rescue
  • Be a Firefighter
  • Dynamic Situational Awareness/Operational Decision Making
  • Advanced Trauma
  • Fire Behaviour/Fire Investigation
  • Drive an Appliance
  • Abseiling/Self Defence

There were also popular workshops on inclusion and diversity, coaching for personal and professional development, fitness and wellbeing, menopause, mental health and building mentoring relationships. Delegates had the opportunity to keep fit throughout with boot camp, aqua fitness, pilates, and Parkrun sessions.

So far, the feedback from attendees has reinforced why we hoped people would want to be part of this rewarding experience. Many have come away from the event with friends for life, a renewed confidence in their own abilities, pride in going out of their comfort zone and support for the equality agenda.

“I would like to thank HFRS for giving me the opportunity to attend another fantastic weekend organised by Women in the Fire Service. I have attended workshops like Urban Search and Rescue and Be a Firefighter, got to crawl in all sorts of tunnels carrying a casualty on a stretcher, and even wear BA and put a car fire out! I would like to say to people who have not been before, both operational and non-operational, men or women, to sign up for next year and go attend some amazing workshops and meet some inspirational people.”

— Simona, Training Administrator, Humberside Fire & Rescue Service

The purpose of the training and development event was to engage women and men from the Fire & Rescue Service community in a training and development experience, and to help people gain a better understanding of how they can contribute to building a more progressive fire service.

“The event is extremely well organised giving attendees the opportunity to sample a diverse range of functions within the Fire and Rescue Service and other sectors. The weekend has a great ethos around going beyond comfort zones and encouraging everyone that gender is not a barrier to success within the Fire and Rescue Services across the UK.” 

— Matt Jones, Group Manager, South Wales Fire & Rescue Service

Keynote presentations at the opening ceremony on Friday evening were given by London Fire Brigade Commissioner Dany Cotton and Sophie Montagne of the Ice Maidens.

“The buzz started early on Friday and if I’m honest one week on – I am still on a high. The positive conversations I had with people around taking on challenges for the first time, meeting new colleagues and stretching themselves in this safe environment only encourages me and all of those who help put on this event to work even harder next year.

It was great to see a good balance of previous attendees and first-timers, and I hope each and every single delegate went away with something to keep them motivated and inspired. I certainly know all the volunteers and helpers did!”

Julie King, Chair of WFS UK and Group Manager with East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service

We presented an award to Dany Cotton as a mark of recognition for her commitment and dedication to WFS UK, after her announcement earlier this year that she would be stepping down as Chair. Over the past 19 years, Dany has held roles of Chair and Vice Chair as an Honorary Officer of our National Executive Committee. 

The 19th National Training & Development Event was kindly sponsored by Bristol Uniforms Ltd, APD Communications and Supply+. 

The 20th annual event takes place 19-21 June, 2020, at the Fire Service College

To register your interest to attend the event or if you would like to be a corporate sponsor please contact Karen Smith: contact@wfs.org.uk