We’re featured in the November issue of UK Fire magazine!

We’re so pleased to have had the opportunity to feature in a three-page article in November’s issue of UK Fire magazine.

Hear from our new Chair, Jules King, on her aspirations for Women in the Fire Service UK, see some great pictures from our June event, and find out how you can support us.

Also featured in the November issue are two WFS related articles by MDM Publishing.

The first about the United Kingdom Firefighters Sailing Challenge where our Women in the Fire Service UK crew, Siren Sisters, won their class for the second year running.

The second article features our very own WFS Local Representative, Peggy Male, who talks about cutting-edge fabrics from Hainsworth Technology.

Warwickshire Fire and Rescue join as Corporate Members

Warwickshire fire and rescue logo

We are pleased to announce that Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service in the West Midlands has become a new Corporate Member of Women in the Fire Service UK (WFS) – in a year-long commitment which will forge closer links between the organisations. 

‘Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service are proud to be an inclusive employer. As a fire and rescue service, we have a duty to provide young people, especially females with strong role models. This ensures that we are not only an employer of choice for female firefighters now, but also in the future. 
 
“By joining Women in the Fire Service UK network we are not only enhancing the work that we are already doing to improve equality in the fire and rescue service nationally, but we are also demonstrating our commitment to the amazing female firefighters and non-operational staff that are already leading the way in the service.’

Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Services Chief Fire Officer, Kieran Amos

Latest Government statistics (2018) show the percentage of female firefighters employed by Warwickshire FRS at 6.2% which is above the UK average of 5.7%. This has risen from 4.1% in 2011.

‘Through our Corporate Membership scheme, we aim to build increasingly strong connections with FRS across the UK who value the role we play in providing new opportunities and services to our members, and who are keen to further the sector’s potential for equality.

We very much look forward to working with Warwickshire Fire and Rescue to strengthen the platform for our local and regional representatives, supporters and members within the Service. With their support, we can continue to scale our services. Our main source of income is corporate membership which helps us to carry out our work in the UK and internationally.

Through their backing this year, Warwickshire Fire and Rescue demonstrate their commitment to developing advancement, development and leadership opportunities for women. We are really happy to have them on board.’

Warwickshire joins nearly 30 other Corporate Members including the Fire Service College and other FRS such as Cumbria, Nottinghamshire, Humberside, Lincolnshire, London, Mid and West Wales and Oxfordshire. 

If you would like to learn more about our different types of memberships and how you can help support us visit our membership page.

— Jules King, Chair of WFS

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.”

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

“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: 

HFRS

“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.’

SYFRS

‘ … 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 

Women in the Fire Service deliver fire prevention training to women in Lebanon

In 2017 a small team from Operation Florian visited Lebanon to deliver fire prevention training to a range of NGOs (non-governmental organisations) hosted by Save the Children.  This was designed to embed fire safety awareness in their work supporting Syrian and Palestinian refugees living in ITS (informal tented settlements) and SSB (sub-standard buildings) as it had been identified that fire safety and education within the camps was extremely poor.

While firefighting media such as extinguishers, beaters and fire hooks have been provided and training sessions delivered by the NGOs in relation to fire safety, there was concern that further evaluations were needed with women and children.

Operation Florian subsequently contacted WFS UK for assistance in providing some gender specific fire safety research and after submitting a successful bid for funding with the Worshipful Company of Firefighters a revisit to the area was planned under the umbrella of Fire Aid to continue work with Save the Children.

In January 2019 a small team from Fire and Rescue Services across the country travelled to Lebanon.  The team was made up of 5 women from different roles bringing years of operational experience and skills in the training and development of firefighters as well as extensive knowledge and expertise in fire safety, fire behaviour, child psychology, education, diversity and inclusion.  TGM Steve Jordan from Greater Manchester FRS accompanied the team having led on the Operation Florian trip in 2017; two of the ladies within the team had also been on the 2017 trip and were able to provide a valuable insight into the challenges faced by the refugees in the camps.

Beirut is a huge city with around 2 million people and it seems as many cars! It sprawls for miles along the mountainous Mediterranean coast and there is much renovation and rebuilding taking place after years of civil war creating an impressive skyline of modern tower blocks alongside traditional buildings, many still bearing stark reminders of the past.  Networks of narrow streets within the city lead to wide highways with it seems, calm courtesy to other drivers being the only rules of the road – at times chaotic and a little nerve wracking!

At the beginning of the week the team met with Save the Children to learn from the shelter team how the fire safety recommendations made by the 2017 Operation Florian team were being implemented. It was clear that Save the Children’s education packages have developed greatly and these were being shared with other NGO’s and cascaded out to the camps. There are around 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon with over half being children. Many live in informal tented settlements, with those able to afford it living in sub-standard buildings some in a reasonable state of repair, others not so.  It was encouraging to learn that while multiple families are living together in these buildings Save the Children deliver fire safety checks and provide smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.

Those living in the informal tented settlements are not so fortunate.  The team visited 6 different camps all with their own challenges.  The largest had over 200 tents, each tent providing shelter for several families.  Save the Children or other agencies provide some basic protection such as plastic sheeting and the families gather wood and other building materials from where they can to build their homes.  This last winter presented further challenges for the families as there has been unusually heavy rainfall which caused devastating flooding in the camps of up to a meter soaking beds, blankets, wood and clothing.

The team spent time in the camps talking to the refugees with the aid of an interpreter and it was clear to see how desperate their situation was.  Many of those we spoke to had good knowledge of what to do in a fire and how to treat minor burns which was comforting, however their main concern was with the electrics in the settlements.  Lebanon’s electrical infrastructure is fragile and many camps only have power for 4 – 6 hours a day.  Illegal connections made to national power supplies lead to dangerous electrical cables trailing all over the tents with exposed wires, overloaded sockets and misuse of electrical equipment creating high risk of fires and electrocution. 

Many of the families we met had been living in these tents for years.  Considering the crisis started 8 years ago, it is difficult to imagine how they must feel after the traumas they have had to endure in leaving their own country with only what they could carry to find safety and shelter in a strange environment.  We were touched by their friendly welcomes, happy to show us their homes and give us the opportunity to speak with them. 

Regrettably the situation is not going to get any easier, increasing population within the camps and limited opportunities for camp expansion means some families are building a second floor to their tents creating huge risks in terms of health and safety and in particular fire safety. Managing such conditions is a huge challenge for the NGO’s and one which the team were able to discuss at a presentation of their findings with the In-Country Director of Save the Children at the end of the week’s research.   

While 4 of the team were out in the field working with Save the Children, TGM Steve Jordan and CM Alison Stone from Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service visited fire stations in Beirut and Zahle at the invitation of the Head of Training for the Lebanese Civil Defence.  Currently nearly all firefighters in Lebanon are volunteers and deliver a service to their communities with minimal resources.  For example; in one of the stations where they had 25 firefighters there were only 7 sets of fire kit to share.  With a great deal of hard work by Steve Jordan and with transportation costs being picked up by Save the Children, a container of decommissioned kit including; old boots, helmets, tunics, leggings and RTC kit has recently arrived in Beirut which will be distributed to some of the 200 fire stations across Lebanon providing firefighters with much needed PPE.

Alison was able to spend some time with firefighters learning about their incidents and how they manage with the limited equipment and resources they have.  Alison was also able to share some of her vast knowledge and experience with the crews so promoting women in operational roles.   Alison was also able to facilitate an RTC training session with some of the firefighters which enabled one of the female firefighters the opportunity to get hands on with the cutting tools – something she had not done before.

Some of the team were also invited to the British Embassy to speak about the gender project with Save the Children in the refugee camps and the importance of the relationship with the Lebanese Civil Defence.  All parties hoping that there will be further projects in the future.

The week we spent in Lebanon was hard work with long and difficult days, followed by discussions and report writing late into the evenings but it has been a great experience.  As always I am inspired by the incredible women I am lucky enough to work with, their knowledge, professionalism and expertise made me so very proud.  I know that our visit will have made a difference not only for those refugees living in such desperate conditions, but also to the firefighters on stations with their limited resources.  Relationships with Save the Children, the Lebanese Civil Defence and hopefully the British Embassy will continue to grow and with this in mind we are hoping that two female firefighters from one of the stations visited will be able to attend the WFS training and development weekend in the summer to further their knowledge and experience and continue to develop our relationships with international fire services.


2018 Project in South Sudan

A volunteer team of 6 visited South Sudan to deliver training on behalf of FIREAID and were working with the UN International Organisation for Migration.

The project consisted of two aspects of work, first to run a training course for community fire safety and community fire response teams.  Secondly, to carry out a fire safety assessment of the displaced persons camp, which can hold thousands of people living in makeshift accommodation in a very small area, with schools, hospitals, markets etc. adding to the risk.

The team consisted of: Adrian Brown (Retired East Sussex), WM Jenny Hill (West Midlands FS / Fire Service College), WM Jenny Nangle (Lancashire FRS), WM Kathryn Duncan (London Fire Brigade), CM Ali Stone (Hampshire FRS), WM Clare Holmes (South Yorkshire FS)

Read how they got on:-