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News responding to national or international events such as large incidents, memorials or other news outside the West Midlands

Attacks on firefighters

Two trainee firefighters in breathing apparatus using a thermal image camera in a firefighting training exercise.

Any emergency service worker being attacked as they go about their work is clearly wrong and won’t be tolerated.

It is a serious issue, but we are fortunate as a service that incidents are fairly low in number when you consider the thousands of incidents we attend each year.

However, we and our Fire Authority will work closely with the police to bring culprits to justice. In serious cases you can go to jail.

Whilst most of the incidents we record are verbal, this can still be intimidating for our crews who are simply trying to do their job and safely resolve an emergency.

But we’ve also recorded instances of objects being thrown, threatening behaviour and even cases where weapons have been present.

We have a reporting system so our staff can let us know of instances, meaning we can identify hot spots and enabling local Station Commanders to work with their local contacts to try to resolve things.

We can also use our data to highlight ‘problem’ locations to our crews before they arrive and, if absolutely necessary, call for urgent assistance from the police.

We run awareness sessions for our trainee firefighters and an online course for all of our staff on managing difficult situations.

We will support our staff in every way we can if ever they’re unfortunate enough to be attacked and a case goes to court. And we have a wide range of other support we can provide, including counselling and the services of our Occupational Health team.

The National Fire Chiefs Council has also called for increased custodial sentences for those who commit attacks against firefighters, citing a 4% increase in attacks in England. Read their full statement here: https://wmfs.link/3nSqsN4

International Control Room Week

A photo of our fire control with staff working at their desks

International Control Room Week (18-24 Oct 2021) is a time when we, with other services around the globe, celebrate and recognise the amazing work of our control room teams.

A photo of our Fire Control room

They also mobilise and manage resources such as fire engines, personnel and equipment to ensure our crews are available and where you need them, when you need them.

They are considered by many as the unsung heroes of the fire service. You don’t see them but, without their contribution, our firefighters couldn’t do what they do. Fire Control is vital to making the communities and of the West Midlands and Staffordshire safer, stronger and healthier.

Group Manager Kelly Whitmore, who leads Staffordshire and West Midlands Fire Control, said: “The role of a Fire Control Operator is to listen and understand what is happening when someone dials 999, to send fire engines to help, provide reassurance and guidance to keep someone safe, and to support an incident until it has been resolved.

“In the West Midlands, we aim to get to incidents in high-risk areas within five minutes, to save life, reduce harm and protect homes.

“Fire Control is integral to this and we’re extremely proud that our response services are rated as ‘outstanding’ by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services.

“There’s a large poster on the wall in our Control Room with the words from a piece of writing called ‘Who Am I?’. The final sentence reads ‘I am an Emergency Control Operator and I am proud of what I do’. Those simple few words perfectly sum up how I, and thousands of other Control Operators around the world, feel about our job.”

Please follow @WestMidsFire on Twitter and Facebook to find out more about the work of Fire Control – and check out the profiles of some of the team below!

You can support the week by using the hashtag #ControlRoomHeroes on social media. Every time the hashtag is used, NEC Software Solutions will donate to Marie Curie and End Youth Homelessness.

You can learn more about the role of a fire control operator on our Fire Control page.

Learn more about our team

Tracy has worked in Fire Control since 2005:

I joined a Fire Control training course. I was 39, and there were many times during the course when I felt out of my depth and would never make a good Fire Control Operator.

But, after several long, hard weeks of training, tests, exams and practical exercises, I joined a watch – and West Midlands Fire Service became my extended family! There were two more years of training, tests and exams before I became a competent operator.

‘Extended family’ may sound a bit corny, but we spend so much time together that it really does feel like that.

We’re a team. We work together, have each other’s back, support each other in difficult times, and occasionally socialise and have fun together.
Sixteen years later, I’m still here answering 999 calls. This is what I love most about my job – helping others in their time of need.

I’ve always remained a control operator and never really yearned for promotion, but I do feel that I have lots of experience to pass on and I am always happy to help colleagues and new trainees. I’m proud of the service we provide to the community.

Fire Control Operator Tracy using the radio in Fire Control
Fire Control Watch Commander Aaron

Aaron, a Watch Commander in Fire Control:

I started in Staffordshire and West Midlands Fire Control in September 2014.

It was quite a career change, having previously worked as a laboratory technician.

The fire control training course was a challenge, but one I enjoyed. After successfully passing the various exams and exercises, I joined a watch.
As a Fire Control Operator, I took 999 calls and mobilised fire engines and other resources to incidents across the West Midlands and Staffordshire. Later, I was offered opportunities to develop and become a Crew Commander, which meant learning new skills and learning about team and resource management.

Then I joined the fire control support team. This involved improving processes and systems, implementing change and supporting fire control when needed.
Whilst in this role I also supported and led two separate fire control training courses. To be able to teach and guide new fire control operators at the start of their journey was really enjoyable and rewarding.

Now I’m a Watch Commander, sharing responsibility for managing my team and ensuring that the control room runs safely and effectively while I’m on duty.

Working in fire control is challenging and rewarding, and it has given me the opportunity to help others while developing my personal skills and resilience.

Sally, a recent starter in Fire Control, who joined in 2021:

I left school in 2000 and worked mostly in customer service roles, but when I saw a vacancy for a Fire Control Operator with Staffordshire and West Midlands Fire Control I decided to take the plunge. I wanted a job that would offer a secure career, involved great variety and something that would let me give back to the community.

I applied and was invited to an assessment day, which consisted of a formal interview based on my personal qualities and attributes (PQAs), a typing test, a practical role-play and a group discussion.

When I was then offered a place on the eight-week training course I was both elated and nervous.

I started in June 2021. The course was very intense and required a lot of dedication and commitment. I was studying during working hours, and also at night and weekends. However, I was supported throughout by my trainers and peers. I learnt very early on that teamwork is vital for this role.

I began work in the control room in August and, although I had made it through my course, no training can fully prepare you for taking calls from people who are in desperate situations. But the support I got from colleagues was excellent.

The decision to join the fire service is something I couldn’t be happier with. There are a couple of great things that stand out in my job role, one being the vital difference I can make for someone in their time of need. Also, the team I work with all have shared values and the help and support I receive is like having a second family.

I love my job and find it very fulfilling – even though at times we deal with some traumatic events. I am still learning every day and, although I have a long way to go to become fully competent, I look forward to coming into work.

Sally in Fire Control at her desk using the radio

We’re national Breathing Apparatus champs – again!

Firefighters of Hay Mills Blue Watch

West Midlands Fire Service is celebrating a number of wins at the 2021 National Breathing Apparatus Challenge (NBAC).

The event, which took place at the Fire Service College in Gloucestershire, attracted twenty fire and rescue service teams from across the country.

We were represented by firefighters from Foleshill fire station (White and Red Watches) and Hay Mills Blue Watch.

Firefighters of Hay Mills Blue Watch

Many congratulations to Hay Mills Blue (pictured above) for their overall win. They also won in 2018 and 2019! Team: Crew Commander James Davis (Officer in Charge); Watch Commander Steve Gibson and C/Cdr Waleed Iqbal (Breathing Apparatus/BA wearers); Firefighter Jason Plant (Fire Ground Operative); FF Sue Clarke (Entry Control Officer).

But the WMFS glory didn’t stop there, with Foleshill Red (pictured below, with colleagues from White Watch) taking second place overall!

Our entrants also picked up a number of individual awards:

FF Francesca Waters, Foleshill Red – best Entry Control Officer
FF Jason Plant, Hay Mills Blue – best Fire Ground Operative
W/Cdr Steve Gibson and C/Cdr Waleed Iqbal, Hay Mills Blue – 2nd place, best BA wearers
FF Sue Clarke, Hay Mills Blue – 3rd place, best Entry Control Officer.

Team from Foleshill Fire Station in full uniform with Chief Fire Officer Phil Loach

The NBAC depends on the year-round dedication of its organising committee. This year, W/Cdr Dave Payton (former WMFS) and Ian Evans, formerly WMFS now Shropshire FRS, retire from their roles on the committee. Lee Sketchley (retired WMFS) also played a significant part in the challenge from its inception in 2004/5 until 2019. We thank them and their colleagues for providing a safe, professional and challenging event.

Core Code of Ethics for Fire and Rescue Services

West Midlands Fire Service has welcomed today’s publication (18 May) of a new Core Code of Ethics for Fire and Rescue Services.

Core code of ethics for fire and rescue services created by Local Government Association (LGA), the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) and the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC)

The document has been launched by the Local Government Association (LGA), the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) and the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC). It has been developed in response to Sir Tom Winsor’s recommendation in the State of Fire report 2019.

Public trust and confidence in fire and rescue services rely on all employees demonstrating ethical behaviours.

The Core Code sets out these ethical principles and is designed to help services to continuously improve culture and workforce diversity, helping to support communities in the best way.

Everyone in every fire and rescue service (FRS) is expected to follow the Core Code. This includes those working with, or on behalf of, a service.

The Core Code sets out five ethical principles, based on the existing Principles of Public Life, which provide a basis for promoting good behaviour and challenging inappropriate behaviour:

• Putting our communities first – we put the interest of the public, the community and service users first

• Integrity – we act with integrity including being open, honest and consistent in everything we do

• Dignity and respect – making decisions objectively based on evidence, without discrimination or bias

• Leadership – we are all positive role models, always demonstrating flexibility and resilient leadership. We are all accountable for everything we do and challenge all behaviour that falls short of the highest standards

• Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) – We continually recognise and promote the value of EDI both within the FRSs and the wider communities in which we serve. We stand against all forms of discrimination, create equal opportunities, promote equality foster good relations and celebrate difference.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer (Temporary) Sarah Warnes, People Programme

Sarah Warnes, Assistant Chief Fire Officer with WMFS, led on developing the code on behalf of the NFCC , in partnership with the LGA and PFCC.

She said: “As the Core Code states, our communities’ trust and confidence in us and our work relies on all employees demonstrating ethical behaviours.

“The Core Code sets out these ethical principles and is designed to help us keep improving culture and workforce diversity. Ultimately, it helps us to support our communities in the best way.

“Our existing Core Values already focus on service to the community and valuing our people, diversity and improvement.

“Our next steps will be to look at how we can enhance and incorporate the Core Code of Ethics into our values, behaviours and policies.”

The Core Code will sit alongside the Code of Ethics Fire Standard developed by the Fire Standards Board.

The Code of Ethics for Fire and Rescue Services can be read at: https://www.local.gov.uk/publications/core-code-ethics-fire-and-rescue-services-england

Death of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

A photo of his Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh.
A photo of his Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh.

Today we learned, with the greatest sadness, of the death of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with Her Majesty the Queen, the wider royal family and everyone affected by the announcement.

Flags at our fire stations are being flown at half mast as a mark of respect.

Phil Loach, Chief Fire Officer of West Midlands Fire Service, said: “It is a very sad day. On behalf of everyone at West Midlands Fire Service I will be sending our condolences to Her Majesty the Queen.”

West Midlands Fire Service will be represented by senior officers at any civic events that are held to mark the passing of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh the details of which will be shared as they become available.

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