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Fasting on the Frontline with Firefighter Waleed Iqbal

Firefighter Waleed Iqbal

One of our brilliant WMFS firefighters Waleed Iqbal was featured as part of a special four-minute programme aired tonight (Tuesday 4 May) on BBC’s The One Show.

Entitled ‘Fasting on the Frontline’ the programme follows a day in the life of Muslim, Waleed, as he observes Ramadan (12 April – 11 May).

Crew Commander Waleed has been a firefighter at Hay Mills fire Station for the last 15 years. Known amongst his colleagues as ‘Wal’, he has been observing Ramadan since he was ten-years-old.

Over the years, Waleed has learned to carefully balance his religious duties such as fasting/praying, with the inevitable challenges and physical demands that being a firefighter can bring.

After 15 years in the role, Waleed says his favourite part of the job is attending incidents and helping the community especially when crews have genuinely made a difference to someone’s life/day.

Married with four children, Waleed lives and works in his local community which he is proud to serve every single day.

Outside of work, Waleed enjoys playing cricket, being in the gym, poetry, listening to Bob Dylan, playing guitar and watching movies.

Firefighter Waleed Iqbal took in front of a fire engine

New Aerial Drone Technology Takes Off

Several drone pilots stood in front of aerial drones with a smoking building in the background

A short time ago in a galaxy not so far away… six state-of-the-art drones began their maiden voyage to further enhance and support West Midlands Fire Service’s (WMFS) incident response.

Building on our dedication to innovate and develop our services, its apt that on the official Star Wars Day (4 May), WMFS announced it’s intention to begin utilising fantastic new aerial drone technology.

Several drone pilots stood in front of aerial drones with a smoking building in the background

We have Operational Authority from the Civil Air Authority to carry out UAS Drone operations and from today will commence a 12-month drone capability trial.

Over the next few months, the six M2ED drones will capture vital aerial video footage and high resolution still images from above an incident scene, to improve situational awareness, support effective decision-making and enhance the operational response currently provided.

Twelve fire officers have received the necessary training to pilot the drones, which will be mobilised around the clock to a wide range of incidents, requiring more than four fire engines.

Each drone has a battery that provides 30-minutes flight time, can fly at a maximum height of 400ft and in sustained wind speeds of 24 mph and operate in temperatures between -10°C and 40°C.

Built-in thermal imaging cameras will also be instrumental in identifying any heat sources, giving firefighters on the ground essential information to extinguish the fire safely.

One of the drones was recently utilised at the Sparkbrook Factory fire that saw 22 fire engines and over 100 firefighters in attendance.

Steve Vincent, Strategic Enabler - Operations, Preparedness and Response, said:

“This is a really exciting project for us and forms part of our commitment to utilise digital technology and innovation to enhance the excellent service we provide to our communities.

“We recognise the far-reaching benefits that drone technology can bring to operational response. We know that the early use of drones at incidents can potentially improve the situational awareness of incident Commanders and other roles. They can also support effective decision-making and improve safety not only of our firefighters but our partner agencies and members of the public too.

“This 12-month trial will identify further opportunities to identify and mitigate risk within our communities.”

Going forward, the drones will also provide information for fire investigation, intelligence and information gathering and for debrief and training purposes. The equipment may also be used to support other multi agency situations such as aircraft crashes, road traffic collisions, rail crashes and floods and help identify hazards to people, responders, animals, property and the environment.

Be Water Aware Week 2021

A lifebouy floating in a swimming pool

West Midlands Fire Service is supporting the National Fire Chiefs Council’s (NFCC) Be Water Aware Week 2021 campaign to encourage people not to be complacent when spending time in and around water.

Water bouy and rings by a dock

Whether at home or away, we hope to educate and encourage people to stay safe by being aware of the risks.  

As the current Covid-19 restrictions ease it is anticipated many people will head to coastal locations and inland water beauty spots. Few people would think they might become a water incident statistic – but the fact is in the UK in 2019 more people died from accidental drowning than cyclists did on the road.  

Following simple advice will help reduce the 223 accidental drownings reported in 2019 and the many more injuries, which can be lifechanging, following water related incidents.

The advice includes:  

  • Never swim alone in case you need help 
  • Don’t drink alcohol when undertaking water related activities, it impairs judgement and your ability to swim 
  • Avoid walking routes near water if you have been drinking alcohol 
  • Don’t dive or jumping straight into open water, this can cause potentially fatal cold-watershock even on the warmest day  
  • Actively supervise children in and around water – drowning can happen fast and silently 
  • If you find yourself unexpectedly in the water, don’t panic, extend your arms and legs out and float on your back until the effect of cold-water shock pass
  • Never enter the water to try and rescue someone, call 999 and ask for the Fire Service if inland and the Coastguard if you are at the coast.

NFCC’s Drowning Prevention Lead Dawn Whittaker said:  

“We want people to enjoy spending time in and around water safely and that’s why we are asking people to be water aware. By highlighting this issue and making sure simple safety messages reach them, we hope to reduce the number of these needless and preventable deaths.”  

Look out for #BeWaterAware on our social media accounts for more information and advice this Be Water Aware Week 2021. 

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.