Chief Fire Officer awarded honorary degree by University of Wolverhampton

Phil Loach becomes Doctor of Professional Practice

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Published on 7 September 2022

Phil Loach recognised for his work making the West Midlands safer, stronger and healthier

Phil Loach, Chief Fire Officer of West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) has been awarded an honorary degree from the University of Wolverhampton for his work making West Midlands communities safer, stronger and healthier.

He was made a Doctor of Professional Practice during a graduation ceremony at the university last night (6 Sept) – watched by family members including grandson Marley (5) who, earlier the same day, started in Year One at school.

Honorary awards are presented by the University of Wolverhampton to people who have made a significant contribution to their field of expertise. 

As our Chief Fire Officer (CFO), Phil Loach is responsible for the provision of emergency response, business safety and community safety services to nearly three million people across the West Midlands conurbation, which includes Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Wolverhampton, Dudley, Coventry and Solihull local authority areas.

He leads WMFS’s risk-based delivery of services to its communities, guided by an effective and integrated strategy for service delivery which includes ensuring that firefighters and colleagues provide an assertive, effective and safe response to emergencies.

Phil Loach with cap and gown outside the University of Wolverhampton

He said: “It was an honour and a pleasure to be recognised in this way, and to reflect on our longstanding and important relationship with the University of Wolverhampton alongside the academics and students with whom we’ve worked so closely in recent years.

“Not only do many of my officers and colleagues complete their own studies at this great institution, but we also benefit from working with the students and academics here to make the people of the West Midlands safer, stronger and healthier.

“Whether it’s improving the understanding of our staff in areas such as emergency planning or fire investigation, or collaborating on research, training exercises or multi-agency events, we have been able to bring together great academic minds to improving the practice and impact of West Midlands Fire Service.

“West Midlands Fire Service has and will always put its communities at the heart of everything it does.

“It’s a source of great pride for me to witness colleagues, current and former, identifying and meeting the challenge of innovating within what many regard as the traditional structures of a fire and rescue service.

“I want to thank them, but also my family and friends, who have been there through the challenges of leading West Midlands Fire Service through over a decade of financial and cultural challenges. I look forward to building upon this success.

“A personal highlight was sharing last night’s event with my five-year-old grandson, Marley, who started his own academic journey in school Year One earlier the same day!”

Initially serving as a firefighter, Phil undertook a number of roles across WMFS before becoming CFO. His leadership style is based on continuous commitment to organisation development and rich communication, enabling transformation of service delivery through unprecedented political and economic change.

He has also played a key national role in the fire and rescue sector, serving for a number of years as Vice-chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council, for which he continues to lead on the national Community Risk Programme.

The programme aims to deliver a national definition of risk and a set of standardised tools and guidance to support the community risk management process for fire and rescue services across the UK.

During his acceptance speech, CFO Loach looked back on the immense changes in the fire and rescue sector since he started as a firefighter nearly three decades ago.

“We are about so much more than flashing blue lights and emergency response, although that certainly remains absolutely core to what we do.” he told the graduation ceremony audience.

“We are now an organisation that uses evidence, the latest research and the huge range of skills in our workforce to deliver prevention and protection interventions that make people safer from not only fire, but from a wide range of other risks and potential emergencies – from health inequalities to climate change.

“This has only been possible because we now better understand risk, and utilise evidence, research and data from a wide range of sources, coupled with new technologies, to design and improve our services – and institutions such as the University of Wolverhampton are key to that.

“You have my congratulations on everything you have achieved, and I hope you are all rightly proud.

“Graduating as you are from the Schools of Business, Law and Historical and Political Studies you, perhaps more than many others, will have a part to play in the future direction and leadership of the West Midlands and the country as a whole.

“I hope that you will also consider a future public service, perhaps even in fire and rescue, for your future careers.”