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.
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.
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.
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.