Our Chief Fire Officer, Phil Loach, leads the Strategic Enabling Team (SET) who oversee the shape and direction of the brigade, and that we’re meeting our legal responsibilities. SET consists of managers from across the organisation ranging in areas from Emergency Response to Communications and Finance.

Meet our Strategic Enabling Team below, and connect with them online:

Phil Loach
Chief Fire Officer
Formerly an Engineer by trade, Phil worked in both the private and public sector and was a middle manager at the Benefits Agency before joining West Midlands Fire Service in 1994. Initially serving as a Firefighter across Birmingham and surrounding areas and stations in the Black Country, Phil’s previous roles include Operations Commander for Birmingham, Head of Emergency Response, Assistant Chief Fire Officer - Operations, and Deputy Chief Fire Officer before becoming Chief Fire Officer in November 2013. Phil leads West Midlands Fire Service as one of the UK’s foremost emergency services combining innovation (including the introduction of ‘Brigade Response Vehicles’ which match our emergency response to the incident risk), with practical solutions aligned to personal accountability as a means of providing lean systems including a local staffing model. Hailing from the Black Country in the West Midlands, Phil was educated locally before gaining a degree in Management Studies from University of Worcester in 2004. He continues his management and leadership studies through Coventry University. Phil has a relaxed and approachable style and is a champion of work-based learning and values-based leadership and management, he believes passionately that in professional life there are only two dynamic modes of existence: either we influence, or are influenced by others. In September 2013, Phil received the AFSA Award for Leadership in Equality and Diversity at the organisation’s fifth international annual conference. The award is presented every year and recognises exceptional fire and rescue service leadership in equality, diversity and inclusion. It also acknowledges the recipient’s personal influence as a leader in enabling others to recognise and fulfil their own potential. Phil is an appointed member of the Board of Governors of West Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust, a patron of ‘Burn-Aid’, a charity that aims to support Burn Survivors and their families across the West Midlands region and is President of the West Midlands Branch of the National Association of Retired Firefighters (NARF).
Biography
Philip Hales
Deputy Chief Fire Officer
Philip Hales is currently serving as the Deputy Chief Fire Officer in the West Midlands Fire Service. He has a number of responsibilities including commanding operational emergency incidents, strategic planning, technical operational support, and a leading variety of support functions. Philip joined Cheshire Fire Service as a Fire Fighter in 1992 and served in a number of different roles before transferring to the West Midlands in June 2010 on a temporary contract. Philip was made substantive Assistant Chief Officer in the West Midlands in March 2012 and in November 2013 was promoted to acting Deputy Chief Fire Officer. Philip is a member of the Chief Fire Officers Association and is the regional secretary for the West Midlands. He has been the national lead officer for the fire service working with children and young people for a number of years and believes passionately in the fire services wider role working with the community to improve wellbeing. In 2004 Philip was awarded an MSc in Business Management at Manchester Metropolitan University and was awarded a PGC in Strategic Leadership by the University of Warwick in 2009. Philip has been married to Diane for 28 years and they have two grown up daughters who live at home benefiting from the hotel of Mum & Dad! When he is not working Philip enjoys playing golf and riding motorbikes. Philip says as he gets older he realises that his own and his families health are one of the most important things. Philip’s mantra is ‘if you work hard and be honest you can achieve anything’
Biography
Gary Taylor
Assistant Chief Fire Officer
Gary has worked his entire career with the West Midlands Fire Service having joined as an 18 year old in 1987. He worked the first 15 years of his career across the Black Country before moving into Birmingham and later Coventry and Solihull. Having taken up the role of Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Director of Service Delivery in 2012 he continues to relish the opportunity of leading the finest firefighting and support teams across the country. Gary is responsible for all activity under our Prevention, Protection and Response banners, ensuring all of these activities are delivered together in order to provide the best service to the community making the West Midlands a safer place to both live and work. He also has the benefit of working alongside the Diversity, Inclusion, Cohesion and Equalities Team who ensure we understand and engage all sectors of the community whilst focussing on the most vulnerable members amongst them. In 2014 Gary was awarded an MA in Managing and Leading People from the local Coventry University.
Biography
Simon Barry
Strategic Enabler of Protection
Our Strategic Enabler of Protection leads our approach to Community Risk Reduction, linking up our protection, prevention and response work. The role oversees the continued development and implementation of an approach to support the delivery of Primary Authority Schemes with appropriate partners. We are already engaged with five main partners. This work will incorporate enhancement of Fire Safety through engagement with other business communities including Local Enterprise Partnerships and the West Midlands Combined Authority. The part played by our Business Support Vehicles (BSVs) in supporting our Automatic Fire Alarm (AFA) policy and reducing the number of unnecessary AFAs also falls under the remit of protection. The protection role will also look at the part to be played by Fire Control in complementing our AFA work.
Biography
Ben Brook
Strategic Enabler of Response
Ben joined West Midlands Fire Service in 2001 and has undertaken a variety of roles including firefighter, crew and watch manager at operational stations in inner city Birmingham. Ben has also worked within training and development, fire safety, as a station and group commander and as the lead for Integrated Risk Management. Ben is passionate about public sector reform, taking an evidence based approach and providing the best services possible for the communities of the West Midlands. Ben has extensive knowledge and understanding in relation to risk management, research into response times and assertive, safe and effective actions that reduce vulnerability. Ben has the strategic responsibility of ensuring that we respond to incidents assertively, safely and effectively in accordance with our Integrated Risk Management Plan. Ben also has responsibility for ensuring that our vehicles are staffed at all times and available. Our Service Delivery Model is built upon our capacity to respond to incidents. By taking an evidence based approach West Midlands Fire Service has recognised the importance of delivering a risk based 5 minute attendance standard in order to improve survivability, reduce property damage and reduce the financial burden upon our communities. This is achieved through a blended fleet of response vehicles, crewing levels and equipment provision which is matched against risk. When our crews arrive at incidents they provide assertive safe and effective action. Operational excellence through regular risk based development and training in both core and specialist skills. Our regular largescale and multi-agency exercising enables us to strive to continually improve our performance. The cost of fire and other incidents across the West Midlands in 2013/14 was £199m and a business effected by fire costs the local economy an average of £1.3m. Our response times, our assertive, safe and effective actions are important for maintaining a strong economy, keeping major transport infrastructure moving and keeping businesses in business. West Midlands Fire Service is driving public sector reform and our response services now include responding to people, often those who are vulnerable or elderly, when they fall and cannot get up. Our blended fleet enables us to respond to a range of incidents where the most vulnerable need help. Through our blended fleet we also respond to local and national disasters including flooding and water rescue incidents, incidents involving structural collapse, confined spaces and where people are trapped. Through an integrated approach to serving our communities, prevention, protection and response come together to control, reduce and remove risk in order to make vulnerable people, places and businesses Safer, Stronger and Healthier.
Biography
Jason Danbury
Strategic Enabler of ICT
Jason is the SET member for ICT with responsibility for the ICT Supporting Strategy, and associated budgets, staff, and business plans ensuring the focus of the department is aligning ICT service to the Brigade. ICT support the Service Delivery Model at station, en route and at incidents through Command and Control Systems, communications in terms of radio, telephony, mobile phones and networking as well as applications and data; as well as the provision and support for Prevention and Protection work and other Support Service areas through ICT devices, connectivity, applications, Data Management and CAD. Jason started his ICT career at Goodyears before moving in to the public sector, going on to hold senior IT positions in Wolverhampton City Council and Wolverhampton Homes before joining West Midlands Fire Service in 2005.
Biography
Karen Gowreesunker
Strategic Enabler of Strategic Hub
Prior to joining the Fire Service, after graduating a degree in Business Studies, Karen started her career in the private sector and then moved onto the Legal Services Commission, where she worked for 3 years auditing legal practices against the Specialist Quality Mark, during which time Karen trained and assessed organisations using the European Foundation for Quality Management Model. Following this Karen was a Counter Fraud Specialist for the NHS Counter Fraud and Terrorism Agency. Karen has been with the fire service since 2005, beginning as a Service Delivery Improvement Manager in the Performance and Planning Team. Karen has continued to work in a performance, improvement and planning environment and became the Team Manager for the Principal Officer Support Team in June 2013. The team provides support to Principal Officers in ensuring the Service maintains an effective governance framework, building capacity and capability in managers, as well as enabling the Service to understand and meet its future challenges. Karen is currently the Strategic Enabler of the Strategic Hub and also Clerk to the Authority.
Biography
Mike Griffiths
Strategic Enabler of Finance and Resources
Mike Griffiths joined West Midlands Fire Service in 2000 as Finance Officer. Since then, Mike’s responsibilities have extended to incorporate Procurement and Facilities Management, ICT and Transport Engineering Workshops. In 2014 he became the Strategic Enabler of Finance and Resources.
Biography
Mark Hamilton-Russell
Strategic Enabler of Communications and Marketing
Having spent 7 years in the army Mark joined the advertising and communications world for the next 12. Both these jobs have taken Mark around the world from Central America, Brazil, Holland, Germany and Cyprus before settling in Shropshire. Mark joined the West Midlands Fire Service in 2008 and his current role as Strategic Enabler of Communications means he is part of an amazing team that includes media relations, marketing, internal communications, public relations and events. Mark is constantly in awe of all the services that this public sector provides above and beyond the expected, and has a burning (no pun intended) ambition to get the communities of the West Midlands to also be in awe….
Biography
Preith Shergill
Strategic Enabler of Business Development
Strategic Enabler of Business Development is a new post created within our Strategic Enabling Team. We want to identify £2m of ‘flexible funding’ through Commissioning, Social Value and Sponsorship to meet the challenges of a reducing budget and also to find better ways of spending the public’s money through public reform.
Biography
Steve Taylor
Strategic Enabler of Organisational Preparedness
Steve started his career in the construction industry as a Structural Engineer and later became a Local Authority Building Inspector, before joining the Fire Service in 1988. Steve has worked in a variety of roles within Operations, Fire Safety and Training. His roles have included Head of Fire Safety in Coventry and Solihull and Operations Commander for Birmingham,Wolverhampton and Coventry and Solihull Command areas. Steve’s current role is Area Commander and Strategic Enabler for Operational Intelligence, Policy and Training with a clear focus on supporting the pursuit of excellence in the services delivered to the community and enabling our people to be the best that they can be. Steve is responsible for providing a motivated yet compact support service to develop individual and organisational learning. This is achieved through internal and external intelligence that informs the development of organisational policy frameworks and the provision of high quality training to enable our vision of ‘Making the West Midlands Safer’.
Biography
Steve Vincent
Strategic Enabler of Organisational Assurance
Steve Vincent joined West Midlands Fire Service in April 1990. During his career he has served operationally at a number of stations across the brigade. Steve has risen through the ranks and currently holds the position of Strategic Enabler for Community Risk Management. During his career within the West Midlands Fire Service Steve has been a great supporter of youth engagement. This has taken many forms including YFA instructor, Duke of Edinburgh at bronze, silver and gold levels, Schools Fire Safety Quiz at both secondary and primary school levels and Fire Projects. He has always been active in charity work starting with Project Icarus, a year long project that raised money for the Birmingham Burns Unit (which involved, in part, abseiling off the McLaren Building, Birmingham after only being taught to abseil, by the Marines, on the same morning). The main charity he is presently supporting is 'New Life' which raises money for disabled and terminally ill children to improve theirs and their families’ quality of life.
Biography
Sarah Warnes
Strategic Enabler of People Support Services
Sarah Warnes is currently serving as the Area Commander responsible for people support services. This includes leading employee relations, human resources, Resourcing to include recruitment and workforce planning, occupational health and administration. She is also playing an influential role in the regional exchange in working with the neighbouring services to work more closely together in the future. Sarah started her career in 1994 with Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service where she served for 10 years before moving to the West Midlands in 2004. Sarah has served in various roles across WMFS to include Community Fire Safety and Service Delivery as a station and operations commander and has worked with teams and external partners in Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Sandwell. In 2014 Sarah completed an MA in Managing and Leading People from the local Coventry University.
Biography