Queen’s award for county’s chief fire officer

South Yorkshire’s Chief Fire Officer has been awarded the Queen’s Fire Service Medal- the highest award of its kind a serving officer can receive.

James Courtney was named in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List as one of just a handful of recipients of the medal, which was introduced in May 1954 and is given for meritorious service or bravery.

James joined Merseyside Fire & Rescue in 1990, moving up through the ranks to the position of Group Manager. He served with Her Majesty’s Fire Service Inspectorate working with Integrated Risk Management Planning from November 2005 through to November 2006, when he left to join South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue.

James was promoted from Assistant Chief Fire Officer to Deputy Chief Fire Officer, before being appointed Interim CFO in April 2011. He was appointed Chief Fire Officer on a permanent basis in February 2012.

Chief Fire Officer James Courtney said: “I am delighted to receive this award. It is huge honour and a real surprise. I feel extremely lucky to have enjoyed such a long and successful career in the fire and rescue service- an organisation which does so much good work in our communities. I am particularly proud to serve as Chief Fire Officer in South Yorkshire and to contribute to National Resilience arrangements”.

Fire Authority Chair Cllr Linda Burgess, said: “James has enjoyed a long and distinguished career in the fire and rescue service and I know all members of the fire authority will join me in congratulating him on this significant achievement.”

Minister for Policing and the Fire Service Nick Hurd said: “I would like to thank Chief Fire Officer James Courtney for his dedication and commitment to the fire service, which has seen him lead South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service through unprecedented periods of change. The Queen’s Fire Service Medal is a symbol of distinguished service and James should be proud of the difference he has made to both the fire service and helping  vulnerable people in South Yorkshire.”

James is currently Chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council National Operational Effectiveness Working Group, placing him at the forefront of efforts to promote and lead the highest standards of operational standards in fire and rescue services.

This role also saw him play a major part in developing a groundbreaking piece of research which looked into Incident Commanders and decision making on the incident ground.

His national strategic role makes him a key player in the English fire service’s response to and recovery from civil emergencies. This is something he replicates at a local level, as chair of the South Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum.

Fire service signs terminal illness staff pledge

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue has signed up to a charter pledging to support employees with terminal illnesses.

After agreeing to sign-up to the TUC’s Dying to Work campaign in October, the fire service officially made the pledge this week.

The campaign is aimed at getting organisations to commit to support their employees should they be diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Martin Blunden, said. “We want to make South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue a great place to work, and part of that is about prioritising the wellbeing of our people. That’s why we believe it is essential that we give each person facing a terminal diagnosis the freedom to decide what is best for them based upon their own, individual situation. I am proud to have signed the Dying to Work Charter to publicly display our commitment to this.”

Neil Carbutt, Fire Brigades Union brigade secretary, said: “Being diagnosed with a terminal illness is something that most of us don’t want to even contemplate. Any one of us could be diagnosed with a terminal illness at any point. South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue has signed this Charter, which is extremely reassuring for us as its employees. The Fire Brigades Union totally support this positive and humanitarian move which will provide individuals and our members the dignity and security they deserve. I would urge all other fire and rescue services to follow suit.”

The Dying to Work campaign would like to see terminal illness recognised as a ‘protected characteristic’ so that an employee with a terminal illness would enjoy a ‘protected period’ where they could not be dismissed as a result of their condition.

More than half a million people in the UK are already covered by the pledge, with big employers like Royal Mail, E-on and Santander amongst those to have signed up nationally.

The pledge was signed by South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue in conjunction with the Fire Brigades Union, but will apply to all members of fire service staff regardless of their union affiliation.

Water rescue dogs join South Yorkshire firefighters in training

Firefighters from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue have teamed up with some clever canines to showcase their water rescue skills at Rother Valley Reservoir.

Three Newfoundlands and one Leonberger scent dog from Pete Lewin Newfoundlands charity joined Edlington and Aston Park crews for the training exercise. Firefighters carried out a number of water rescue techniques incorporating the dogs, testing the manoeuvres and skills the dogs have when rescuing people in dangerous water situations.

The specialist training session was created to provide crews with an opportunity to further their knowledge and work with water rescue dogs. It allowed them to see the capabilities that the dogs have and the way that they work, which is something that has never been done before within the service.

Station Manager, Chris Lally said, “Water rescue is a core area in which a select number of our firefighters specialise in. Any opportunity we get to explore new and advanced ways of carrying out this function is always welcomed within the service.

Around 400 people needlessly drown in the UK every year and thousands more suffer injury, some life changing, through near-drowning experiences. It is essential to be aware of the hidden dangers that rivers, lakes and reservoirs can present.”

Pete Lewin, Paramedic and founder of Pete Lewin Newfoundlands, said: “As a small team of like minded people we go all around the country to emergency services shows. We have developed various manoeuvres for getting people out of the water with the dogs. Over the past eight years we have been looking into rescue work with these powerful and amazing animals and have trained with a number of fire and rescue services throughout the country.

We would like to thank South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue for inviting us to Rother Valley and for giving us the opportunity to train with the crews.”

Pete Lewin Newfoundlands is a not-for-profit, voluntary organisation that uses Newfoundland dogs to help promote water safety and deliver water safety workshops to schools and other groups. The dogs are also used for emotional support swims for people suffering with stress related problems.

The Newfoundland dog is traditionally a large, strong breed of working dog. With webbed feet and a very muscular build, they are regularly used for water rescue and lifesaving. The dogs from Pete Lewin Newfoundlands are trained by their owners and used for exercises and training on a voluntary basis. They hope that in the future, these dogs could operate and work alongside agencies involved in search and rescue.

Firefighters rescue old supplies to provide animal fun

Fire fighters have rescued old supplies to provide fun for animals at the award-winning Yorkshire Wildlife Park.

Hoses, ropes and equipment that were broken or out of date have been ingeniously recycled to create a range of stimulating toys for the animal enclosures.

They have been turned into balls, swings, huts and more to help enrich the animals’ time at the 100-acre innovative park at Branton, near Doncaster.

“The animals will get a lot of enjoyment from the generosity of the Fire Brigade,” said the park’s deputy animal manager Rick Newton.

“We have made our Rhinos a Fire Hose Ball to play with out of the hoses given to us. They are having a great time running around playing with it”

The fire fighters from South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue’s Rossington station were invited to the park to see how their old specialized equipment has been put to use.

“The staff at the park do a fantastic job and we were only too pleased to help out by donating the old hoses, ropes and other equipment for the animals to play with or for their enclosures,” said station manager Shayne Tottie.

“The equipment donated is all stock which is either old, broken or out of date which we are no longer able to use and would otherwise have been thrown away, so when the Park approached us for our help we gladly offered to recycle the equipment.

“The fire crew had a lovely time being shown around the park and meeting all the amazing staff and animals who will hopefully benefit from the equipment.“

The park is home to the Black Rhinos Hodan and Dayo who reside on YWP’s newly extended African Plains and the country’s only polar bears at Project Polar, a ten-acre reserve with caves, natural pools and rolling terrain.

YWP, the no1 walk-through wildlife attraction in the UK, offers families an entertaining, fun filled and educational day out.

Visitors come almost face to face with some of the world’s rarest and beautiful species, including Amur Leopards and Tigers, Lions, Painted Hunting Dogs,
Giant Otters, Guinea Baboons, Meerkats, and many more.

New Assistant Fire Chief for South Yorkshire

DSC_0417South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Authority (SYFRA) has appointed a new Assistant Chief Fire Officer following an extensive recruitment process.

Alex Johnson beat off competition from a strong field of candidates to secure the position and brings more than 25 years of fire service experience to the role.

Alex joined Derbyshire Fire & Rescue as a firefighter in 1992, serving at stations across the county during a successful career in which she rose to the rank of Area Manager, leading

the service’s prevention, protection and inclusion work. She’s also worked at the service’s training centre, both as breathing apparatus instructor and Group Manager, and is a fully qualified fire protection officer.

For many years, Alex has been a member of the Executive Committee of Women in the Fire Service, a national network which supports the development of women in the fire sector. She’s also previously been the women’s representative for the Fire Brigades Union in Derbyshire.

Alex said: “I’m really excited to be joining a metropolitan fire service with a reputation as strong as South Yorkshire’s. I look forward to continuing its work in delivering a first class service to the people of South Yorkshire.”

Fire Authority Chair, Cllr Linda Burgess, said: “I would like to congratulate Alex on her appointment. The panel was impressed with Alex’s experience, achievements in Derbyshire, and her vision for the future of our service here in South Yorkshire.”

Fire service ‘chip pan’ campaign wins trio of national awards

A chart topping bid by firefighters has won a hat trick of national campaign awards.

Central red watch and 999 operators at South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue were part of a daring drive to reach the top of the Christmas charts with ‘Chip Pan’ by the Everly Pregnant Brothers.

The song was used as part of a wider campaign to cut house fires over Christmas and won the ‘Best Low Budget Campaign’, ‘Best Video’ and ‘Best Creative Communication’ gongs at the Comms2Point0 Unawards, a respected event celebrating the best in public sector communication. It’s the first time any organisation has picked up three awards at the event.

Although the track didn’t reach last year’s festive song summit, it helped raise awareness of kitchen fire safety amongst millions of people. The associated campaign contributed to an 18 per cent drop in house fires last December and raised £4,311 for two charities- Age UK Sheffield and Shelter.

Highlights of the assault on the yuletide music chart included two national television appearances and more than five million views online for a video which accompanies the song. Leaders, businesses and celebrities from across Sheffield also threw in their support for the campaign.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Martin Blunden, said: “Both our staff and the South Yorkshire public really got behind this campaign. Although it was a bit of fun, albeit with a serious safety message at its heart, it raised such a lot of money for two great causes and also contributed to our biggest objective- making people safer by reducing house fires. I’m really pleased that this hard work has again been recognised at a national level.”

Earlier this year the campaign was also recognised at both the Public Sector Communication and Government Communication Service awards.