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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.

Ground-breaking regional emergency and health service collaboration to improve quality of life in communities

Emergency services from the four corners of Yorkshire and the Humber, along with NHS England and Public Health England, have pledged to work even closer together for the benefit of the health and well-being of people across the region.

Launched today (Tuesday 21 November 2017), the Yorkshire and Humber Emergency Services Prevention and Early Intervention Consensus Statement has been co-ordinated by Public Health England.

Police, ambulance and fire and rescue services share a long history of effective collaborative working and the signing of a consensus to extend this partnership approach is the first regional agreement in the country.

With demand for health and social care rising, the main focus of the services is to use their joint intelligence and skills to support communities with ill-health prevention and early intervention where problems are identified.

This includes greater sharing and development of referral pathways into key services such as falls prevention and support for mental health, alcohol and drug problems, advice to keep homes warm and social support to combat loneliness and isolation.

The Yorkshire and Humber Emergency Services Prevention and Early Intervention Consensus involves

  • Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust
  • Humberside Fire & Rescue Service
  • Humberside Police
  • Humberside Police and Crime Commissioner
  • North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service
  • North Yorkshire Police
  • North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner
  • South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service
  • South Yorkshire Police
  • South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner
  • West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service
  • West Yorkshire Police
  • West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner
  • British Transport Police
  • NHS England
  • Public Health England Yorkshire & Humber

Emergency services’ staff come into contact with vulnerable people every day and see health inequalities and social challenges first-hand. By tackling these risks jointly and more effectively, the main aim is to improve the quality of life for individuals and ultimately reduce demand on the busy emergency services.

In South Yorkshire, firefighters gain access to properties at incidents where people are thought to be in need of urgent medical attention, but where ambulance service paramedics cannot get to them, for example when they are locked indoors. The work used to be carried out by police officers, so is helping to save thousands of hours of police time each year.

Fire service staff deliver falls, crime and healthy aging advice to older people in Doncaster, after a new programme of ‘safe and well’ visits was launched last year. This work will soon be extended to Barnsley, Rotherham and Sheffield.

More than 50 people have also been referred for life changing eyesight support under a successful partnership with charities for the blind. The referrals were made thanks to ‘Optimeyes’- a two year partnership between South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue (SYFR) and Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

SYFR Deputy Chief Fire Officer Martin Blunden, said: “In the last decade, the fire service has helped to make South Yorkshire safer than it has been at any time in its history in terms of house fires. But we believe we can play a much wider role in terms of tackling some of the big health challenges our country faces in the future.

“This consensus statement is the perfect illustration of that aspiration, where we use the coordinated efforts and expertise of emergency services in our region to improve the lives of vulnerable groups through targeted early intervention activity.”

Rod Barnes, Chief Executive of Yorkshire Ambulance Service, said:This is a great opportunity to work together even more closely and deliver greater support to the most vulnerable members of our communities. By coordinating our efforts we stand a better chance of addressing widespread health and wellbeing problems and improving the quality of people’s lives.”

Firefighters praise impact of unique live training exercise in Barnsley

Firefighters have hailed the impact a first-of-its-kind training opportunity which saw them test their expert skills at a flame-filled live exercise in Barnsley.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue crews were able to stage a series of realistic scenario thanks to Barnsley Council and Berneslai Homes, who made soon-to-be-demolished properties on Baden Street in the town available for live fire and rescue training.

The scenarios all involved a fire being set in one of the properties and firefighters wearing breathing apparatus entering the property to rescue casualties and put out the blaze.

The burns were carried out in a safe, controlled way with every effort made to minimise disruption to local people and the environment.

Fire bosses say that as the number of house fires in the country continues to fall, it’s vital that crews are trained in the most authentic conditions possible so that they are ready to respond to the best of their ability should real incidents occur.

Station Manager Chris Mee, said: “This project was designed to improve operational effectiveness, firefighter safety and public safety. As the number of house fires in South Yorkshire continues to reduce, our crews are exposed to less incidents making it even more important that the training we offer them is as realistic and challenging as possible.

“It’s also an example of public agencies working together to deliver better outcomes for local people and we’re really grateful to Barnsley Council and Berneslai Homes for agreeing to facilitate these rare training opportunity. We now hope that other local partners will work with us to provide similar training opportunities.”

Fire Authority Chair Cllr Linda Burgess, said: “As both a Barnsley councillor and chair of the Fire Authority, I am proud of the way in which local partners have come together to support the work of the fire service. Firefighters do a vital job and are hugely valued by the public, so it is only right that we work together to provide them with appropriate training opportunities such as these.”

Berneslai Homes Director of Assets, Regeneration and Construction, Stephen Davis said: “We were pleased to have co-operated with this project with the fire service for the benefit of our tenants and residents and their safety and it’s been a great success.”

South Yorkshire firefighter who saved life of football fan honoured at city hotel event

An off-duty South Yorkshire firefighter who helped to save the life of a football fan has been honoured at a special event in Sheffield.

Caz Whiteman, a South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue (SYFR) firefighter currently based on green watch at Rotherham fire station, was in the crowd for the match at Leicester’s Champions League clash against Sevilla at King Power Stadium earlier this year when a fellow spectator collapsed with a suspected heart attack.

Caz, who was sat nearby, immediately rushed to support pitch side first aiders and deliver cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) for more than 15 minutes until he was taken to hospital by ambulance. The man, Jim Blockley, has since made a full recovery.

Caz said at the time: “My seats were just three rows from the front of the pitch and just as the teams were starting to come out for the second half, I noticed that a spectator was in difficulty. I came down to the front of the pitch to see what I could do to help and it became clear he had suffered a heart attack and gone into cardiac arrest. Along with the pitch side medics, I cleared his airway and immediately performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and chest compressions.

“This is where the skills I’ve picked up from my day job really came into their own. Firefighters already have the skills and knowledge to provide effective first responder care in emergency situations, particularly at incidents were we may arrive on scene before paramedics. My actions were a natural, instinctive reaction to the situation in front of me. Anyone with the right skills and training would have done the same thing. I’m just so relieved that Jim has made it.”

Area Manager Stewart Nicholson, said: “It’s extremely fitting the Caz’s actions that night have been recognised locally. It was particularly touching to meet Jim and his family and to hear first hand how overwhelmed they were by what Caz had done for him.

“Her brilliant quick thinking and life saving actions really did go above and beyond the call of duty and highlight that, in some ways, a firefighter is never ‘off duty’. The skills and training we give our crews stay with them for life, which this inspiring, life saving story confirms.”

Caz was presented with a certificate and reunited with Jim and his family at the ‘Local Heroes’ event at the St Paul’s Mercure Hotel in Sheffield, which was arranged to recognise the achievements of emergency service workers as well as the contributions of local charity volunteers.

Firefighters test response to tram train emergency with realistic live exercise

Firefighters have been put through their paces testing their response to an incident involving one of the new Citylink trams that hit the region’s transport network earlier this year.

Crews from Parkway, Lowedges, Central and Birley Moor fire stations all attended ‘Exercise Escape’, which tested South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s operational response to a potential incident on Sheffield’s tram network.

The 45-minute scenario involved a Citylink tram colliding with a scooter resulting in a casualty becoming trapped underneath. Fire cadets from the service’s Birley Moor branch also acted as casualties.

Stagecoach Supertram staff and South Yorkshire Police officers took part, so that fire officers could practice effective multi-agency working.

Station Manager Alastair Forster, said: “Our firefighters are ready to respond to a huge number of different incident types, from fires to road traffic collisions. We issue lots of guidance to our crews about the different sorts of scenarios they might come across in the line of duty, but really the best way of preparing our response is to test it out for real.

“We’re extremely grateful to Stagecoach Supertram for making the exercise as realistic as possible and providing some vital technical input on the day.

Katie Arthur, Head of Safety for Stagecoach Supertram said: “The safety of our passengers and other road users is our number one priority, which is why it is so important for us to take part in training exercises like these. By observing how the emergency services deal with incidents and through working closely with them, we can make sure we’re in the best possible position to deal professionally and appropriately should they occur in real life.”

South Yorkshire’s new Citylink vehicles were introduced in the regular Supertram timetable from October to support the existing tram service across the network. The new tram train route from Sheffield to Rotherham is expected to open in 2018, once rail infrastructure work, testing and driver training is complete. The Citylink vehicles will then be used across the route.

The Tram Train pilot will help the rail industry understand and assess the technical issues involved with planning and operating a Tram Train service. It will be the first time a Tram Train system has operated in the UK. The new service is unique because it links heavy and light rail infrastructure, systems and operations together to provide a new transport service between Sheffield and Rotherham. The vehicles are designed to run on both the Stagecoach Supertram system and the national rail network.

The Tram Train pilot will run for two years during which customer satisfaction, passenger numbers, reliability and costs are measured.  After this pilot period, Tram Train will continue to run as a local service.