West Midlands Fire Service held its prestigious employee Aspire awards ceremony over the weekend commencing Friday July 1, to mark the outstanding achievements of its firefighters and support staff over the past eighteen months.
The event, held at the ICC in Birmingham, was hosted by Radio WM's breakfast presenter Phil Upton and featured live entertainment from electric string band Siren and a contemporary piece of dance from Birmingham Metropolitan Academy of Performing Arts.
Now in its second year, the Aspire Awards are designed to recognise those individuals and teams who have achieved excellence in their particular area of work. Over 180 nominations were submitted for this year's awards, with ten award categories which included:
- Innovation and Creativity
- Outstanding Contribution
- Hero of the Year.
New for this year was the opportunity for members of the public to nominate employees in three out of the ten categories. 'Partnership Achievement Award', 'Community Engagement' and 'Station of the Year'.
The evening's winners
Instructors of Coventry Young Fire Fighters Association (YFA) received the Outstanding Contribution to West Midlands Fire Service award. The Coventry YFA is believed to be the largest YFA in the country, if not Europe, this branch has been providing activities for young people between the ages of 11-17 for the last 22 years.
Their instructors give literally 1000's of voluntary hours every year to give support to our young people - the majority of which give up their summer annual leave to give support and instruction that provides not only crucial social skills and feelings of self achievement but also tuition that could be used in the future to save lives.
The Road Casualty Reduction Team received the Partnership Achievement award. Working together with the West Midlands Police and the Institute of Advanced Motorists targeting 17-25 year olds.
This team has worked tirelessly to identify gaps in road safety and its innovative approaches to engagement have been instrumental in helping to reduce road deaths throughout the West Midlands.
Oldbury and Smethwick Community Fire Stations and the Technical Rescue Unit received the Operational Excellence award. In October last year these crews were called to an incident where a car had crashed through a wall and into a house causing a considerable amount of damage. Having to make immediate decisions, the crews acted with diligence and speed. The crews were successful in rescuing a lady from the incident and the air ambulance doctor confirmed that these teams were responsible for saving this person's life.
Watch Commander Julie Cooper from the academy received the Sporting Achievements award. Last year Julie represented the British Fire Service at the World Cycle Racing Championships in Luxembourg where she competed in the Time Trail and the Road Race finishing 4th and 5th respectively. A fantastic achievement in itself, however made all the more amazing due to Julie having only been cycling competitively for one year, and three years previously having been diagnosed with breast cancer, which was followed by both chemotherapy and radiotherapy courses. Julie's next challenge is the World Track Masters later this year.
Erdington Community Fire Station received the Community Engagement award. Throughout the year this station has been involved in numerous initiatives and projects including the Keep Safe Project, arson reduction and fire victim support. They have taken advantage of new technologies such as tweeting and using a twitcam to engage with the local community.
Mr Arron Lennon, a Community and Safeside volunteer received the Volunteering award. Arron is a person who continually gives to others. As a member of the Community Volunteer Scheme he has completed 140 hours since April 2010. In addition to this he is a volunteer at Safeside (our interactive safety learning centre) where he has completed 215 hours since September 2009. These are just two of the numerous voluntary activities that Arron undertakes around the West Midlands, giving his support to not just those who need it but also acting as an excellent role model for the less experienced Community Volunteers.
Hay Mills Community Fire Station, Purple Watch, received the Innovation and Creativity award. As an example of their creative thinking this watch discovered a new way to reach 28,000 people in 90 minutes giving a road safety message at a recent Birmingham City match. Their innovative approach enabled a safety message to be projected onto one of the stands whilst being supported by a message from the stadium announcer as well as being transmitted by Bluetooth technology.
Station Commander Steve Husbands was awarded the Environmental award. Steve is what can only be described as the local environmental champion from Smethwick. He has managed to reduce the electricity consumption of the station by 31% saving £4000 in the process. Steve also realised that he had a lot of land on the station that could be better utilised. Woodland on his station has subsequently been cleaned up and is to become a biodiversity project area for schools as well as being an area of national interest.
Ward End Community Fire Station received the Station of the Year award. Hodge Hill is one of Birmingham's largest constituencies with the majority of its neighbourhoods being amongst the most deprived within the country. Through the continual desire and commitment of station personnel to drive through numerous community projects, which consistently make a difference to the communities of Hodge Hill.
Firefighter Richard (Rick) Stanton was awarded Hero of the Year. On the surface a quiet and unassuming person Rick hides a rare ability, for Rick is a world leading cave rescue expert. Late last year Rick was asked by the French Authorities to help look for an experienced diver lost in the daunting Dragonnière Gaud cave system in southern France. In a chilling echo of the Chilean mine drama; the diver had become trapped after a rock fall in the cave passage. After the dive Rick said: "As soon as the French got in touch there was no question that I would not be going over. This diver was a fellow cave diver and a colleague, so I am sure he would have done the same for me"
Chief Fire Officer, Vij Randeniya, said: "Aspire showcases tremendous examples of hard work, creativity and raw courage. The men and women of West Midlands Fire Service provide an outstanding contribution to our communities and what we have seen here tonight, gives an insight into the range and quality of our capabilities.
"The future challenges place West Midlands Fire Service in a tough financial position, we know that our country is in the difficult situation financially and we understand the need to share that burden but it has to be fairly proportioned. After all, while we protect people and property, we also save lives."
All staff honoured received a limited edition award in recognition of their work and achievements.
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