NIFRS Diversity Success Story

NIFRS Diversity Success Story

Women in the Fire Service ‘Celebrating Difference Improving Delivery’ development weekend June 2019

Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Services supports ‘Women in the Fire Service UK’ (WFS), a national charity established in 1993 to enable and inspire confident and successful women to build a more progressive fire and rescue service.  WFS also focusses on improving recruitment, retention and progression of women in firefighting roles.  WFS hosts an annual development weekend at Fire Services College at Moreton-in-Marsh, England.  This year two of our Firefighters participated at the event in June 2019. 

One of the attendees, Firefighter Sharon Townsley, joined NIFRS in February 2018 as an On Call Firefighter at Ballyclare Fire Station.  Following a career in the financial industry, Sharon who is also a mother of three, wanted a fresh challenge and relished the opportunity to join NIFRS.

The 2019 WFS Development Weekend offered a range of practical job-related workshops and also sessions on diversity and inclusion; coaching for personal and professional development; fitness and wellbeing; menopause; mental health and building mentoring relationships and Sharon was asked for her feedback.

This year Sharon reported that her experience at the Development Weekend helped her gain confidence in her own abilities as a Firefighter and taking part in the practical workshops reinforced her knowledge and training to date.  Sharon also enjoyed engaging with attendees from other countries and learning from shared experiences, saying she had made lifelong friendships.   Notably, she came away motivated to enhance her personal development through further study and maximising networking opportunities. 

“I feel that being in an all-female training environment was very beneficial to instil confidence in our abilities as Firefighters as we are still very much outnumbered by our male counterparts with in NIFRS…..this was a worthwhile experience for myself and my team member from NIFRS, especially as we are newly qualified Fire Fighters.  You gain a hands-on approach to Firefighting in a realistic environment with fires on multiple floor, rooms and different types of properties. These range from domestic properties to commercial premises to high rise. These fires are very effective live burns, you get exposure in real life situations and you can get maximum fire temperatures created within bespoke cribs which are filled with hay. Learning about burn patterns was fascinating on my Fire Investigation Workshop, how a body or a piece of furniture can provide essential information to the investigator.

I would highly recommend this weekend for male and female delegates as other forces throughout the UK have already started to send male delegates, spaces permitting….I feel it’s a worthwhile investment for my personal development and future within NIFRS.” 

Dany Cotton (left), first female Commissioner of London Fire Brigade, NIFRS Firefighters Sharon Townsley (middle) and Claire Hillen (right) at the Women in the Fire Service Development Weekend June 2019

Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service Chairperson Wins UK ‘Champion for Women’ Award

Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) Chairperson, Carmel McKinney OBE, has won a UK ‘Champion for Women’ Award in the Rising Star Awards 2019. Carmel received the accolade in recognition of her work as a senior leader in actively supporting and nurturing female talent.

The UK wide Awards, sponsored by the Times and the Sunday Times, celebrate and recognise female contributors that represent the leaders and role models of tomorrow. Carmel is the only female from Northern Ireland to win and was one of 5 winners in the Rising Star ‘Champions’ category.

Upon receiving the Champion for Women Award, Carmel said:

“As Chairperson of NIFRS, I am extremely passionate about mentoring, promoting and supporting women in the workplace and this award is very special in that regard.  To be the only female winner from Northern Ireland is a great honour alongside so many remarkable women. 

“Every day I encounter exceptional up and coming female talent. It’s great to see women supporting women in the workplace and learning from each other. As senior leaders we play an important role in nurturing and empowering those women who will become the leaders of the future and I am humbled by this recognition.”

The winners were announced for the 2019 ‘We Are The City’ Rising Star Awards and took place at a ceremony in the Landmark Hotel, London on, 3rd July 2019.

In her capacity as NIFRS Chairperson, Carmel actively promotes the role of women both in leadership and management roles and also those working as Firefighters.  Women remain under-represented amongst Firefighters in NIFRS and Carmel is a strong advocate for outreach, encouraging women to consider Firefighting as a viable career choice.

Carmel McKinney OBE, winner of the We Are The City ‘Champion for Women’ Rising Star Award

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