Firefighter honoured with national award for his outstanding contribution to water safety

A Tyne and Wear firefighter has been handed a national award for his life-saving water safety work in the community.

Tommy Richardson is the Water Safety Lead for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service and has served as a firefighter for 18 years.

He was presented with an Outstanding Contribution award by the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) during its Prevention and Protection Conference in the East Midlands this week.

Tommy’s passion for drowning prevention work was sparked in 2013 when he responded to an incident that saw teenagers Chloe Fowler and Tonibeth Purvis tragically drown in the River Wear.

He has gone on to spend the last decade delivering educational talks, delivering life-saving training and working with partners to promote water safety.

Tommy was also crucial in developing the Waterside Responder Scheme with the RNLI that has seen riverside businesses across Tyne and Wear receive throw-line training.

After its development six years ago, the training has been delivered to hundreds of staff in Wearside and Tyneside, and saved at least nine lives.

The dedicated firefighter, who works in the Prevention and Education Department at TWFRS, has also been central to the installation of throw-line boards across the region.

Following his award, Tommy dedicated his award to all of the people who’ve sadly passed away in the region’s waterways and to their bereaved families.

He said: “It took a devastating accident involving the loss of two priceless young lives to spearhead my drive and devotion towards water safety.

“I am incredibly proud of the work that has taken place around water safety and this award is recognition for the contributions of a number individuals, not just me.

“The Waterside Responder Scheme has already saved numerous lives but each year people continue to drown in the water so we can still do more to raise awareness of how dangerous the water can be.”

Stewart Nicholson, Deputy Chief Fire Officer of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Everyone here in Tyne and Wear recognises the outstanding contribution Tommy has made to communities, both in our region and across the country.

“We are incredibly proud of Tommy, and everything he has achieved, and this recognition on a national platform is well deserved.”

Chief Fire Officer Dawn Whittaker, NFCC Water Safety Lead, said: “Tommy has been an outstanding contributor to the work of the NFCC Water safety practitioners.

“He has spoken at the LGA Conference, demonstrated his skill to Ministers and also started the throwbag challenge which has swept the country.

“He was awarded the QFSM for his amazing commitment and contribution and continues to be a passionate advocate and outstanding ambassador for our sector in the wider partnership arena.”

To find out more about the Waterside Responder Scheme, and water safety advice, visit the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service website at