Future of fire control room is in safe hands says national findings

(Above): Craig Llewellyn currently taking part in the Emergency Call Handler Apprenticeship programme – pictured in the TWFRS Fire Control room at Service Headquarters in Washington.

The region’s Fire Service is wearing a badge of honour with the news its Fire Control team has been given a major ‘thumbs up’ from a national regulator.

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) has recently found out that the progression of its Emergency Call Handler Apprenticeship programme has been hailed as a success during promising feedback after a visit by Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills).

The Ofsted inspectors were ‘extremely impressed’ by the Fire Control apprentices and the manner in which they handled the calls, their approach to the callers and the way they gathered information that was used to dispatch the appliances to the incidents in hand.

This is the first time that Ofsted had visited a Fire and Rescue Service to inspect its Emergency Call Handlers programme.

Last year alone the TWFRS Control Room team answered a staggering 110,000 calls from distressed residents across Tyne and Wear, which when broken down works out at 30,000 emergency calls and 80,000 non-emergency calls.

The 30-strong team of Emergency Call Handlers not only appease the worried callers but also play an important role in deploying appliances, identifying risk and gather important information that impacts on operational needs.

What is also unbelievable is that even though the Team answered so many calls they still manage to contribute towards TWFRS having the fastest response time of all UK fire and rescue services.

There are currently four TWFRS Fire Control staff members embarking on the 15-month Emergency Call Handler Apprenticeship programme, which rewards the attendees with a recognised qualification at the end of the course.

The trainee call handlers include Christopher Morris, Craig Llewellyn, Matthew Noble, and Laura Fewster – who has actually just successfully completed her course.

Craig Llewellyn is pictured in the TWFRS Fire Control room at Service Headquarters

One of those previously mentioned call handlers is Craig Llewellyn.

Craig, 36, is originally from Hartlepool and currently lives in North Shields. He studied at Sunderland University where he achieved a law degree and a Masters in Journalism.

Craig’s affiliation with the emergency services goes skin deep as he’s following in the footsteps of his Uncle who worked as a Firefighter for County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service.

Craig has been working towards the call handling qualification since he started his role at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service over eight-months ago.

He said: “The programme has been life changing for me. It has given me the opportunity to learn new skills and develop others whilst building a career within TWFRS.”

Craig describes the programme as being interactive and varied. He continues: “Overall it has been great.

“The programme has been very engaging and the Control team have been both supportive and welcoming.”

The call handler apprenticeship programme is just one important facet of the Service’s firefighter control development.  In Tyne and Wear, the individual will encompass every aspect from the appliance mobilising process through to emergency incident management and radio communications.

John Rawling, Director of Human Resources at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said:

“We are very pleased that Ofsted has recognised the progress that we have made with our Emergency Contact Handing apprenticeships for staff who work in our Control Room.

“The current apprentices themselves are already making a huge contribution to the vital work of Control and we look forward to any new recruits in the future participating in this particular apprenticeship.

“Well done to everyone involved!”

For further information about the work of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service please visit the Service’s website.

This is the same place where you can register your interest in our forthcoming recruitment campaign, which kick-starts in January 2023.