In the Fire service it often feels like an uphill struggle, the retained service personnel give a huge commitment as does their families. We struggle to stay within the station area and find enough other work in remote villages, we struggle with old equipment, only 2.5 hours a week to maintain and test equipment, to train, to stay up to date, to stay fit and the computer work, the paperwork. the memo's, targets, quotas, contradicting rules, all rain from on high, It presents no career path, with the retainer fee at £2.5 K per annum, we're certainly not in it for the money. This is why I am a Union rep to try and make sure the issues at station level get heard higher up and to look after my crew. In this climate then, I was rather surprised to receive notification that I had been shortlisted for a commitment to excellence award in the community and Youth Engagement category. So myself and Rich headed to the awards ceremony last night, slightly cynically and awkwardly in my ill fitting uniform.
The Inverness Town house venue was also intimidating, with a host of Councillors, the Fire chief , lord lieutenant and lord provost to meet us. There were some amazing artifacts and paintings there including a lovely bronze Roman horse head. We were however immediately made welcome with the speakers and Chief mingling and chatting. Talking to them it became apparent that they understood the pressures that we are under and were well aware of the issues we face, the impact our job has on everyday life and our loved ones. The people there were not the upper managers whom I expected to see but many retained Firefighters, men and women, from the far corners of the Highlands and Islands. All the speeches reflected admiration and appreciation for our work.
During the evening the 20 year service medals of good conduct were given out, one was to my Watch manager. these guys definitely deserve a medal, the average term of retained service is 7 years. 20 is quite an achievement.
Then the awards, the nominations were read out for each person and why they'd been nominated, every single one was much deserved and we heard stories of great bravery, tenacity and efforts beyond the call of duty. I am very proud to have met these men & women and more so to have been nominated too. I had been nominated for the work I did over the last couple of years creating a partnership between the Fire service and a Young Carer support charity, It was of course a team effort with other people still working on it now. We raised awareness, taught the fire service how to help young carers and their families, taught the children Fire safety, produced resources, power-points, information cards, and eventually a children's Fire Safety book which I illustrated and has been distributed to all highland schools.
It was for me, simply a matter of putting my different jobs together and it worked brilliantly. It was wonderful to hear about the other projects that had been going on and see them justly awarded. I was quite happy not to 'win' the category but still didn't escape escape the embarrassment of having to take to the stage for presentation and photographs however.
Everyone I spoke to felt the same as me, while we were proud to have our achievements recognised we were all also rather embarrassed and wished that all the other Firefighters and support staff could have been there to have experienced the appreciation and gratitude for the work that EVERY firefighter does.
If I get any official photos I'll post them up. All in all a great night was had, It was lovely to get a chance to meet & talk to so many great people. Then of course there was the after party... but thats another story!