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International Control Room Week: Meet Sarah

It’s International Control Room Week and Essex County Fire and Rescue Service (ECFRS) is sharing some of the faces behind the phones throughout the week.

Crew Manager Sarah Perks wanted a more varied job and made the leap from an administrative role in a magistrate’s court to the Service’s control room as a Control Room Operator.

“I was really interested in the fire service,” says Sarah, “and I wanted a varied job, something different every day. I was doing admin before which was quite samey.”

Eleven years later, Sarah is now a Crew Manager for Green Watch, one of four watches that follow the same rota as the Service's wholetime firefighters.

She supervises her team and has the final decision on dispatching crews to incidents, she also deals with booking officers on and off so her team know who they can send to emergency incidents.

“I love how every day is different and, you don’t know what’s going to happen from one moment to the next,” says Sarah. “It’s such a dynamic environment to work in and no two days are the same.”

"We don’t just answer 999 calls, we’re also here to support incidents and our fire crews from the initial call to the conclusion, informing officers and other agencies and keeping close communication with co-responders such as the Ambulance Service and Police."

After undertaking four weeks of classroom based training, new recruits in the control room sit exams to ensure they’ve got to grips with the different types of incidents and equipment used by the Service.

Their training is put into practice over the next four weeks if all exams are passed with flying colours and then for the next 18 months, Control Room Operators work to become competent. Training is on-going throughout your career.

“Control is an environment where you never stop learning,” says Sarah. “Behind the scenes, control staff are required to learn and maintain a working knowledge of a large amount of special procedures, for example, what is mobilised in the event of an aircraft crash or chemical incident. Special procedures are constantly changing, to adapt to the needs of the community and the role of the Fire Service in today’s society.”

Read more about some of the Service’s control room team here: www.essex-fire.gov.uk/news

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