A RETAINED firefighter has become the first woman to join her station in more than one hundred years – and says her day job as a highly-skilled 999 call handler helped prepare her for life on the frontline.
Denny Fire Station near Falkirk is staffed exclusively by on-call firefighters, exceptional people who have work and family commitments but who are trained and prepared to respond at a moments’ notice to protect their community.
Now, the station has just welcomed the first ever female firefighter in its 111 year history - Amie Duffy, an experienced member of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Operations Control team which effectively mobilises and co-ordinates crews and resources to a whole range of incidents.
And the 29-year-old got her first taste of jumping into an appliance and responding under blue-lights when her pager went off for a suspected house fire in the middle of the night.
She said: “There was definitely an adrenaline surge on that first shout – it’s a totally different experience from working within Operations Control where we are that calm voice of reassurance for those needing help and also that vital link and information source for our firefighters who are responding.
“That’s what we are here for, and that’s why a lot of us join – we have the skills and we will use the skills we’ve been given to help protect people at times of greatest need.”
Dedicated Amie first joined the SFRS when she became a member of Operations Control in January 2018.
She said: “I had always had an interest in the fire service – I’m fitness oriented and for a long time I worked as a personal trainer and a nutritional advisor.
“I decided I wanted a real challenge – and when I saw the role for Operations Control last year I went for it.”
Amie works full-time out of the SFRS’s Edinburgh Operations Control room – one of three such hubs across the country, alongside two others in Dundee and at Johnstone.
She said: “It can seem daunting or overwhelming working within Operations Control, and it’s certainly challenging - but our training is second to none.
“We must be tuned into everything that’s happening on that call, you learn to deal with the signs of panic and stress to get the information you need for the crews to get there and make a difference.
“And it’s not just you on the phone – when we get a call where someone is trapped and in real danger and you have to give survival guidance while our crews are en route, the mood in the room changes.
“Everyone supports the colleague that has taken that call by assisting with partner agencies, officers and radio communications with crews on the ground so we can give the caller the information they need to survive - and also get the information we need to get to them.”
Amie says the real reward comes when they hear the firefighters through the caller’s phone.
She continued: “When you have been speaking to them for several minutes, keeping them calm and offering advice and then they say ‘I can see the blue lights’ or ‘I can hear the firefighters coming through the door’ or you hear the firefighters yourself – that’s what we were working towards.
“Even if the other person isn’t responding – maybe they can’t because of smoke or other reasons - we will stay on the line and just keep speaking to them – it’s what the training is for.
“And as the call handlers we get the full support of the Service, during and after the call.
“No day is ever the same – I can say that about both sides of being part of this Service.”
It was the flexible shift patterns working as an Operations Control firefighter that assisted Amie to join her local retained crew at Denny Fire Station.
And it has given her a valuable insight.
She said: “It’s given me a new appreciation for the information we pass onto crews and how valuable it can be.
“The where and the how and the what can make all the difference.”
Now, Amie is encouraging others to step-up and become a retained fire fighter.
She added: “The training is brilliant - you are always kept on your toes, you are always challenged.
“It’s a privilege to work for the Service and I would tell others to just go for it – if you’ve got the right mind-set and the ability then there’s no reason why not.”