Our Control Room staff across the UK’s fire community are the beating heart of any operation – and we are there for all of them, just like firefighters and the rest of the fire family, whenever they may need us.

Here West Yorkshire’s Crew Manager, Sarah Goodall, shares why she’s so proud to work there and some of her experiences on the job…

“I have worked in the West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Emergency Control Room for just over 21 years and love my job.

The variety of work I do, the situations I am exposed to, the people I work with – and best of all saving lives – is just a snippet of what I love most. We work exactly the same shift pattern as operational firefighters and work on four watches (blue, red, white and green), with the support of a flexi team providing extra cover where needed.

‘Every day is a school day’ in my job, and no two days are ever the same. We are here helping to save lives, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

When someone is in trouble and needs assistance from the Fire & Rescue Service, we are their first line of contact. It’s important that we are calm and a good listener with empathy and understanding. Our priority is to reassure the caller we are here to help them. In life threatening situations, we have to stay on the phone with callers until help arrives, issuing them with fire survival guidance which ultimately could save their life.

This has to be done whilst at the same time ensuring we have the correct address and accurately record all information on the incident turnout, before we mobilise the correct number of appliances and level of officer cover.

In addition to mobilising resources to incidents, we also have overall responsibility for incident management and ensuring any requests for further assistance from either fire or other agencies are swiftly dealt with. We ensure fire cover is maintained throughout the county by arranging standbys, should operational activity or training requirements demand them.

“There is nothing more precious than life. Knowing you have contributed to that, is worth more than any words can describe.”

Sarah Goodall

Some calls can be quite distressing, and waiting for that first fire appliance to arrive on scene seems to take hours when in reality, it’s only minutes. Being told by a caller ‘I think I’m going to die’ is one of the most harrowing things to hear… not being able to be physically there to get them out is one of the most challenging parts of my job.

But I’m there with them…right by their side, giving them all the information they need to survive the terrible situation they’re in, until the fire crews arrive and get them out. There is nothing more precious than life. Knowing you have contributed to that, is worth more than any words can describe.

Life in the control room is not dissimilar to on station; we are like one big family. We laugh together, we cry together, but most of all we make sure we do our upmost to keep West Yorkshire safe. Working on bank holidays such as Christmas is particularly hard, especially when you have a young family. You learn to adapt though and sometimes our Christmas may just be a couple of days early or a couple of days late!

The main comfort you take from this is your ‘fire family’ are in exactly the same boat, everyone is missing their families on this special day, so we do what we like to do… eat chocolate! Chocolate helps to make everything better!”

If you work in your service’s Control Room, you’re eligible for our support. Call our Support Line on 0800 389 8820 or make an enquiry online.

First published: October 2021