Date Published : April 26th, 2019 Published By : adminDrivers of emergency service vehicle are required to undergo a national training progrramme which is approved by the RSA. The Emergency Services Driving Standard (ESDS) creates a culture of safe and responsible driving by ‘blue light’ drivers.
By Declan Keogh
Having served the people of Tramore since 2008 when she joined Waterford County Fire Service, Chenelle Mullally’s road in the brigade took a different route than that of her firefighting colleagues when she progressed from being a firefighter to a D/M, (Driver/Mechanic), a role within the fire service which she takes great pride in and safety for.
“I know as a driver of a fire engine that my presence on the roads has an impact on other drivers, so I know I need to drive responsibly, and that goes without saying. Being cautious and courteous to road users and to the crew is essential, so that I can get them to a call in a safe and timely manner. From my driving courses I’ve learned about reducing the risk and making sure that everyone on the appliance is safe, and I’m also aware of the fact that responding to an emergency should never cause another emergency or god forbid, an accident of any kind."
(Driver/Mechanic Chenelle Mullaly, Tramore. Photo: Declan Keogh / Emergency Times)
Being in the retained service, the men and women of the fire service are almost always on-call, and being a Driver/Mechanic, theirs added responsibility on their shoulders. Driving the crew to an incident is the main one but also preparing the appliance and making sure the engine is ready for the road, for every call out.
Fire service personnel can face challenging and emotional situations daily, some of which are bound to influence their working and personal lives, but when you have the support of your crew, those challenges and emotions are shared. D/M Mullally recalls her early days in the fire service. “Working in the fire service has its ups and downs, mostly ups, and there is a lot to learn. When I first joined as a firefighter, the lads didn’t really know what to expect, what to say or not to say or how to react for the first few weeks. They’d be used to getting changed into fire kit and suddenly I’m in the mix so it was a bit awkward to start off with but that all changed fairly quickly, we all got used to one another and after the alerter goes off, you rush into the muster bay, you don’t have time to look around and see who is coming in behind you. You just get on with it, its not an issue for us now”
(Kildare Fire Service's Water Tender and Hydraulic Platform, attached to Newbridge fire station. Photo: Declan Keogh / Emergency Times)
D/M Mullalley knows how important a team is and being part of a team. In her eyes, having to change in a separate room or an old office off the Muster bay, you’d feel left out. “There was one occasion where I had to get dressed in an office in an older fire station, and for a long time when I first joined, I used to ask the guys could I get changed in with them if they didn’t mind, because when you’re on courses and so on you feel left out on your own in the changing room and being a female, there’s never really another girl so obviously I wanted to part of the group, part of that team and be treated the same as them, and thankfully, so too did they. It's all part of your positive mental health and wellbeing too."
Chenelle would like to see more women join the fire service and believes it’s a great job to be in and a great career for someone to make for themselves, whether its male or female. “I meet people even today who still think the fire service is a very male dominated job, and it is to some extent, but that’s the whole purpose of this campaign, to make people more aware of our roles and our capabilities as a firefighter or a driver.”
(Photo: Declan Keogh / Emergency Times)
The fire service is made up of many different people, in their various roles and responsibilities, and everyone has their own particular interest and niche in the brigade. Everyone likes doing something more than another. Mullally says they’re all trained the same, but people want different things. “I could be good at climbing a ladder, another person could be good at lifting things, someone else might be better on the hose reel or using the cutters, we’re all trained the same but sometimes its different in what people want to do and what they want to achieve to progress within the fire service. I Started out as a firefighter and I used to ride on the appliance in the back, looking out at the driver and the job they do and now, I am that driver, making those decisions, negotiating traffic, anticipating a drivers movement, looking for the safest route while still on the blue light.”
File Photo: (Firefighters in Cork making up after ladders after an exercise. Photo: Declan Keogh / Emergency Times)
Anyone interested in joining the fire service as a firefighter is put through the same training regime as everyone else, regardless of their height, size, weight or gender. D/M Mullally is keen to point out that anyone who thinks the job will be easier because you’re a woman, they’re in for a shock, but she insists that working at being fitter, more energetic and that much stronger does pay off in the long run. “We have to do the exact same as the others, we do the exact same medical, courses, there’s no differentiation, you have to lift the same load, there’s no difference. I love the job, if anyone’s thinking of doing it, I would advise them to maybe join a gym, do a little bit of weights because you would need that added strength, especially for lifting ladders and portable pumps etc, now you don’t have to be super woman, but a little more strength and fitness does pay off.”
Over the past 10 years or so, Chenelle has met some smaller, lighter women looking to join the fire service, but they deferred their training because they felt they may not have been ready yet. Chenell’s advice for anyone with the same frame of mind is to join a gym and work on getting a little bit stronger so that they are prepared and capable of doing the recruit course.”
Our final two interviews on 'Women in the Fire Service' will feature Sub Officer Anthea Browne, Tipperary Fire Service and Executive Fire Prevention Officer Jenny Cooper, Dublin Fire Brigade.
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