What does The Dyslexic Dyslexia Consultant get up to with her time off?

Elizabeth Wilkinson MBE outside SFRS HQ

Usually busy with Dyslexia Awards, or Dyslexia information Day on her time off, Elizabeth actually did something different and new this evening!

This evening (8th February 2023) she spend her evening observing a drill night, at Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service’s Tweedale fire station, in Telford.

In the thirteen years that Elizabeth has worked with Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service, she had never attended a Drill Night before tonight; she had of course been told lots about them, and in the line of her work she had learned about some of the drills that were done, and understood their importance, but had never actually attended one prior to this evening.
It’s no secret that Elizabeth is a massive fan of the work of both our Armed and Emergency Services; she has had the honour of training 498 trainers for the Defence College of Aeronautical Engineering (DCAE) at RAF Cosford in 2007; and has also had the honour of working with the SFRS since 2010 and WMFS since 2020.

Here in her own words, are her meandering thoughts, provoked by the drill night:

On my drive home, I got to thinking that maybe, in the line of my work I am likely privy to or have been given a little bit more of an insight as to the work our fire services actually do, in comparison to the general public. (That said, I am very aware that what I do know is literally a very small snippet of the work they actually do.) And then I thought about the possible strikes that could take place soon, then that led me to think about our striking nurses and our other health professionals, such as the Paramedics etc; all the folks lots of us were clapping to show appreciation for, every week on our doorsteps in 2020.

Personally, I couldn’t and wouldn’t want to do any of their jobs! I don’t think I could even if lives depended on it, and let’s be realistic here, they all have moments on a regular basis, within their job roles, and their day-to-day work, where peoples lives, literally, depend on them being there to do their jobs.

Then that led me back to the role of a fire fighter, and that is most definitely a job I couldn’t do, from little things like wearing a mask (I am claustrophobic, and to be honest just witnessing two of the crew putting on their masks, made me feel panicky and short of breath!), the weight of tanks on their backs, to the noise, engines, lights, distress signals, radios messages, keeping track of and writing information under pressure, the demand, the stress, not to mention the emotional demand and side of the job = dealing with fatalities and loss!

Here in Shropshire our retained (part time) firefighters usually have normal full-time jobs, and in addition to that, they are ‘on call’ fire-fighters – basically they dedicate a massive chunk of their lives to being on call to attend fires, incidents etc. Yes, of course and absolutely they get paid for their time (as they should), but can you imagine the type of dedication it must take to do what they do?

Sadly there is a darker side to the role of firefighter, as I mentioned above, fatalities and loss! This is part of the role that no one really talks about publicly (I can understand why) and I won’t go into too much detail – because thankfully I don’t actually know lots. I wonder how many people are aware that in most countries firefighters are involved in clear up operations, for situations like the earthquakes that have happened recently in Turkey and Syria for example, or the 911 attacks, firefighters will be involved with the recovery of bodies and human remains.

It’s the same here in the UK, when there are fatalities, and deaths involved, for example, industrial & residential fires, plane & train crashes, and even recently during the pandemic for example, our firefighters are tasked with the job of recovering our loved ones who have perished. Dead or alive they take as much care in the recovery. Could you go to work knowing that this could be something you are likely to be called upon to do? Some people can, and I am so very grateful to those who do, because I am not sure I could!

I think it is important that we realise our retained firefighters, work all day, then on their days off, time off and evenings, they attend courses, Drill Nights, meetings, and of they are on call, all hours of the day, ready to hot foot it to their local fire station should their alerter (pager) go off.

Their families have the patience of saints, and nerves of absolute steal, supporting and waiting, hoping and praying, keeping positive and trusting their firefighter families to ensure that their loved ones return home after each call out.

Our firefighters (full time and retained, but especially our retained) are on call, ready to jump out of bed at all kind of ungodly hours, whilst the rest of us are tucked up warm and cosy in our beds. They attend all sorts of jobs, situations and incidents from cats stuck up a tree (ok so I have only ever heard of one job like that) to house & building fires, Road Traffic Collisions, HASMAT (dangerous substances – hazardous materials) situations, water rescue, high-rise fires, basement fires, floodings… (to mention a few) and most of the time they get to save people, but sometimes and more often than I think any human being should have to witness, they do witness things that most of us would never be able to get out of our heads; things that I personally would never be able to handle, but they do, and they do it with such pride and care, determination and dedication.

So, my final meandering thought is to ask you (if you can), to please bear in mind what our firefighters jobs actually involve, the things they do, and consider what price you put on them being there to deal with situations that perhaps most of us wouldn’t want to deal with (no matter how much money we were offered) and consider if you will support our emergency services in their quest for better conditions – don’t believe the hype, it’s not all about pay!

Categorised as Blog

By Elizabeth Wilkinson

Since entering the field of dyslexia back in 2000, The Dyslexic Dyslexia Consultant - Elizabeth Wilkinson MBE, has worked with and provided support for thousands of people, including businesses, families, and educators.