The first female firefighter to join Denny Fire Station in its 111-year history believes her experience as a 999 call handler will prepare her for life on the frontline.
Amie Duffy made history when she started her new job as a retained firefighter at her hometown station last month.
Staffed exclusively by an on-call team, its workforce is made up of those who have other work and family commitments but are trained and prepared to respond at a moment’s notice to protect their community.
Amie started working with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) last January when she took on a role with its Operations Control team, mobilising and co-ordinating crews and resources to a range of incidents.
The 29-year-old quickly got her first taste of jumping into a fire truck and responding to an emergency when her pager went off for a suspected house fire in the middle of the night. Amie has confidence her professional background will stand her in good stead when she’s called out to such incidents.
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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.
“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 I went for it.”
Amie now spends her days working full-time at the SFRS’s Operations Control room in Edinburgh.
The situations she deals with in her day job, and the support she has received from the service, leave Amie in no doubt she is more than capable of meeting the demands placed upon a firefighter.
She explained: “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 she hears the firefighters through a 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 are working towards.”
Reflecting on her new position, Amie added: “It’s given me a new appreciation for the information we pass on to crews and how valuable it can be. It’s a privilege to work for the service and I would tell others to go for it.”
For more information on becoming a retained firefighter, visit the website at www.firescotland.gov.uk/work-with-us.aspx.