Assistant Editor, IFSEC Global

October 21, 2021

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The Video Surveillance Report 2021

Women in Fire Safety Awards

“It would be naive of us to say there are no challenges for women in the industry, because we’ve witnessed them first-hand” – IFSEC Global speaks to Women in Fire Safety Awards Co-Founders

Ahead of the first ever Women in Fire Safety Awards, set to be hosted on 4th November, IFSEC Global speaks to its Co-Founders, Performance Coach, Kate Blake and Managing Director at Penny Rose Fire & Security Solutions, Chloe Vickery. We discuss what prompted the pair to collaborate on the event, industry reactions to the female led occasion, and the future of the organisation.

The Women in Fire Safety Awards was created to honour the outstanding achievements and contributions of Women within the fire safety community. Women in Fire Safety strives to level out the historical gender imbalance in a male dominated industry and pave the way for progression.

Both Kate and Chloe begin by providing readers with an insight into their professional backgrounds, and what led them to the sector.

“I’ve been in the industry since I was 16, I’ve worked for contractors, fire alarm distributors, fire alarm manufacturers and now I’m a fire risk assessor,” says Chloe who, admittedly, ‘fell’ into the industry as a teen.

“When you’re that age, you don’t really know about the different vocations available to you in fire safety”, she argues.

Kate’s journey in the industry has been slightly different, having worked in construction for much of her early career.

“I was a quantity surveyor in the construction industry, overseeing social housing”, she comments.

“I then ended up in wholesaling and later moved into manufacturing in the fire industry which is where I met Chloe. I also currently work in personal development as a performance coach.”

Kate and Chloe’s shared experience as women navigating themselves in a male dominated industry, is what initially brought them together.

“Women are a minority in the industry and, when COVID hit, I started thinking of ways we could encourage more people, predominantly women, to join the sector. I also wanted to educate people like me who, perhaps, aren’t aware of the different vocations in fire safety,” says Chloe.

Kate adds: “It would be naive of us to say there are no challenges for women in the industry, because we’ve witnessed them first-hand. Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of my time in meetings where I’ve been the only woman, change doesn’t happen overnight.”

After over a year of preparation, and a shared aim to support and encourage, not only women, but everyone working to support their female counterparts in the industry, the pair are extremely excited for the launch of the awards, in collaboration with the Institute of Fire Safety Managers (IFSM).

“We came into this with nothing, just an idea that we hoped people would embrace. We’re both incredibly grateful that it came at a moment in time when the industry really wanted and welcomed it,” Kate comments.

With partners like the Fire Protection Association (FPA), and the Association for Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP), vast industry support is evident. Alongside this, the awards also feature a diverse range of expert panellists.

Chloe adds: “It was really important to us that we had a diverse range of panellists. We have a variety of industry leading professionals on the panel, such as, Andrea White, a fantastic Fire Engineer, David White, the Chairman of the IFSM, and Tazmin Jhutti, a Member of the Training Team at the FPA.”

The event, hosted on 4th November, will see eight deserving individuals presented with awards for an array of achievements within the sector. With categories ranging from Recruiter of the Year, to Fire Safety Contractor of the Year, choosing one they are most looking forward to presenting is, unsurprisingly, a difficult task for the pair.

“I think perhaps, because it’s quite personal to me, one of the awards I’m most excited to present is the Business Manager of the Year award, purely because I think Business Managers can sometimes be overlooked”, says Chloe.

Kate adds: “I think the Rising Star Award is great as well because, we want to recognise people who are going to be the future of the industry. We’ve seen a lot of people changing careers and coming into the industry from different paths, so, again, it’s looking at diversity, not only in different job areas within the industry, but also in different age groups. People might be very young rising stars, but they could also be older rising stars too.”

Both Kate and Chloe are confident that, after this year’s launch, the organisation will only continue to grow.

“The plan is to do an award show every year, next year’s being even bigger. We’re also going to be doing the 3 Peaks Challenge in 2022, where lots of women in the industry will get together to network and raise money for charity”, Kate says.

Chloe concludes: “We are also looking at hosting some conferences in the coming years.

“Ultimately, we really just want to be able to ask the women in the industry, what can we do to support and empower you?”

For more information on the event, click here.

The Future of Fire Safety: download the eBook

Is the fire protection industry adapting to the post-Grenfell reality fast enough? At FIREX International 2019, Europe's only dedicated fire safety event, some of the world's leading fire safety experts covered this theme. This eBook covers the key insights from those discussions on the developments shaping the profession, with topics including:

  • Grenfell Inquiry must yield “bedrock change” – and soon
  • After Grenfell: Jonathan O’Neill OBE on how austerity and policy “on the hoof” are hampering progress
  • Hackitt’s Golden Thread: Fire, facilities and building safety
  • Fire safety community has to “get on board” with technological changes

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