Fire PRO

From the committee

Welcome from the FirePRO Chair

ChairStill feeling happy? Still got your voice?

I can't say I've felt constantly happy since our conference in November, but I've definitely started to notice the times when I can see people really understanding what I'm saying - and more importantly actually agreeing. For me, there's nothing more rewarding than giving great communications advice, seeing it turn into action and deliver results. 

For those of you who didn't make it to the conference let me explain: this time round we opened the event with a sing-a-long to Pharrell's "Happy". I have to confess to feeling mildly anxious about hiring an opera singer to be our keynote speaker and whether members of FirePRO would be up for something a bit different. It turns out Alex and Bridget had far more trust in our membership's willingness to move out of their comfort zones than I did...(who knew we could sing so well!)

But Sarah's session, "different ways to have a voice and have an impact", not only had us on our feet singing (there's evidence above!) it got us talking and thinking about how we can use our voice in our organisation to help challenge, support change and be recognised for the contribution we make.

When organisations really try to hear what their communications staff tell them, they enjoy greater staff engagement, better results and stronger reputations. But how do we get our organisations to hear us? By being in the right places, talking to the right people, being credible and demonstrating our experience and knowledge: by having a voice.

Getting more involved in projects together through FirePRO can help you find that voice. Or, if you think you have a voice already, help you keep it and nurture it by learning from others. We talked a lot at the conference about how we can maintain momentum between events and really start to deliver useful work together. 

In this edition of the newsletter you'll find a summary of the conference feedback as well as information about what workstreams have come about. Each has a nominated lead and an outline plan which you can download here. Each of the projects is reliant on volunteers to make something happen and if you've already volunteered...many thanks! If you want to influence what each group looks at or if you want to get involved in developing something we can all benefit from, then use your voice constructively and volunteer to be a member of one of the working groups, there's room for more.

There'll be an update on workstream progress in the next issue of the newsletter. In the meantime, as we enter another testing period of continued industrial action, proposals for terms and conditions change and a new Government, to quote Sarah " Never forget you are an amazeball of awesomeness!"

Kathy Stacey
Head of Corporate Communications, Lancashire FRS
FirePRO Chair

PS. There's more feedback from the conference in this issue and we've started to plan this year's event which will be on 24 and 25 November. 

What is FirePRO?

FirePRO is the only network dedicated to supporting the work of communication staff working within the UK fire and rescue service.

Membership is free and if you work for a fire service in a marketing, communication, press office or internal engagement role you are already a member.

Media scrum

FirePRO's role is to promote the role of the communication profession within the fire service, supporting collaboration, encouraging the sharing of best practice and promoting the rigorous evaluation of our work.

FirePRO is led by a national committee, supported by regional networks. As well as organising an annual conference, featuring a range of speakers from within and outside the fire service, the committee has a number of workstreams requiring input.

FirePRO is entirely dependent on what its members put into the network and cannot survive on the work of just a handful of individuals. For more information on how you can get involved, or if you know someone else who you think should be receiving this newsletter, contact Alex Mills or James Morton

Or if you have something you would like to submit for inclusion in this newsletter, the distribution schedule for 2015 is as follows:

  • Spring edition- copy deadline end of April, issued May
  • Summer edition- copy deadline end of July, issued August
  • Autumn edition- copy deadline end of October, issued November 

Who does what?

FirePRO is run by a national committee of representatives from a broad range of fire services across the UK. The committee is never closed to new members and actively welcomes fellow fire service communicators to join its ranks. Currently, committee members are:

Member FRS Role Workstream Area
Kathy Stacey Lancashire Chair Emergency planning
Bridget Aherne Nottinghamshire Vice Chair Membership development
Alex Mills South Yorkshire Vice Chair Elect Research, insights and evaluation
Michelle Atkinson Tyne & Wear Membership development
James Bladon Avon
Hayley Douglas Cambridgeshire Digital engagement
Phillip Gillingham Staffordshire Campaigns
Vicky Hardman London
James Morton Hampshire Conference


What are the FirePRO workstreams?

What is the aim of the workstreams?

The aim of the workstreams is to reflect the work and priorities of FirePRO members and offer support, insight and development opportunities in those specific areas.

While the workstreams are being co-ordinated by FirePRO, each of the projects is reliant on volunteers to shape and guide the work in that area. To create or be part of something that all FirePRO members can benefit from, get involved with one (or more) of the workstreams.

How were the workstreams decided?  

The workstream subjects came about via the feedback of FirePRO members at the 2014 conference.

Members were asked what they wanted and expected from FirePRO as an organisation. All the ideas and suggestions were collated and formed five distinct catagories.

What are the workstreams? 

The five workstreams are:

  • Digital engagement
  • Campaigns
  • Membership development and training
  • Emergency planning
  • Research, insights and evaluation

How do I get involved? 

Each of the workstreams is headed up by a member of the current FirePRO committee. Simply get in touch with the workstream lead to express an interest in joining and shaping the work.


Digital engagement


Digital communication is a fast growing area and this workstream is to look at ways we can work together better to enhance our use of digital engagement tools.

The first meeting of the group will take place on 24 March in London. It will include a demonstration of the Gov Delivery email communication system, with Kent FRS explaining how they are using it, their plans for the future and what they are finding so far.

We will also be looking at how to make engaging content and looking at where we can collaborate with this – especially with the use of video, animations and photos.

The future direction of the workstream will become more clearly defined after this first meeting.

If you are interested in becoming part of the group please email



The issue of campaign development has been the subject of many conversations over many years. We have made some progress but there is still a lot more to do.

The campaigns work stream will focus its work on two areas:

  • At a senior / strategic level working to influence campaign planning with CFOA and DCLG (amongst others) and working towards a common understanding and approach to how to best use resources and influence locally and nationally to bring about the behaviour changes we need to see incidents, deaths and injuries reducing.
  • At an operational / tactical level working to develop resources, ideas and activities locally, regionally and nationally to take advantage of the creativity that exists across the FRS network, encourage and facilitate better sharing of materials, campaigns etc. to reduce silo working and help realise cost savings.

We have started by looking at how we develop the ideas generated at last year’s conference into a co-ordinated work plan and are also looking at how we can start to have more influence strategically with CFOA.

Volunteers for this work stream so far are:

Philip Gillingham – Staffordshire FRS
Tim Bevington – Cheshire FRS
Sian Corrigan – Cheshire FRS
David Barlow - Hertfordshire FRS
James Bladon - Avon FRS
Leanne Ehren - Cambridgeshire FRS
Hayley Douglas - Cambridgeshire FRS
Catherine Bellamy – Nottinghamshire FRS
Tom Embury – CFOA
Rebecca Wallis - CFOA

For more information and to get involved contact Philip Gillingham at Staffordshire FRS on

Membership development and training

Press Officer

The public relations and communications industry has for many years grappled with its reputation and worked hard to increase its professionalism.  It’s no accident that the Institute of Public Relations now has Chartered status, putting it on an equal footing as many other professions; raising standards.

Setting out and developing core competencies for all communications staff within central Government has been key to Alex Aiken’s role as the Executive Director for Government Communications. And as the cuts bite we are under increasing scrutiny as to our value; as FirePRO it is key that we help members with that challenge, helping us all to develop and agree key skills to enable us to meet the expected demands placed on us.

This work stream will review existing professional standards and competencies and see how we can use these, and if necessary supplement them for the FRS. It will also look at ways of demonstrating to senior officers the value, contribution and professionalism of communications within the FRS; and supporting them where required.

At the FirePRO conference many of the suggestions for this work stream were closely linked to member training; in particular for major incidents so this work stream will work very closely with the Member Development and Training work stream.

If you have any other suggestions and/or would like to join us we would love to hear from you.

Volunteers for this work stream so far are;

Michelle Atkinson, Tyne and Wear FRS
Bridget Aherne, Nottinghamshire FRS
Clare Robinson, Durham and Darlington FRS

To join us or forward your welcome suggestions and ideas, please contact Michelle Atkinson on 0191 444 1542 or email her at

Emergency planning


Our ability to warn and inform the public about the public safety consequences of our emergencies isn’t just a nice thing for us to do - under the Civil Contingencies Act, it’s law!  Whatever other functions we deliver in our departments, handing media and public relations for our incidents is always likely to be a core part of an FRS communications function and for this reason, the emergency planning workstream is unlikely to be developing anything new that we’ve haven’t all got in some shape or form. 

But it will be about setting up a system to encourage better sharing of what we have; identifying a toolkit guide that a new starter could use to familiarise themselves with the basic of managing a communications response to a major incident; sharing of warning and informing key messages – (why reinvent the wheel on a risk if someone’s already covered it!) and perhaps producing something more specifically on weather-related risks (it rains everywhere!). 

Other suggestions have included looking at our role in building community resilience, closer working within our resilience forums; tabletop exercises and the creation of a national network of “go to” contacts. 

Kathy Stacey will co-ordinatate this workstream and volunteers for this work stream so far are; 

James Morton - Hampshire FRS
Leanne Ehren - Cambridgeshire FRS
Heather Challinor – Staffordshire FRS

Work hasn’t started yet, so there’s plenty of opportunity to be involved from the outset.  Contact Kathy on or 01772 866787 if you need more information or want to get involved.

Research, insights and evaluation

EvaluationThere is lots of discussion in the fire and rescue service at the moment about "measurement"  and "targetting"- and communication teams can really lead the way on this.

From the comments posted by delegates at the conference in November, there were three main areas of work emerging:

  • Identification of a single research project or national behavioural insights study which we would all benefit from. Work has already started on this, with the work Steve Chu from South Yorkshire FRS and others are leading in conjunction for Communities & Local Government. You can read more about that work in this newsletter
  • Production of a very short, clear paper which outlines some key steps on evaluating our work to make sure we are all measuring the right things. This might also tie in to London’s work around social media metrics, which was presented at the conference
  • Individual FRSs are already doing pockets of good quality, individual research projects and well evaluated campaigns, but the findings are not always shared effectively so that they can benefit and feed into work nationally. We need to develop and promote ways of fixing this, for example through the FirePRO newsletter, on the portal and at future FirePRO events.

The following people expressed an interest at the conference in taking this work forward:

Dan Sims, Greater Manchester FRS
David Barlow, Hertfordshire FRS
Steve Chu, South Yorkshire FRS
James Bladon, Avon FRS
Hayley Douglas, Cambridgeshire FRS

Would you like to get involved in one or more aspects of this work? If so, contact Alex Mills at South Yorkshire FRS on

Case studies

How London Fire Brigade newsjacked 50 Shades of Grey

Should you jump into bed with Fifty Shades of Grey? That’s what lots of PRs will have wondered ahead of the world launch of the film - how can we get involved?

London Fire Brigade comms team has a good track record for newsjacking and thought we could successfully resurface our #FiftyShadesofRed campaign.

50 Shades

However, national newspapers didn’t agree. None ran the story despite having it under embargo.

It proved to be our eye catching – and in some cases, eye watering - tweets about handcuffs and rings stuck on private parts that caught people’s imagination, essentially forcing the media to cover the story.

Crucially the aims of the campaign weren’t lost with the risqué posts.

We set out to reduce these embarrassing incidents by encouraging people to use some common sense and keep keys handy as well as advising them not force anything on that doesn’t fit.

It also presented the opportunity to highlight the range of jobs our firefighters attend, from people being stuck in toy cars to teenagers lodged in swings.

The campaign became the most read on the BBC, splashed on the front of The Daily Star, all national newspapers covered it online as well as being covered by CNN, Time magazine, USA Today, and NBC.

Interviews were held on BBC Radio 4 and the World Service, as well as internationally on Canadian, Spanish and German radio.

New media covered the campaign, with Buzzfeed, Mashable and Lad’s Bible sharing the content with more than 10m people. The cut-through was complete when an ITV reporter asked the cast about #FiftyShadesOfRed on the red carpet.

The tweets – devised by my colleague  Richard Wilson and I - on their own received over one million impressions, increasing average engagement rate by 158% and the webpage received more than 32,000 views in just five days – in a week the Brigade’s whole site usually records 40-45,000.

But what did we do different? Well this was the first time we took a ‘digital newsroom’ approach to our social media.

Our statistics tell us Twitter posts with an image receive six times more engagement and twice as much reach as those without. With that in mind we created imagery that added value to our tweets - maximising the potential of the 140 characters.

We also repackaged content - another ‘first’ for the Brigade.

Previously content was posted once and never reused. However, this time we refreshed tweets and used the same content multiple times during the day to capture a varying audience. Often the third – sometimes fourth – tweet on a topic would out do the first.

With news organisations increasingly depending on media rich content to use online, many communications teams have already been operating as a ‘digital newsroom’ – they just haven’t realised it; now is the time to realise and take advantage.

- Rob McTaggart, London Fire Brigade

This article first appeared on Comms2Point0- a valuable resource for communicators and digital people in the UK

South Wales Christmas campaign drives down RTCs

In December 2014, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service (SWFRS) launched ‘Glad She Crashed at Yours’, a drink drive campaign with the aim of reducing the number of RTCs and related injuries or fatalities during the Christmas period. This was following a 57% increase in RTCs during December 2013 in comparison to 2012.

In the last three festive periods (2011 to 2013) there have been more than 135 RTC injuries, as well as three fatalities. The ‘Glad She Crashed’ campaign was developed in conjunction with SWFRS Road Safety team, ensuring that their safety messages were shared effectively through video, as well as on the Service’s social media platforms.

The campaign ran throughout December and saw more than 16,000 views of the YouTube video and was shared more than 1,000 times across Twitter and Facebook; this included a Facebook reach of 97,650 and 189,945 impressions on Twitter. The campaign also included a two week radio advert run across Capital FM and Heart South Wales, which had three million impacts.

Following the completion of the campaign and its subsequent evaluation, it was found that the number of RTCs attended by SWFRS during the period 15 December 2014 to 11 January 2015, saw a 13.6% decrease in comparison to the same period in 2013.

Radio DJs get visit from Smokey the smoke alarm!

When two radio DJs were heard complaining about their smoke alarms live on air – the Greater Manchester FRS Corporate Comms team jumped at the chance to do some quirky publicity around the importance of smoke detectors.

Key 103’s breakfast show duo Mike Toolan and Chelsea Norris were discussing how he’d hit his smoke alarm with a hammer to stop it beeping while she had covered hers up with a tea-towel.

On hearing their discussion, Station Manager Pete Lamb decided to tell Corporate Comms about it – suspecting they’d have an idea up their sleeve about how to turn the presenting duo’s conversation into a positive publicity stunt. And they did!

Using a smoke alarm costume (aptly named Smokey), the team’s Multimedia and Photography Officer Alex Flahive and Home Safety Co-ordinator Phil Greenwood turned up at the Key 103 studio in Castlefield, Manchester.


They waited outside the studio doors then ambushed Mike when he popped outside on his break.

Phil said: “We had a conversation around fire safety, the importance of working smoke alarms and Home Safety Checks which they recorded to play later in the show.

“During our conversation Chelsea said jokingly that Mike had upset her friends in the fire service and that I was invited in to ‘tell him off’ because Fire Angel alarms are good alarms and they save lives.

“I told them that we’d had a serious fire the night before where a man nearly died from smoke inhalation after taking his alarms down. Mike’s face dropped when he heard that.”

Mike than posed for photographs with Smokey and Phil and both presenters were also tweeting about the stunt to help GMFRS spread the message of smoke alarms to their thousands of followers.


Bonfire night campaign success


Bonfire Night is one of the busiest nights of the year for most fire and rescue services. At Tyne and Wear FRS (TWFRS) we run a campaign each year to help prevent bonfire and firework injuries, especially in young people.

Using insights from a recent project we based our 2014 campaign on ‘Jack’s Story’; about a 10-year-old boy who started a fire as a prank and almost killed someone. Based on true events it showed how Jack’s thoughtless actions affected his mum and sister as well as his own life, long after he lit the fire.

Jack’s story was told in through a film and shown in schools as part of our education programme. It was also delivered to young people outside of mainstream education at our interactive safety centre and used across social media. 

The campaign launch took place at local schools as part of a media and social media plan. Further coverage was obtained by working with partners and local media spent Bonfire Night in Control Room as well as on an appliance.

During the campaign a 14-year-old boy suffered a severe hand injury as a result of playing with an illegal firework. The family joined our campaign resulting in national media coverage. We are following him throughout the year to find out how it has affected his life and will be used in this year’s campaign.

On 5 November 2014 calls to TWFRS reduced by nearly a fifth and incidents we attended by more than a quarter- the lowest level for 11 years. Hospitals reported eight injuries.

In terms of media coverage more than 500,000 people heard about our campaign, more than 700,000 could have seen it and more than a million people could have read about it. After seeing Jack’s Story, 85% of 10-14 year olds said they or their friends are less likely to set fires.

For more information and Jack’s click here or contact me on 0191 444 1542.

- Michelle Atkinson, Tyne & Wear FRS

National behavioural insights work kicks off

Did you see the story about pregnant women being paid to stop smoking? Who would have known that was a study informed by behavioural insights (BI)? It's the trend increasingly informing Government policies like making a pension opt-out, not opt-in.


These were among the revelations discovered by a group of FirePRO members who attended a workshop delivered by Felicity Algate from the now spun-off Behavioural Insights Team, organised and funded by Mary-Ann Auckland from DCLG.

We heard the details behind the MINDSPACE acronym, which is the basis for BI work, which we can use to make our community safety comms and activity more effective. N is for norm - telling people that most others check their smoke alarm regularly might increase the likelihood of others do so, because they will come to regard it as "normal" behaviour.

E is for ego, which can drive more consistent behaviour. In this respect, studies showed people given a coffee loyalty card with the first two squares already stamped were much more likely to complete the card, as they perceive themselves to be nearer the target. Could our crews test the smoke alarms upon fitting and give the resident a "smoke alarm check" card with the first square signed off?

The workshop followed a behavioural insights pilot study in South Yorkshire using direct marketing to prompt smoke alarm testing. FirePRO is now looking to develop that into a wider study involving several FRSs. If you are interesting in being involved, contact Steve Chu ( or Alex Mills (

Hampshire design team give fresh feel to elderly campaign


A campaign aimed at reducing fires in the home of elderly people has been given a fresh feel by the design team at Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service.

The team produced a range of brochures and leaflets, as well as more practical items such as tea towels, for the campaign, targeted at the over-65s. The layout and theme was designed to complement the clear, concise messaging of the campaign.

Katie Loates, communications lead for the Safer Home project, said: "It was vital that we were able to communicate the messages as clearly as possible to our target age group.

"The clear designs and simple layout, which could be adapted and used across the different literature, were pivotal in helping us achieve the aims of the campaign."

The campaign was launched at the top of Portsmouth's Spinnaker Tower and events held throughout the campaign included firefighters taking part in bingo calling and a visit from ITV's Fred Dinenage.



Hampshire has already received enquiries about the campaign literature from other services and it has also been discussed with representatives from the Department for Communities and Local Government.

The campaign helped to promote free home safety visits available to vulnerable adults over 65 and helped raise awareness of basic life-saving fire safety measures.

To enquire about the campaign or the literature, contact Katie Loates at Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service.  

Hints, tips and help

Bits you might have missed on the FirePRO forum


Here's a summary of some of the recent topics you might have missed:

Staff magazines

Does your service still produce a staff magazine? If so, Jude Russell at Staffordshire FRS would like to find out more. Respond to her thread here

Crowd Control

Do you use the services of Crowd Control HQ to manage your social media accounts? Is it worth it? Contact Mark Roberts at Kent FRS and let him know

LRF mobile app

Karl Mansfield at Merseyside FRS is looking into developing an app to support the work of his local resilience forum. No one has responded to him yet. Can you help?

Facebook advertising

Do you spend money on Facebook advertising? How did you go about it, how much did it cost and was it successful? Hayley Douglas at Cambridgeshire FRS wants to know

RDS recruitment

Have you run any successful recruitment campaigns in your area? Elizabeth Curtis at East Sussex FRS wants to hear about what works

Photos to support safety campaigns

Lots of people have been asking about photos to support this or that campaign. Did you know that the Fire Kills extranet contains an area where people can upload and share images?

Can't see the messages? You probably need to register for a free CFOA Communities account. Click here to register

FirePRO events

Southern Unconference highlights desire to share more

The second FirePro Unconference was held at Bristol's Colston Hall during February, providing members with the opportunity to share ideas with colleagues on current hot topics.

Colston Hall

More than 30 people attended the one-day event which had been rescheduled from July 2014 after industrial action forced its postponement.

During four sessions members split into groups to discuss topics including campaigns, sharing digital content and internal communication. The event also attracted a significant number of designers who gathered for the first time under the FirePro banner to share ideas, work and their experiences.

James Bladon, Corporate Communication Manager at Avon Fire & Rescue Service said: “We were keen to seize on the positive energy following last year’s conference and begin translate that enthusiasm into actions.

“One of the recurring themes of the day was the barriers that exist to sharing all manner of content between each other. There’s lots of goodwill, but a feeling that the technology we have isn’t making the process to share or find content particularly easy.

“This was just one of the topics which came out of the day that we can now look to progress with members who would be keen to drive improvement.

“This was a free event which I hope added value to what FirePro has to offer its members. I’m grateful to all those who came along on the day, with some travelling considerable distance to be there. The quality of the discussions and the ideas around the room were fantastic.

“Thanks should also go to members from the other FRSs in the south who played a key role in the organising and running the event.”

Conference review - and date set for 2015

Last November over 50 fire comms professionals from all parts of Great Britain got together for the 8th consecutive annual FirePRO conference held at Eastwood Hall, Nottingham.

The first part of day one largely looked back at things we'd done in the last year whether that be incidents or projects, with interesting insights into the most high profile emergencies of the year, including some dealt with by other agencies.  There's always something to learn from other people's experiences of media liaison not remember where you've parked your car (Sam Thomas, Greater Manchester FRS). 


As time moved on we started to look ahead to things that are being planned or developed and it was great to be joined by Watch Manager Wayne Parsons with his very simple message: to be more engaged you have to be more engaging. 

After a great evening of eating and quizzing (courtesy of Carol at Way Ahead Media) day 2 continued to look ahead at development issues with external speakers on customer insights, digital engagement and collaboration.   

Ratings seem to be good and feedback positive and the summary is attached so members can see what others thought and what we'll need to consider for other events. There's been lots of people volunteer to take forward planning of next year's conference and other training events and the workstream lead for this - James Morton will be in touch. 

Dates are set for the 24 and 25 November and will last for two full days (we'll go on after lunch on day 2 to make sure we have time for workshops or informal discussion groups). The location will be somewhere in Birmingham and we've enlisted event organiser supremo Carol Longman to start making arrangements. 

Don't forget if there's anything you want to share with members as a case study, or you come across a really great speaker you think would be good please let James Morton know.

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