Training role is part of job satisfaction for Wyre Forest-based woman Crew Commander

Steph Cooling

To mark today’s International Women’s Day (8 March), we’re profiling different female fire service staff throughout this week, all of whom play a vital role in Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service.

Today we meet Steph Cooling, an operational Crew Commander who has recently been promoted to Watch Commander as a Training Centre Instructor.

Describing her role, Steph says:

“At the moment I’m an operational Crew Commander based at Wyre Forest station, responsible for supporting my Watch Commander in the running of White Watch.

“But later this month I’m moving to the Training Centre in Droitwich as a Watch Commander, where I will be an Instructor. As part of this role I will be facilitating the running of courses for new recruits as well as refresher training for existing operational staff.”

“I’m passionate about teaching – you get huge satisfaction when people come to you knowing very little about what we do and leave enthused, with a greater understanding of their role in the Fire Service.

“I’m also a Team Leader for USAR, or Urban Search & Rescue, which involves supervising USAR Technicians, facilitating training days, working closely with partner agencies such as HART and responding to operational incidents involving building collapse and confined space.”

“Joining USAR always appealed to me because of the extra knowledge and equipment that can be deployed to resolve incidents and protect lives, and from my point of view it stretches my expertise even further.”

Joining the Fire Service was a big jump, as Steph explains:

“I used to work in administration, specialising in safeguarding and delivering training to volunteers, which I enjoyed, but I made the switch because being office-bound just wasn’t ‘me’ – I prefer to be on the go and active. The Fire Service certainly provides that – I’ve been in for ten years now, both on-call and wholetime, and have done so much.”

The service is a family business for Steph, who met her husband Ben during her conversion course from on-call to wholetime – he’s still working as operational firefighter, based at Worcester.

Despite their busy schedules, Steph would recommend the service to anyone and provides a reassuring voice that women are valued 100%:

“We’re just as capable of doing the job as our male colleagues, and having a crew formed from different backgrounds and personalities is a positive thing, since the differences complement each other and reflect our diverse communities.

”People are surprised when they hear what I do – ‘that sounds exciting’ is a typical response – but for anyone who’s unsure, I’d say ‘give it a go’, whether male or female – you never know what you’re truly capable of until you put yourself out there.

“It’s a massive adrenalin rush with great job satisfaction, you get home feeling like you’ve truly made a difference.”

To keep her civilian career going, Steph initially took the on-call route into the Fire Service – as a part-time rather than fulltime Firefighter – and although it was a juggling act she found it totally worthwhile:

“It was a flexible arrangement and I got so much from being on-call, learning a host of new skills and gaining qualifications that have contributed to both my fulltime role and non-fire service life.

“Currently, I work a ‘2-2-4’ shift pattern, ie my working routine, which is great for work-like balance. We offer two different shift patterns in the service so there are always alternatives available.”

HWFRS puts career development, variety, extra curricular opportunities and line manager support at the centre of their ‘offer’, as Steph has discovered for herself:

“I’ve been incredibly lucky throughout my career and have always been supported by my peers and line managers. My team leaders have always encouraged me to try out new skills, to represent the Service in competitions, to become an instructor and to go for promotion, and I think that’s made me who I am in the Fire Service.

“I’m always keen to gain new expertise and embrace challenges. I’ve felt part of the team every step of the way, whatever my role and this has been achieved by the people around me treating me as an equal, and that’s just the way I like it!”

If you’d like to know how to join the Fire Service and make a difference in a wide variety of roles, you can find out more at Join us | Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service (