A husband and wife have guided 1,000 tours of West Midlands Fire Service’s Safeside centre in Birmingham, delivering vital safety messages to around 5,000 children between them.
Cllr John Edwards, Chair of the West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority (WMFRA), congratulated Sheila and Harry Dennick with a surprise presentation at the end of their milestone 1,000th tour, which today involved pupils from Dorridge Junior School.
The couple, who live in Hockley, have been volunteering since Safeside ran its first trial visits in 2008. Their combined tour tally means that they have led approximately 2,500 children each around the innovative safety centre - that’s ten per cent of all the visitors since Safeside opened.
“This is a phenomenal volunteering achievement by Harry and Sheila," said Rob Hattersley, Safeside Manager. "Both of them are an inspiration to our other guides, especially our younger ones, and are always cheerful, positive and incredibly helpful. Most importantly, their volunteering has had a huge positive impact on the lives of thousands of children. We need more Harry and Sheilas at Safeside, and would love to hear from anyone else interested in supporting our work.”
Safeside at Eastside is a scenario-based experimental learning centre, designed to encourage visitors to think and act safely. It is complemented by a smaller centre, Safeside at Handsworth. The flagship indoor ‘village’ includes a realistic, life-sized street scene, complete with pedestrian crossing, car and double-decker bus, a house, shop, pub, police station and building society. Visitors also encounter a full-sized train carriage and rail track, and water-based scenarios.
Safeside’s programmes play a key role in the prevention and education services provided by West Midlands Fire Service, all designed to make the West Midlands safer. The majority of visitors are primary school Key Stage 2 pupils, but secondary students and others with special educational needs, plus young adults and parents of younger children are also among the target groups.
Councillor Edwards added: “People like Sheila and Harry, who give up their time to help us make the West Midlands safer, make a huge difference to people’s lives. They are an outstanding example of volunteering in action. We hope they inspire many others to follow in their footsteps. They show how rewarding it is to know that you have helped children to stay safe, become more independent and ready for life.”
Harry worked as Head of Security at the former WMFS HQ on Lancaster Circus in Birmingham, from 1982 to 2007. He said: “We love Safeside because it's great to know we are helping children to stay safe and be aware themselves of possible dangers.”
Sheila added: "Safeside is like a family. The staff and volunteers are very helpful and thoughtful, and it’s wonderful to know that we’re all working together to help keep our visitors safe in everyday life.”
Young people from across the West Midlands are set to benefit from an innovative financial education link-up between West Midlands Fire Service and Nationwide Building Society. The new programme is being delivered at WMFS’s Safeside centre in Birmingham.
Visitors are being taught to be more financially aware in a variety of scenarios and settings - including a full-size, virtual Nationwide branch, complete with cash machine. As well as getting tips on safe use of ATMs and security of financial information, visitors are taking part in activities designed to highlight the importance of budgeting, spending wisely and saving.
The scheme is the latest element in an integrated programme of courses offered in Safeside’s interactive indoor street environment, complementing West Midlands Fire Service’s wider community safety agenda. Safeside’s young visitors enjoy practical safety sessions which, in turn, give them confidence and help to raise their personal safety awareness - all now complemented by the new financial input.
Volunteers from local Nationwide offices are teaming up with Safeside presenters to deliver the two-hour tour session to groups of pupils predominantly from Years 9-11. Some 8,000 children and young people will visit the new Nationwide branch this year.
Phil Loach, Chief Fire Officer for the West Midlands, said: "We’re very proud of the varied yet fully integrated programme of courses offered by Safeside. They contribute directly to the personal and community safety awareness of the thousands of young people who visit every year. “Fighting fires and attending traffic collisions are just a part of what we’re about. By working with young people to influence their behaviour, we’re helping them to stay safe and take responsibility in many different areas of their lives. Our partnership with Nationwide will boost Safeside’s already strong reputation among schools wanting to bring a practical element to safety and citizenship education.”
Stephen Uden, Head of Citizenship at Nationwide, said: “Nationwide is proud to be part of this important work. Through our virtual branch and the efforts of our staff volunteers, we are confident we can make a real difference to the understanding of Safeside’s young visitors, equipping them to make safe, sensible and confident financial choices.”
Dangerpoint hosted a successful Alliance get together on Tuesday which included a visit from South Swedish Fire & rescue who are considering a safety centre in Malmo.
The visitors had spent Monday at Safeside learning about various initiatives in accident and fire prevention.
The meeting also heard exciting plans from Manchester Fire about a combined training and safety centre in the city. Visitors were delighted to meet Dangerpoint's new mascot, Chaos, who appears equally confident responding to visitors in Yorkshire, Swedish and Welsh!
The Alliance plans a bigger than usual AGM at Hazard Alley Milton Keynes on September 11th to which staff teams from centres are invited. Ideas for workshops, presentations and speakers are welcome.
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