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.”
May... already! It must be time for SATs, usually a relatively quiet time at Warning Zone with school bookings tailing off towards the week of the tests itself and only independent schools coming during those five days.
This year however we are full-on right through into our really busy period up to the end of the school year. This means, despite running with the greatest number of volunteers that we have ever had, we will need to pull out all the stops to cover the remaining session.
The seven new volunteers who completed their training during April are now into their “shadowing” period before taking their places in the roster. Good luck to them all; we hope they enjoy their volunteering at WZ and get plenty of experience before the summer break.
The interviews for the role of Volunteer Co-ordinator took place last month. Around 60 applications were received with 6 being shortlisted. The successful candidate was Louise Lemmon who has already been working alongside Alan as part of her induction into the job. Louise has worked as a police officer for the past 20 years, the last 10 as an investigator in Child Abuse and Domestic Violence cases. In a previous role as a Beat Officer she worked with community volunteers tackling anti-social behaviour in the Beaumont Leys and Hamilton areas of the city. We all welcome Lou to the WZ team and wish her well in her new role.
Louise has already received her training to act as a guide/educator and has now started to shadow as Visit Manager. A number of volunteers have already met Lou and she is looking forward to getting to know everyone.
There is a Warning Zone Quiz Night coming up again. The last one held just before Christmas was a sell-out but there is still a chance to book tickets for the next one being held at 7pm Thursday 15th May. £5 per person with teams of four. Call 0116 2629739 now to book.
Guide: “What would a police officer do with the alcohol he confiscates from the young people?”
Pupil: “DRINK IT!!”
We’re all recovering from a hectic week at the end of March which saw WZ staff heavily involved in fundraising events; the L Factor at Leicester University on Thursday with an audience of 1000 and a Casino evening on Saturday at Oakham School. L Factor raised around £50,000 for Warning Zone and the Lord’s Taverners while the Casino cleared around £7000 for WZ funds. A big thank you to those who were involved in the organisation of both of these hugely successful evenings.
Of course, at the same time as staffing these events, we are running important “learning for life” sessions for Year 6 pupils day in, day out. This can only happen because of fundraising and we rely on events, both small and large, to keep bringing in the money. We particularly would like to develop some high profile events in the county area of Leicestershire so if anyone has an idea and is interested in taking the lead on such a fundraising event, please contact Vimme at Warning Zone.
Other news about the governance of the charity is that we have a new Trustee appointed to the Board. Helen Johnson is Managing Partner and an experienced Criminal Law Solicitor at Emery Johnson Astills in Leicestershire. Helen was President of the Leicestershire Law Society last year and chose Warning Zone as the benefitting charity for her fundraising events. We are really fortunate to now have Helen’s experience and differing perspective on our governing body.
Don’t forget, Easter will soon be here and it’s not too late to book tickets for our Cup Cake and Cake Pop making sessions on Wednesday 23 April (see the website for details).
Finally, a goodbye from the author of the Blog on the Frog (that’s Alan if you didn’t know who was responsible). After almost 9 years with Warning Zone I’ve decided it is time to move on and get on with the rest of my life. Warning Zone has been a huge part of my life since 2005 and an immensely satisfying experience too.
Not many people get the chance to sit down with a blank sheet of paper and help create something like WZ once, let alone twice! I will remain a firm supporter and “Friend of WZ” as the staff, trustees and of course, the volunteers continue to develop this valuable local resource for schools and others who wish to encourage a sense of personal and social responsibility in our future generations.
My last day is the 2nd May and interviews for the new Volunteer Co-ordinator take place on 7 April so watch this space.
Finally, a tribute to the volunteer team, without whom WZ couldn’t exist…
Teaching Assistant to WZ volunteer at the end of a session with a fairly challenging group;
“And you do this voluntarily!?”
March is the month of two major fundraising events for Warning Zone Leicester. As mentioned in the
February BOTF, L-Factor takes place at the O2 Academy on Thursday 27th competition aims to raise more than £50,000 for Warning Zone and The Lord’s Taverners and tickets are still on sale at £20, obtainable from the ticket hotline 01773 540948.
The second event happens two days later in Rutland at Barraclough Hall, Oakham School. Tony and Trish Ruddle have arranged another Grand Casino Night, last year’s event raising almost £12,000.
This month already, we have seen our first parents group session at Warning Zone when the Netherhall Children’s Centre staff brought 15 service users to experience the Year 6 programme. The feedback about the level of learning achieved during the session was extremely positive and reminds us that parents are not able to advise their children on how to stay safe and out of trouble if they don’t already know themselves. This is an area that should be ripe for development with the appropriate partners but engagement is difficult. The Children’s Centre staff have undertaken to spread the word.
WZ has linked up with Leicester City FC who are offering 2 day Easter Football Coaching Courses for 7 to 13 year olds. Children having attended WZ are offered a 20% discount on the usual £30 fee. The sessions include coaching in every aspect of footballing, LCFC player visits, prizes, medals and certificates for every participant and free tickets to the QPR fixture on 19 April. 0844 815 5000 (select option 1) for more information.
Talking of the Easter holidays, this year Warning Zone offers a Cup Cake and Cake Pop decorating workshop with “The Fruity Chocolatier” and “Viva La Cupcakes”. The morning and afternoon sessions are suitable for under 16s who must be accompanied by an adult whilst the evening session is for adults only. All sessions are “hands-on” and the evening session only includes chocolate egg decoration, canapes and Prosecco. See the events section of our website or call 0116 2629739 for more details.
We must acknowledge help from Stuart Lake, Director of Linemakers Ltd. from Syston. We recently had some resurfacing work done on our car park and needed some renewal of the white line marking. Stuart came to quote for the job, was shown around by Richard and was so enthused by what we do at WZ he promptly said he would do the job for free. Thank you Stuart.
Finally, the Eurovision connection. Yes, Eurovision and Warning Zone; you never expected to see those words in the same sentence but new volunteer Jan Smitten-Downes is the proud mum of this year’s UK contestant, Molly Smitten-Downes. We all wish Molly well in Copenhagen.
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.
A rather belated Happy New Year from Warning Zone, Leicester. Belated not least because things have been happening on the IT side of things here at WZ. Not only are we now on Cloud (lovely view from up here) but our new website is now up and running.
We still have the same web address so if you haven’t seen it yet check it out and find your way around. While you are there, have a look at the list of planned fundraising events for 2014. From our point of view we now have much more control over any changes we might wish to make to the web pages.
It’s at this time of year that it becomes apparent how little available time remains in the school year. After Christmas we sent a reminder to schools who hadn’t yet booked which prompted a sudden rush of phone calls. With teachers focussed on Year 6 SATs in May, which rules out school trips, there is now a very finite number of spare sessions left with June being completely full.
Our Volunteers’ Christmas social event was very successful with a range of traditional pub games on offer. I’m pleased to report that these were of the skittles, shove ha’penny type and none involved putting ferrets down people’s trousers.
At busy periods we still sometimes struggle to cover all our guiding slots which are often filled at short notice by some of our volunteers. Six new volunteers have now started their training course and should be going solo in March which should ease things in the June and early July madness. Additionally, applications have been received from three more people who may also be fully trained by then. This will bring our volunteer team to 60 people.
Scenario 6, the consequences of offending:
Guide to group, “So if you have a criminal record you may not be able to get the job you would like.
Boy, “Yeh, but you could always be a footballer.”
Hello everyone. Well here we are in December already and Christmas staring us in the face. We’ve had Black Friday and Cyber Monday… I’m still waiting for Ruby Tuesday and Pleasant Valley Sunday (if you don’t understand just ask someone old) but I don’t think they are anything to do with retail therapy. It’s been a very busy November and a very frustrating one with us not having our telephone lines for around 4 weeks; my arms were getting sore doing all that semaphore work from the roof and we were down to our last carrier pigeon.
Last month we were presented with a cheque for over £6000 from Leicester Charnwood, Rothley and Soar Valley and Thurnby Lions who, together, held a fundraising golf competition for WZ. We also benefitted from a collection at the annual Procon Awards held at Leicester Tigers which also raised over £6000.
Already this month we have hosted a visit from Market Harborough Rotary Club who have pledged a donation and expressed interest in giving further support. We are extremely grateful to these and other organisations that have chosen to support WZ; raising £250K each year is not easy and it is great to have the support of individuals, fundraising organisations and businesses to help us continue our work for our future citizens. Next month I will be giving some details about The L Factor, a major fundraiser taking place on 27th March next year.
The second Great Warning Zone Pub Quiz takes place this month with nearly 100 people taking part and then it’s into the festive celebrations with our Volunteers’ Christmas Social. In the past two weeks we have celebrated the achievements of no less than three of our volunteers who have now joined the 100 Club (100 WZ sessions completed). Well done and thanks to them for their continued support.
Guide in Alcohol scenario,
“Have you seen anyone drunk, what do they do?”
“Well when my mum gets drunk she asks for chips.”
We don’t always set the best example do we? Have a safe and Merry (but not too “merry”) Christmas.
The new academic year is now beginning to get really busy and not only with the usual Year 6 visits. In terms of school bookings, we have getting on for 5000 children booked in for this year already and more local agencies and organisations are now beginning to use the facilities here at Warning Zone.
This month we are hosting Leicestershire Police’s Tasking Group Meeting, an Anti-Bullying Conference for local Special Schools, and in half term we have New Direction staff running an alcohol misuse session on behalf of Leicester City Youth Services followed by Leicestershire Youth Offending Service with one of their regular early intervention programmes.
Additionally at the end of the month Sure Start from Netherhall in the city are bringing 22 adults to gain knowledge of child safety. This visit is a result of children coming to Warning Zone, going home and talking about issues their parents were unsure of.
Also this month we are holding a special evening screening of the new briefing film for the cast and those who provided locations such as David Wilson Homes, Plumbing Trade Supplies and the Great Central Railway. The film itself is proving to be really useful in setting the scene for our Year 6 groups while being sufficiently hard edged to be used by the Youth Offending Service for their group work.
Finally, volunteer news. Last month volunteer Ken Jones clocked up his 200th session at WZ and this month sees Hilary Parratt do likewise. Both have been volunteering with us since our first year at Syston in 2006 so I think they’ve decided they like it here. At the other end of the process we are just starting a training course for three new volunteers; good luck to them and I hope they enjoy their time at Warning Zone.
It’s always a pleasure to catch up with people who remember coming to Hazard Alley when they were at school.
Andrew Britton first visited us as part of a group from Holtsmere End School, Hemel Hempstead, in the 1990s – and he’s just been back to upgrade our Puffin crossing!
Andrew, pictured, is now Urban Traffic Engineer South with Peek Traffic. He said: “I’d just like to say it was a pleasure to be part of the work you are doing. It is vital what you do, as I have learnt from it, 18 or so years on!”
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