Deb Davies, a Group Commander for Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service has been named winner of the ‘Dany Cotton Inspiring Leader Award’ in the Women in the Fire Service Awards 2023.

Deb, who joined Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service in 2001 has been successful in the recent Group Commander process and is now managing the “On Call Project” for Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service and was nominated twice in the national awards for remarkable contributions to the Fire Service.

The ‘Dany Cotton Inspiring Leader’ category recognises individuals who champion equality and diversity, who deliver real change, inspire the fire service community and bring out the best in the people they work with.

About Deb

Deb was described by members of her Service as “one of a kind”, “a one-woman army” and “going above and beyond every single day”. Deb, Chair of the Service’s women’s group works on improving opportunities for women, often in her own time. Her nominators noted how she went out of her way to support anyone within the service, was always looking to develop new initiatives to support staff in their personal development, and her passion to inspire female leadership through bespoke coaching and mentoring.

Jon Pryce, Chief Fire Officer at Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service said:

“I was Debs’ training instructor when she first joined HWFRS as an On-Call Firefighter over twenty years ago, and even back then she was an highly impressive individual. I have watched Debs’ growth and development within the Service; into her On-Call management role, then transfer to wholetime manager and now as a senior officer, at Group Commander level. 

“At every step of her journey Debs has made a positive impact in all the roles she has worked in, as well as more widely across the whole Service and beyond HWFRS, and this award rightly recognises all the amazing work she has done.

“Debs is an incredibly hard working, dedicated and professional female officer, who along with others has blazed a trail for women to follow, and I know she has been inspirational to many others, both male and female. 

“Despite her own personal struggles, her tireless work in setting the foundations and helping the Service recognise and improve how we treat, support and develop our female staff has been invaluable. Debs’ work has helped us to get where we are today, and she continues to help and support women in our workplace every day. 

“Debs has shown not only commitment and passion in improving how women are treated in our workplaces, but above all she has shown true leadership in the way she has achieved this. She inspires some, challenges others and supports everyone with her drive, commitment and enthusiasm. Debs always manages to lead with both her heart and her head and I am truly proud to have her in our Service.”

Gareth Clarke, District Commander at Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service, who nominated Deb said: 

“Debs works in my team and is an exceptional leader who champions equality and diversity, on top of her already busy day job as a Station Commander running a group of 6 fire stations. In addition to this, she is busy with specialisms including National Interagency Liaison Officer, Specialist Incident Investigation, Fire Investigation, Airwave TacAd and a fully qualified Level 5 Fire Safety Officer.

She chairs the Service’s Women’s group to deliver real change, for example relating to fitting of uniform and PPE, design of equipment and facilities, how recruitment campaigns can be delivered to promote meaningful positive action, and supporting colleagues with funding bespoke training for such areas as handling difficult conversations and confidence building and enabling the effective challenging of inappropriate behaviour.

Having been through her own struggles as a woman in the Service, she uses her own experiences to inspire colleagues in our Service and beyond into other Services. She always does this in a positive and optimistic way, avoiding the temptation to be divisive. She takes a personal interest in all those she works with and by doing so brings out the best in them. If she hears about any colleague, at any level, who is going through a hard time, she is there by their side to provide support.”

Watch Commander Jayne Collins, who also nominated Deb in the same category said:

“Deb encourages and develops organisational change providing opportunities that inspire leadership. Her vision is to improve the provision within the service for personal development and to improve confidence and performance in women. Deb has organised and continues to provide bespoke scenario training sessions for incidents as well as leadership programmes dealing with everything from approaching challenging conversations to personal confidence. 

“Although her aim is to support a female minority, the opportunities Deb creates are available to all and she actively encourages anyone to attend. Our service is a better, more inclusive, dynamic organisation and many people are happier in their daily work because of her. Deb leads by example, works from the heart, is a true leader devoted to improvement for the benefit of others. I am proud to work for and alongside Deb.”

Speaking on the notification of her award, Deb said: 

I am incredibly proud and humbled by these nominations and winning the “Dany Cotton Inspiring Leader category”. I work alongside a fantastic team within HWFRS and we all aspire to “Lift as we climb, taking others along with us”. I am passionate about raising confidence, developing others and providing a supportive network and this award will allow us to share and recognise the amazing work of Women@hwfire and Women in the Fire Service.”

About Women in the Fire Service:

Women in the Fire Service UK is a not-for-profit organisation who work together with its corporate members and offer support and advice to all FRS’s to advance equality in the sector. 

Alex Johnson, WFS Patron and award panel judge, said: 

“Deb is a confident and successful woman, working hard to build a more progressive Fire and Rescue Service through her dynamic leadership. Using her own journey of progression and development she inspires confidence in her colleagues and those looking to enter the sector. Her commitment within the Service’s Women’s Group, enabling anyone to get involved and lead as an ally, helps create the organisational change needed in the sector.”

Award winners receive prizes, as well as an invitation to attend the Award Ceremony in June. 

Liz Millward, Marketing Manager Emergency and Rescue Services at Dräger, said: 

The business would like to give its wholehearted congratulations to Station Commander at Hereford & Worcester Fire & Rescue Service, Deborah Davies, on winning the Dany Cotton Inspiring Leader Award: “Deborah’s endeavours to create change and promote diversity and inclusion within the Fire Services is inspiring. Dräger recognises the responsibility that manufacturers have in ensuring firefighter PPE and RPE suits all body types and doesn’t create fatigue or back pain, and it is commendable to see leadership within fire services championing issues in a positive way and looking for proactive solutions.”