Control Room Awards celebrate inspirational unsung heroes

Control Room Awards celebrate inspirational unsung heroes

Inspiring control room heroes have been recognised for their extraordinary work serving and protecting the public.

The APD Control Room Awards 2020 have honoured the life-saving, behind-the-scenes work of control room stars who go above and beyond in their roles every day.

The awards, run by APD Communications, are the only accolades of their kind to recognise the unsung heroes of the control room community in the UK and Ireland.

The 2020 ceremony was held at Jury’s Inn, Hinckley Island, Leicestershire, last night (5 March), and heard some truly inspirational stories of professionalism, dedication, selflessness and bravery. They included:

  • Dispatch Supervisor Martin Lonsdale, of North East Ambulance Service, who showed incredible bravery in rescuing three people from an overturned, burning vehicle, moments before it exploded.
  • Helen Collier, of Avon and Somerset Police, who displayed great professionalism to keep a distressed woman on the phone long enough for officers to get to the caller’s address and cut her down as she tried to hang herself.
  • Ashleigh Spriggs, of Leicestershire Fire and Rescue, who was the duty watch officer during the Leicester City helicopter crash and received commendations from the club and the fire service for his handling of the tragic and distressing incident. He was also recognised for championing the work of control room employees in all he does.
  • Hannah Bird, of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, who, despite her relative inexperience, acted quickly and decisively to help save the life of someone who had fallen overboard.

Now in their third year, the 2020 awards attracted almost 400 nominations from more than 80 organisations committed to supporting the public and safeguarding society.

APD Communications develops critical, life-saving software used by the police and other emergency services organisations across the UK, as well as transport and aviation operations nationally and internationally, and stages the awards to ensure outstanding work in control rooms is recognised and rewarded publicly.

APD Managing Director Mike Isherwood said: “Selecting the winners from so many outstanding nominations was an incredibly difficult job. Reading the entries I found myself absolutely gripped from beginning to end by the amazing stories of selfless public service.

“We created these awards to shine a spotlight on the awesome work of people and teams in control rooms and to tell their stories.

“The control room community is inherently modest but, as a result of these awards, they are sharing their experiences. It’s clear they now have the confidence and belief to say ‘we deserve recognition because we do a great job’.

“We’re proud that, working with so many great partners, we’re able to provide the platform for richly-deserved acknowledgement.”

Pictured: Control Room Ambassador of the Year Ashleigh Spriggs, of Leicestershire Fire and Rescue, is presented with his award by Jo Ward of event organiser APD Communications, left, and awards host Helen Fospero.


The full list of APD Control Room Awards 2020 winners is:


Control Room Call Taker of the Year, sponsored by the Emergency Services Times

Winner: Helen Collier, Avon and Somerset Police

The judges said:

“Helen shows great empathy with members of the public, particularly the young and vulnerable, and goes above and beyond in dealing with difficult situations inside and outside the control room and looking after the public.

“Her handling of a distressing incident in which caller was intent on taking her own life was remarkable and prevented a tragic end to the episode.”


Control Room Dispatcher of the Year, sponsored by Hexagon

Winner: Carmel Sharkey, National Ambulance Service of Ireland

The judges said:

“Carmel is admired by her colleagues for her professionalism, care and compassion for the public. This was shown in how she ensured the distressed mother of a missing son didn’t fall through the cracks and received the assistance she desperately needed.

“Carmel went the extra mile in working across national borders to help the woman. As so often with the control room community, she saw the person, rather than the incident, and responded accordingly.”


Leader of the Year, sponsored by Northgate Public Services

Winner: Carly Pointon, Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service

“Carly is a worthy winner, in recognition of her highly effective leadership of the successful merger of two fire service control rooms into one, thereby delivering significant value to the public.

“Managing a consolidation such as this is an incredibly difficult job, involving significant changes affecting people, processes and systems, while maintaining service to the public. Carly’s performance was truly outstanding.”


The Award for Services to the Public, sponsored by telent

Winner: Paula Holden, Merseyside Police

The judges said:

“Paula truly embodies the spirit of public service with her totally selfless commitment to voluntary and charity work over many years.

“She supports numerous worthy causes in her local community in so many ways. Paula inspires people inside and outside the workplace and her work to raise the profile of the control room is also a great credit to her.”


Special Recognition Award for Bravery and Courage, sponsored by UKCloud

Winner: Martin Lonsdale, North East Ambulance Service

The judges said:

“Martin is our hero and a true lifesaver. Despite having no frontline training, Martin didn’t hesitate to act when he came across an overturned car on his way to work. His immediate instinct was to help the occupants.

“Martin was not deterred even when the car burst into flames, pulling three people from the burning vehicle under the most dangerous circumstances. Those people owe their lives to him. He put his own life at risk to save theirs.”


Team of the Year, sponsored by Red Box

Winner: South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Control Team

The judges said:

“The South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Control Team was at the very heart of the emergency services response to awful flooding which inundated hundreds of homes.

“Their professionalism, skill, resolve and resilience was vital in ensuring everything possible was done to help, support, reassure and care for thousands of callers and other people affected by the emergency. The team’s work demonstrated the debt of gratitude the public owes to control room teams in their times of utmost need.”


Young Achiever of the Year, sponsored by West Pier

Winner: Hannah Bird, Maritime and Coastguard Agency

The judges said:

“Hannah is an outstanding young leader. She is relatively new in her role, but has rapidly developed maritime skills to become a vital member of the team.

“She has shown huge commitment to ger personal development and qualifications and frequently takes responsibility above and beyond her job role, including managing major incidents. Hannah is a fantastic leader for the future.”


The Community Champion Award, sponsored by RapidSOS

Winner: Jo Sampson, Avon and Somerset Police

The judges said:

“Jo is passionate about supporting the community and takes great pride in helping others. She runs or contributes to many good causes as well as supporting work colleagues in their time of need.

“Jo works tirelessly for the community, both inside and outside of work time. She is an amazingly dedicated, all-round community champion.”


John Gilhooly Unsung Hero Award

Winner: Rich Weaver, Devon and Cornwall Police

The judges said:

“The comments from colleagues demonstrate how they feel about Rich and his support for team members and their personal development. He is always there for them, not least in times of need.

“Despite facing very significant personal challenges, Rich has continued to support the control room team, inside and outside work. Rich is utterly devoted to his team and to the public they serve.”


The Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by BAPCO Annual Conference & Exhibition 2020

Winner: Lorraine Smith, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue

The judges said:

“Lorraine has made an outstanding and lasting contribution for 20 years. She has led on a series of major incidents and significant projects, including an upgrade of the command and control system, which was delivered to specification, on time and to budget.

“As well as all this, she has overcome breast cancer, fosters children and mentors other foster carers, and helps out in an adult education centre. She has personally raised more than £20,000 for charities.”


Control Room Ambassador of the Year

Winner: Ashleigh Spriggs, Leicestershire Fire and Rescue

The judges said:

“Ashleigh is passionate about the control room and the work the control room team do to help and support the public. He is also committed to raising the profile of the control room externally, including by working with emergency services partners.

“He is worthy of recognition as Ambassador of the Year for the work he does in highlighting the importance of the control room in emergency response and championing the team’s work.

“He was also the duty watch officer during the Leicester City helicopter disaster, receiving commendations from the fire service and football club following the tragic event.”


Leading tech company telent Technology Services was once more the Platinum Partner of the awards and also sponsored the Award for Services to the Public.

Barry Zielinski, telent’s Operations and Services Director, said: “It’s a pleasure to play our part in these awards, which are a brilliant showcase for the fantastic work of control room teams.

“They are highly skilled, utterly professional and totally dedicated. The awards also highlight how proactive and committed they are to continuous individual and collective improvement, in order to continually strive to provide an even better service to the public.”

Other leading organisations in the control rooms sector who supported the awards were:

  • The British Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (British APCO), the leading UK-based association for everybody who uses public safety communications and IT.
  • BAPCO Annual Conference & Exhibition 2020, a crucial event for everyone involved in critical communications and public safety solutions.
  • International Critical Control Rooms Alliance (ICCRA), which brings together critical control room professionals worldwide and co-ordinates discussion on key sector issues.
  • Emergency Services Times, the highly-regarded magazine and organiser of the Emergency Services Show.
  • Hexagon Safety & Infrastructure, a global leader in computer-aided dispatch software.
  • Northgate Public Services, the market leader for policing IT solutions in the UK.
  • Red Box, a leading provider of communication recording solutions to store, retrieve, transcribe and analyse voice, instant messaging, video and data.
  • West Pier, the award-winning provider of communications and networking products.
  • UKCloud, the service provider of choice for cloud computing services, providing flexible and tailored solutions for UK organisations.
  • RapidSOS, which transforms user safety and emergency response, providing software for public safety agencies and connected device and app companies.

The APD Control Room Awards 2020 judges were:

  • Mike Isherwood, Managing Director, APD Communications.
  • Barry Zielinski, Operations and Services Director, telent.
  • Chris Dreyfus-Gibson, Vice Chairman, International Critical Control Rooms Alliance.
  • Sue Noyes, Chair, National Ambulance Staff Charity, and former Chief Executive, East Midlands Ambulance Service.
  • Teri Seaber, former Group Commander, Combined Fire Control of Cambridgeshire and Suffolk Fire and Rescue Services.
  • Ian Thompson, CEO, British APCO.

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