East Sussex Fire Authority has appointed a new chief fire officer, confirming the promotion of deputy chief fire officer Dawn Whittaker, who has served as the interim chief since April.
She said: “It has been a great experience joining East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service. We have great staff and so much potential as a service.
“I am proud to serve the communities of East Sussex and the city of Brighton and Hove.”
Fire authority chairman Councillor John Barnes said: “I am delighted that we had an absolutely outstanding candidate for the job in Dawn Whittaker.
“Dawn has been interim chief since April and we’ve been greatly impressed with the way she is leading the service, including how she handled the repercussions of the Grenfell fire tragedy in terms of East Sussex.
“There was an open recruitment process and the panel making the appointment has every confidence that she will deal effectively with the challenges which now affect fire authorities and make East Sussex the epitome of a modern fire and rescue service.”
Dawn Whittaker joined East Sussex as deputy from Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service in June last year.
But she started her career as a graduate trainee with the John Lewis Partnership in 1988.
The fire authority said: “After 14 years, Dawn left to join Northamptonshire County Council as a performance manager, later becoming the assistant director for public protection for the county, overseeing the planning and performance in fire and rescue, trading standards, coroner’s office, registration services and some parts of community safety for the county.
“In 2004 she joined Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service, moving to an operational position in 2006 when she took up the area manager planning, performance and finance role.
“She went ‘back to basics’ and started her operational training, qualifying as a silver and gold incident commander after a rigorous assessment process.
“She progressed to assistant chief fire officer and then deputy chief fire officer in 2008.
“She’s had what she describes as ‘many interesting experiences’ as an officer in charge of some fairly large incidents including floods, factory fires, a major incident on the M1 and as gold commander at Silverstone during the grand prix.
“In 2012 she undertook a six-month secondment to Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service to offer strategic support as their management team were in the midst of the Atherstone-on-Stour investigation.
“In April 2014 she was offered an opportunity for a secondment to central government (Department for Communities and Local Government and then the Home Office) to support the chief fire and rescue adviser with some major policy work.
“She briefed ministers and liaised with various fire and rescue services during the December 2015 northern floods and also during the Bosley Mill and Didcot Power Station incidents, as well as leading the Crown Premises Fire Investigation Group who undertake the fire safety regulatory function in prisons.
“Dawn has been the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) lead for drowning prevention and water safety since 2013 and sits on the new NFCC prevention committee.
“She cares passionately about volunteering and has served as a trustee of three charities and is currently the chair of the board of trustees for the Royal Lifesaving Society UK.”
The Principal Officers Appointment Panel included representatives of the fire authority, including Councillor Carol Theobald, the Brighton councillor who serves as vice-chairman of the authority.
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