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London Fire Brigade’s pandemic work recognised in Her Majesty The Queen’s Birthday Honours List

02 November 2020

TWO LONDON firefighters with more than 40 years’ experience between them have been honoured for their work on behalf of the London Fire Brigade during the Coronavirus pandemic in this year’s Birthday Honours List issued by Her Majesty The Queen.

London Fire Brigade Deputy Assistant Commissioner David O’Neill has been awarded the MBE, while Station Commander Wayne Horlock receives the British Empire Medal.

O’Neill’s award recognises his work heading up the Brigade’s ‘Operation Braidwood’ team which was formed back in March 2020 in response to the pandemic. He created and then managed the Ambulance Drive Assist programme with firefighters driving ambulances and assisting paramedics. The project also expanded to include the Pandemic Multi-Agency Response Teams scheme, itself designed to respond to suspected COVID-19 deaths in the community across London.

Originating from Wallington, O’Neill joined the Brigade back in 1993 and worked in a variety of roles at fire stations in South West London before moving to headquarters. He’s currently responsible for technical rescue policy, immediate emergency care policy and international search and rescue.

49-year-old O’Neill said: “It blew me away when I found out I had received this award. I had to double check that it wasn’t a prank, but once I knew it was for real, I told my wife and son. They’re so happy and excited for me. I’m really honoured to receive this honour on behalf of the entire ‘Operation Braidwood’ team. I know it sounds like a cliché, but genuinely this is one for every member of staff who stepped up in unprecedented times so that the Brigade could be there for Londoners in extraordinary circumstances.”

He added: “I contracted COVID at the start of this project and worked through the short illness to make sure the project was up-and-running. The Brigade’s support for our blue light partners during the pandemic was a huge team effort involving more than 600 staff. Its success is down to the combined effort of the Brigade’s delivery team, the co-ordination centre, the Fire Brigades Union and the army of Brigade staff that supported our volunteers.”

Face masks project

Wayne Horlock, from Bletchingly in Surrey, has been recognised for founding and delivering a volunteering project through the rapid response team to help fund, produce and distribute 37,000 face masks to hospitals in London and across the UK at the time of a national shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE).

The rapid response team lead for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) incidents and an experienced firefighter, Horlock organised his team to set up a face shield production line at Lambeth Fire Station at the beginning of lockdown on behalf of Shield NHS, a charity set up to respond directly to the PPE shortage.

The 43-year-old joined the Brigade in 2003 from the Metropolitan Police Service. Horlock began his career in the British Army’s Royal Engineers, training as a paratrooper before then working in bomb disposal.

As a firefighter, Horlock has worked at the Mitcham, Lambeth and Sutton Fire Stations. He was team leader for the Brigade’s responses to the London Bridge terrorist attack and the Parsons Green London Underground attack back in 2017. He’s currently serving as station commander for the CBRN Rapid Response Unit at Lambeth Fire Station.

Horlock commented: “It’s an unexpected honour to receive this special recognition in Her Majesty The Queen’s Birthday Honours list. Back in March when lockdown began, my colleagues and I were frustrated to see that NHS workers didn’t have the PPE they needed to deal with Coronavirus patients due to a worldwide shortage. We wanted to help.”

He went on to state: “After speaking with Shield NHS, we set up our production line the same day. This type of multi-agency work is important to me. The rapid response team is at the forefront of multi-agency collaboration as we work closely with the London Ambulance Service and the Metropolitan Police Service, both on incidents and training. Emergency Services-centred work is a community in itself and, in unprecedented crises such as the Coronavirus pandemic, everything works better when you’re familiar with one another’s practices and people.”

Initiative and collaborative spirit

Speaking about the two accolades, London Fire Commissioner Andy Roe said: “I’m so proud that the initiative, collaborative spirit and hard work of David and Wayne have been recognised at the highest level. The London Fire Brigade exists to protect lives and these individuals have shown real leadership in contributing to that mission amid an unprecedented public health crisis. David and Wayne represent the compassion and professionalism of all London Fire Brigade staff. So many have worked night and day to support our joint emergency response to this ongoing pandemic.”