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The phrase “not enough hours in the day” was coined for people like Dan Perager!

Full-time fire-fighter Dan dedicates up to 12 hours a week volunteering as a West Midlands Police Special Constable, whilst Birmingham Children’s Hospital have made him a fund-raising ‘Ambassador’ in recognition of his tireless charity work. And he still finds time to pop up on our TV screens as an extra!

In the latest of our WMPeople features the 26-year-old talks about protecting the public, why beards are a fire safety risk and his frustration at parents who tell children “look it’s a policeman…if you don’t behave he’ll lock you up!”

Dan Perager

What spurred you on to become a volunteer Special Constable?

When I was 18 I applied for both the police and fire service and was lucky enough to be successful with both applications. It was a close call but as a child I’d always dreamed of being a fireman so chose that career route – but I was still interested in police work so was offered the chance to be a Special Constable and fit my tours of duty around my work schedule. It’s a great balance for me.

How long have you been a Special Constable?

I have been a Special Constable for six years. I served at West Bromwich for my first year, two years at Wednesbury and a further three in Wolverhampton at Staveley, City Centre and now at Bilston.

How varied is your Specials work; what kinds of things been involved with?

I’m now part of the Community Action Priority Team (CAPT) at Bilston Police Station – tackling local emerging issues and assisting operations. I have taken part in many things during my six years as a Special like drug raids, search warrants, and shifts with emergency response crews. I also worked during the Olympics – and received a certificate of recognition and an Olympic medal – and was also on duty during the 2011 riots. I’m hoping to move into CID. It’s a really mixed bag and you get experience of many different departments.

Have you attended incidents as a Special where you’ve encountered fire-fighter colleagues?

I’ve attended several fires where police assistance was needed to set up cordons and some RTC’s (Road Traffic Collisions) where I’ve helped manage traffic flow whilst fire crews free victims and recover vehicles. I’ve surprised and confused a few fire colleagues – ones who didn’t know about my police volunteering – when I’ve turned up at scenes in my police uniform!

Does being a fire-fighter help in your Specials role and vice versa; does a good knowledge of how the two services work help when attending scenes?

Undoubtedly, yes. I’ve attended countless RTCs as a fire-fighter so my knowledge of crash scenes and consideration of the hazards come to the fore when deployed at such incidents as a Special. It can advise on keeping colleagues and the public safe.  On the flip side, when attending fires we believe are suspicious having knowledge of scene preservation gained through the police comes in handy so potentially crucial evidence isn’t lost or contaminated.

I’ve also visited many properties as a Special that still don’t have smoke alarms so I can pass on fire service details to the occupants so they can get one fitted.

Do you see a difference in the public’s perception of you in both roles?

Both services react with utmost urgency with the sole aim of helping people in need, whether that’s rescuing someone from a burning building or taking a dangerous criminal off the street. The favourite aspect of my Specials role is neighbourhood policing and mixing with the community…but I think people see fire-fighters as more approachable. When out in the fire engine or at incidents people are generally friendly and families with young children will wave as you pass them.  When in my police uniform, though, people tend to avoid eye contact and seem apprehensive to approach me for a general chat unless they’re reporting a crime or anti-social behaviour.

As I am often attached to neighbourhood police teams one of their main goals is to get to know local people and to understand any concerns they have – they want people to stop them for a natter. You’ll often hear parents say to their children “look it’s a policeman…if you don’t behave he’ll take you away” – I know they’re only joking but the last thing you want is children to be scared of police officers because if they’re lost or if there’s an emergency you want them to run to you. That said, a lot of people are very forthcoming and respectful to me in my police role. I do feel the police don’t get the credit they deserve for the job they do. If people could see the things I have during my time in the police, I’m sure they’d feel the same.

What do you mean by that?

I hear moans and groans about the emergency services – but from my experience of both they are made up of predominantly dedicated, professional people who are passionate about the role. Police cuts means resources are more stretched than perhaps they were but officers I know never stop and it’s job after job after job.

But not only that, the incidents they attend, without a second’s thought is bravery at its highest order. People say my job is heroic and brave, and yes that is true when we’re called upon, but the role of a police officer is without a shadow of a doubt as brave and heroic as ours. So like I said, if the public knew the situations and incidents the police attend, I believe there perception and respect for the police would be much greater.

Have you ever stepped in when off duty to deter crime or help a member of the public?

Yes I have on many occasions: most recently helping a tram conductor who was getting grief from a group of teenagers and helping a child who couldn’t find their parents in town.

Working for both the police and fire service sounds like your dream job combination?!

I can’t think of anything I dislike about both jobs…except maybe having to shave every day I’m on duty as a fire officer, but it’s safety critical.

Safety-critical? Is having a beard deemed a fire safety risk!?

Yes it is! Our breathing apparatus masks would be compromised with a beard or any stubble as the seal around our face wouldn’t be completely tight so it could allow smoke or fumes to leak inside.

Alongside your charity work and day job(s) it sounds like there aren’t enough hours in the day?

Our fire service shift pattern is four on four off…so my rest days are ample time to fit in police volunteering, charity work…and a bit of support acting! I’m signed up with an agency that supplies the BBC so if you see someone who looks like me on Doctors every now and again, then yes that is me!

Could you volunteer with the ambulance service in some capacity to achieve the Blue Light services hat-trick?!

I’m not sure I’d have time for that – but I do charity work for Birmingham Children’s Hospital and in the last two years have raised £17,000. I was made a Hospital Ambassador last year; I represent the hospital at local events, give talks and collect cheques. A fire colleague and I were named the hospital’s Volunteers of the Year 2014!

Our next big event is the Emergency Services Charity Ball on 30 August at Walsall’s The Village Hotel. There are still places left so anyone interested can drop me a line – you don’t have to be a Blue Light worker.

Would you recommend the Special Constabulary to other people?

I have done! To be able to protect and serve my community is an honour – being a Special is fulfilling, interesting, gives you an opportunity to meet new people and experience police life.

Factfile:

Name: Dan Perager
From: Walsall
Age: 26
Fire service career: Seven years with West Midlands Fire Service (Black Country North) working out of Cradley Heath, Wednesbury and most recently Walsall.
Work ambition: One day to become Borough Commander