RailStaff Awards 2019

Deborah Ward

London Underground Limited

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Nominations for Samaritans Lifesaver Award

Phelim O'Neill

Said the following about Deborah Ward:

“CSA (Customer Service Assistant) Deborah Ward was in the station when she was approached by a customer who told them that a person had said they were going to kill themselves.

Deborah immediately informed the CSM (Customer Service Manager) via radio whilst en-route to the platform to investigate.

On arrival Deborah saw a male customer running along the platform before jumping down into the ‘Pit’ between the rails.

Seeing this, Deborah was able to tell inform her CSM in ‘Real Time’ what was occurring, and thanks to their comms train movements were stopped and Traction Current was discharged very quickly indeed.

Had Traction Current not been discharged so quickly by the CSM this alone would’ve been immediately life threatening, but the customer was also indicating they may run down into the tunnel which posed other equally serious risks.

Deborah was by now attempting to make eye contact and generally engage with the clearly agitated customer, and after several minutes the she managed to get them to fully acknowledge her presence and begin to verbally interact with her.

The customer stated they were “depressed”, had alcohol issues, and had been institutionalised several times.

They had also previously attempted to hang themselves.

They were adamant that they “wanted to die” and that they “didn’t care” etc – They were quite lucid, articulate and seemingly determined to carry this threat through.

Feeling they’d built a tentative rapport and knowing Traction Current was discharged, Deborah stepped down from the platform and onto the ledge right next to the ‘Pit’.

She then calmly extended her hand slowly towards the customer Deborah gently reassured and reasoned with them, and then slowly reached out her hand again.

The customer finally took Deborah’s hand and allowed her to lead them up onto the platform where she gave the (now very upset) customer a “hug”.

This simple act of human contact, kindness and empathy seemed to de-escalate the immediacy of the entire situation for the suicidal customer.

Deborah then even managed to persuade the customer to accompany her upstairs for a “cup of tea and a chat” – Which they gratefully agreed to.

They left the platform together with the customer apologising profusely and thanking Deborah for saving their life.

The customer was ultimately sectioned under the Mental Health Act by the British Transport Police shortly thereafter, and they were taken by ambulance to Hospital.

There was an exemplary level of teamwork displayed by all staff involved, but of particular note were the actions of Deborah who engaged with the customer throughout, and whose use of fantastic inter-personal skills persuaded a person with well known, complex and documented mental health issues to be coaxed calmly and peacefully off the track to safety.

Deborah bravely stepped down alone onto the track area with a crowd looking on and engaged with a very challenging customer under very stressful circumstances - With her only thought being that of safety of that distressed customer.

Once they were safely off the track Deborah even got this same customer to accompany her upstairs and away from the platform so Traction Current could be restored and Northern Line services safely resumed in the shortest possible time.

The Police and all other staff in attendance made vociferous representations as to how impressed they were with this Deborah’s conduct and professionalism under such extreme circumstances.

I was the manager tasked with formally investigating and reporting on this incident, and what really impressed me was that Deborah saw this as no more than doing her job.

Deborah saved a life that day.““