Norwich City’s match day fire safety officer honoured with British Empire Medal
- Credit: SIMON FINLAY
A man who has helped keep Canaries fans safe for decades has told of his joy at receiving recognition from the Queen.
Sonny Garrett, 69, of Hellesdon, received the British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to fire and rescue and the community in Norwich in the Queen's honours list.
He has worked for Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service for more than 45 years, and has been Norwich City's match day fire safety officer since 1989 - the year of the Hillsborough disaster.
In this time he helped oversee major safety improvements at Carrow Road, with the ground converted from all-standing to all-seated.
And Canaries fan Mr Garrett, who still works in the role, said the honour came out of the blue.
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'It's a bit of a shock to be honest,' he said. 'I'm honoured to receive it and it's hard to put into words.
'You don't expect this sort of thing and the congratulations you get.
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'The messages have been quite humbling really.'
Asked what aspect of his career he was proudest of, he said: 'I think it's working with your colleagues and being part of a team.
'It's the satisfaction when you've done a good job.'
Mr Garrett joined the fire service in 1971 after previously working as a grocery buyer.
'At the time it was security and I was looking for a career,' he explained.
He started at Bethel Street fire station, now Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form, was promoted to a role at Sprowston fire station, then worked his way up the force over almost two decades.
He eventually moved across to work as a fire safety officer and was responsible for the safety of hotels, shops and factories, later specialising in petroleum and explosives.
Outside events like the Lord Mayor's Celebrations were also part of his role, and he later moved into sports grounds, including Carrow Road, the racecourses at Great Yarmouth and Fakenham, and speedway at King's Lynn.
His work has seen him based at Carrow Road on match days since 1989, and while he said it was a privilege as a fan, it was a full-on job.
'You can see bits of the matches but the majority of the time you're occupied with what's going on,' he said.
His role includes ensuring the club is compliant on safety issues and conducting inspections, and he was involved in work to make Carrow Road an all-seater stadium following the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 - reviewing plans as they were drawn up.
This was not an easy process, and the ground initially went from around 30,000 capacity to nearer 20,000 before in-filling.
'It was a bit of a nightmare at the time, but there have been vast improvements in safety,' he said. 'There's financial implications regarding safety but if you explain the reasons why you're doing it, people are quite co-operative.
'You need to ensure people are safe at all times.'
Asked whether he planned to retire he laughed and said: 'That keeps getting asked.
'Some people would like me to stay on until they retire, but that's got to be on the horizon because of the age I am.
'But there's been no pressure put on me, which is good, and I still enjoy it.'
Mr Garrett, who lives with his wife Nicola, added: 'I like to think the club has gone forward in health and safety and I hope it continues for many years.'
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