Back in the 1980s Ron and Ruth Lee owned a small business that employed a number of sewing machinists that specialised in the repair of Silver Cross prams.
A family friend who at the time worked for Merseyside Fire Brigade approached Ruth to see if she would be able repair one of their own inhouse made training manikins which was made from hessian sacking and old hose.
Ruth being the entrepreneur that she is said that she could make something better and the first Ruth Lee Training Manikin was born.
Merseyside Fire Brigade were so impressed that they placed an order for more manikins straight away. Ruth then approached Cheshire Fire Brigade and North Wales Fire Brigade with the training manikins and they quickly followed suit and placed orders.
The company then moved to the town of Corwen in Denbighshire, North Wales where the family home became the new workshop with the attached barn being converted to accommodate all the equipment needed to manufacture the training manikins.
Ruth toured the whole of the UK demonstrating the training manikins to the numerous brigades to the point where we supply 100% of the UK Fire and Rescue Services.
Ron and Ruth’s daughter Susan, works in the business and knows the ins and outs of its operation in minute detail. Their sons Mark and Lawrence both sit on the Board with Ruth. Lawrence started his career as a firefighter and consequently knows the industry and its requirements very well and Mark manages a well known charitable organisation in North West England.
Ruth Lee Fire and Rescue Equipment became Ruth Lee Ltd in 1999 and relocated to a former school in the centre of Corwen in 2001. The company has had to twice expand the premises to cope with the rapid growth in the company.
When we began trading, we had just one manikin to offer – over the years, this has grown to a range of more than 20, in all shapes and sizes, from a 5kg baby, up to a 260kg bariatric adult!
Our design and construction has seen much development too. Feedback from our customers has been vital in creating the best possible range of manikins.
To complement the range of training manikins, Ruth Lee became British distributors for FireWare. We are now able to supply a range of fire simulation products, which are perfect for creating very realistic training scenarios which are easy to set up, clean and safe.
We also added Eccotarp bunds to our range of products. Made from a heavy duty PVC they are resistant to technical liquids, chemicals and all petroleum products such as oil, diesel, gasoline, etc. They have proven to be perfect for Stage 1 fire-fighter decontamination and are also very popular amongst our aviation customers for containment of liquids whilst working on aircraft.
Our step into International markets started at an exhibition at the Birmingham NEC! Susan and Ruth were working on a stand, promoting a range of firefighter helmets bags when they were surrounded by a group of Japanese visitors who started taking photos – their interest was made clear when they placed an order for a large number of helmet bags, branded ‘Merseyside’ as a nod to the Beatles!
We currently have around 34 Distributors across the globe and have sold manikins to many countries; in fact, we are proud to have sold manikins to every single continent – including Antarctica! Maybe space travel should be our next goal?!
Over 60% of our production is now exported overseas and we continue to build relationships with international distributors. Our first International Distributor Conference was held in 2016, in North Wales and was a huge success!
In 2016, the company formed a Board and employed a new Managing Director, Paul McDonnell. It also gained planning permission to develop a new premises, 7 miles down the road towards Llangollen, in the village of Glyndyfrdwy.
This new site already houses a modern, computerised cutting table and will see refurbished office space, a show room and training rooms, plus new warehousing and sewing workshops created. It is anticipated that the business will begin a gradual relocation to this new premises in 2018-19.