Rushton, who has spent 21 years in TV PR, first at Central TV and then Carlton Communications following a takeover, will join the fire service as director of corporate comms in June.
Rushton replaces Paul Tyrrell, who left to join Manchester City Football Club as head of communications (PRWeek, 13 February).
On his reasons for the move from TV to the emergency services, Rushton said: ‘My role at Carlton, reporting to chairman and CEO Michael Green, will no longer exist, so I decided to try a new and completely different challenge.’
In his new role, Rushton will report to chief fire officer Tony McGuirk, heading a team of six comms staff overseeing the service’s website, internal comms and external PR.
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service covers 26 full-time fire stations and is one of the busiest fire services in the country in terms of call-outs.
Rushton’s brief will be to improve awareness of fire prevention. His biggest challenge will be to promote the service’s non-emergency activities.
Under the service’s pioneering five-year Home Fire Risk Assessment (HFRA) scheme, Merseyside offers home visits to educate residents on the risks of fire and to supply and install free smoke detectors.
The service has visited 250,000 homes since the scheme started in 1999 and has fitted more than 300,000 smoke detectors.
A recent independent study commissioned by Merseyside showed a reduction in fire deaths in the region, from an estimated average of 20 per year to nine in 2003.
The study said HFRA’s effort to supply smoke detectors was directly responsible for the reduction.
ITV plc appointed Dow Jones International head of comms Brigitte Trafford to the communications chief role (PRWeek, 23 April). She is understood to start in the next few months.
Rushton and Granada director of communications Susan Donovan pulled out of the running for the job in March.