Friday, 11 January 2013

So after the excesses of Christmas, is January a month where our New Year resolutions are based on a Spartan regime of an early morning swim in the sea, cross country runs across the Downs and a diet of cabbage soup and water?

Every newspaper and magazine seems to have the latest diet fad which promises you will be a stone lighter in a month by sucking on a sherbet lemon whenever you feel the urge to dive into the biscuit barrel or give you the abs you always desired in two weeks by standing on some sort of vibrating pad?

Well the professional nutritionists have responded by saying that the abstinence programme that some of us are encouraged to follow in the first month of the year may give us a sense of self-satisfaction but really does nothing for long term health and that what we need to do is simply eat a balanced diet, reduce fats, sugars and processed food and take regular exercise.

At the other end of the scale to cabbage soup, you could try a curry known as 'The Widower' which is claimed to be the hottest curry in the world, packed with naga chillies and measuring 6 million units on the Scoville scale (which is pretty damn hot, as the pepper spray used by Police Services is only 2 million units!) Earlier this week, Dr. Ian Rothwell became the first person to finish the dish despite suffering hallucinations as he ate the meal at the Bindi Restaurant in Grantham - makes my attempt at a Vindaloo look pretty feeble!

Now, I have to congratulate the healthy British music scene both old and new which is very much alive and kicking. Adele topped the US chart for the biggest selling album with '21' and 66 year old David Bowie released his new single 'Where are we Now'. I must admit to having been a big Bowie fan and remember seeing him give a fantastic concert performance at the Milton Keynes Bowl in 1983, although I realise that's 30 years ago and there are probably people reading this that have no idea who the ‘Spiders from Mars’ were!

Met with Fire Authority group leaders and the Fire Brigade Union to look at consultative processes. A very useful meeting and the Authority have agreed to regular meetings with trade unions to listen to their views. Principal Officer’s discussed separately our own consultative arrangements as we are keen to meet regularly to ensure we have open and transparent communications.

Last Friday crews from Lewes and Crowborough responded to an incident near Rodmell where three people had become trapped in mud. Firefighters on the Technical Rescue Unit from Lewes used a rescue path to reach the casualties and then used specialist equipment to free one female casualty from the mud. Crews from Lewes supported by the Water Rescue Team from Crowborough and the Ambulance Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) then rescued the two remaining people. Watch Commander, Dave Washington, said that the rescue operation went extremely well and was a great example of the emergency services working together.

My Week

  • Working on the draft budget for the Policy & Resources meeting on Thursday. The Government have provided the grant for the next two years and have also changed our council tax base which means there is some certainty with the grant but more uncertainty with the council tax base. We will not set our budget until next month and still a lot of discussions on whether the Fire Authority will raise council tax this year.
  • Had a conference call with a Doctor from the NHS who I am mentoring. We have established a growing network across the public sector where we are sharing leadership training and staff exchanges and our leadership and coaching network is growing with opportunities for our own staff to also benefit from external mentors and coaches.
  • Weekly meeting with the Principal Officer team at Headquarters to discuss the Sussex Control Centre and the proposals for Newhaven. We are in final discussions with other organisations who have indicated their wish to be involved on the Newhaven site but nothing is agreed other than the building will be a properly functioning fire station and providing all our needs are met, we may have other partners on the site.
  • Went with the Chairman of East Sussex Fire Authority for a meeting with East Sussex County Council to discuss our budget proposals and medium term plan. This is a regular process to get feedback from the County and other authorities on our proposals for service delivery and the financial implications. We also consult with Brighton & Hove City Council who have provided a positive response to our initial draft proposals.
  • Met with a representative from Microsoft who wanted to discuss the systems we use and how we can make better use of our existing licensing arrangements. Also considered the opportunity of smart phones, tablets and other devices for meetings to cut down on travel and meetings and the opportunities for linking community safety and operational databases and web based bookings for Home Safety Visits.
  • Attended a meeting with Capita, who were successful in their bid to take over the Fire Service College. Discussed their initial proposals for early investment and how they could work with Fire & Rescue Services to deliver better and more effective operational training opportunities. The future for the College looks extremely promising and I have always believed the College is a fantastic asset that all Services could utilise to support operational and incident command training and that this can be expanded to include interoperability with other emergency services. The next few months are crucial to see the first phase of the implementation.
  • Had a great day at the Service Training Centre for an Officers Training Day. These are run quarterly to ensure Officers can be updated on operational developments, to practice incident command and to share experiences. These are important training opportunities and help to ensure the maintenance of professional competence.
  • Meeting of the Policy & Resources Panel at Headquarters. Members discussed the medium term plan, our current financial position, the outcome of the grant settlement and the draft budget for their consideration. Members discussed the impact of the cut to our grant and the options of taking a freeze grant from Government or raising council tax. No decisions were taken but Members will now take a recommendation which will be considered by the full Fire Authority at their meeting on 17th January.

Firefighters from Hastings were called out to a fire in a flat earlier this week where they had to force entry and rescued one female casualty. The fire was believed to have started when smoking materials were left in a bin, which caught fire and spread to a table causing extensive smoke damage. Crew Commander, Shaun Rogers, gave a warning about the dangers of carelessly discarded smoking materials and advised people to immediately contact the Fire & Rescue Service in the event of a fire. He also advised on the fitting of smoke alarms to provide an early warning to occupants.

Late on Saturday evening, crews from Uckfield were called out to a three vehicle collision at Ringles Cross where the driver of a pick-up truck was trapped in his vehicle following a collision with a van and a mini-bus. Firefighters working alongside medical teams stabilised the vehicle, then used hydraulic equipment to remove the roof of the vehicle before removing the casualty on a special 'long board,' the casualty was taken to the Royal Sussex Hospital for further treatment to his injuries.

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, crews from Roedean and Preston Circus responded to a 'persons reported' property fire in Rottingdean. Firefighters found a rapidly developing fire with Crew Commander, Tony Bush, committing one crew into the flat and another crew to check on the safety of other occupants. The female occupant of the flat was woken by a smoke alarm with Tony saying that if a working smoke alarm had not been fitted to the property, then the occupant would have been in immediate and serious danger of being overcome by the smoke and fumes.