Friday, 25 January 2013

So what was the big news of the week? Was it the Prime Minister's speech on the European Union, Prince Harry's interview about his service in Afghanistan or continuing unrest in Mali?

These are all very important stories and very worthy of comment but unfortunately the media had something much more important to devote their newsprint or airtime to - the 'ball-boy kicking incident’. Young Charlie Morgan was just a local Swansea ball-boy at 9.15pm on Wednesday evening but by 9.30pm he was a social media sensation. 

As for the match, well I'd rather spend my time cleaning the doorstep with a toothbrush then watch that rubbish. As for the reporting, this is sadly a reflection in the general decline in what was once the proud and respected profession of journalism.

I can understand the comments made by Prince Harry regarding the media, which are shaped by his personal experiences. Those of you who have experiences of the media will have your own views, but a recent poll indicates that only 17% of us trust journalists to tell the truth. 

The other story this week is the way in which much of the country comes to a halt with a dusting of snow, and firstly well done to all of our staff who didn't use the snow as an excuse not to come to work.  But why do so many schools close and why do schools fall behind that old lame excuse of 'health and safety'.  In my view, too many schools took the easy way out and closed with no thought for their pupils and parents.  

They will claim teachers couldn't get in; it was dangerous for their pupils who could have slipped on their way to school or some other equally lame reason. This is the time of the year when many pupils should have been taking their exams and it is not just the schools. Some universities have postponed exams due to what they claim is 'bad weather'; all schools and universities should have a business continuity plan and this should be about keeping schools open.

I am extremely proud to work for the Fire & Rescue Service, as the attitude of staff right across the country is to get on and do their job whatever the weather. 

Some mixed news across the county with GCSE results but pleasing to see the increase in those young people who have achieved 5 A-C grades. What we now need to do is ensure that employers provide job opportunities for young people to give them hope for their futures.  This is a real challenge as the public sector including the Fire & Rescue Service is reducing the number of jobs.

I would hope that we can look at introducing apprenticeships in some areas as young people are our future, although we have to balance this against our responsibilities to try and provide security and stability for our existing staff, a delicate balance.

My Week

  • Attended the National Health Service senior leadership assessment centre as an assessor; really interesting to work with another public service to see how they select their senior leaders and also to have the opportunity to interview senior NHS leaders. We will also benefit, as the NHS will provide assessors to support Fire Rescue Service assessment centres.
  • Met with a colleague from the British Red Cross who is assisting the support we are providing to Uganda, to help improve their community safety work and in particular their response to Road Traffic Collisions. Training centre staff have put together a package of the Road Traffic Collision training we provide in the UK and our Community Fire Safety staff have included information on our community engagement programmes. Our colleagues in Uganda hope to be able to tailor these programmes for their local needs.
  • Invited to meet with the Chairman of East Sussex County Council Councillor Chris Dowling to discuss our medium term proposals for response, prevention and protection; as well as opportunities to work with the County Council to continue our community engagement programmes. The County Council is very keen to continue working with East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service and are also interested in our proposals for the new fire station in Newhaven and the use of shared sites and shared services.
  • Continuing discussions with West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service on the Sussex Control Project, with teams from both Services working closely together on ensuring the project meets our needs and expectations. Also, moving forward work on leading and development and the opportunities we may have to share more training between the two Services.
  • Held a meeting of the national Chief Fire Officers Association People and Organisational Development Committee, with representatives across the country discussing different duty systems, improving literacy and numeracy, supporting the FireFit project to develop new fitness standards and amendments to national occupational standards.
  • Preparations for the Fire Authority's budget setting meeting next month, with continuing discussions with trade unions in ESFRS. I have received some formal representations which set out our individual trade union concerns and these will be considered by the Fire Authority.
  • Pensions meeting last week discussed the new pension schemes which are due for implementation for all our staff. Government will consult over the next few months with an intention to have legislation before Parliament in 2014 and new schemes in place by 2015. Also discussed the proposed changes to the 'old age pension' which will affect all of us to varying degrees and which may include some changes to national insurance contributions. We will advise staff further if we are able to, if we get further information on the proposals from Government.
  • Went to the national HR Conference which was attended by over 90 delegates from across the country including some of our staff; I was invited to make a presentation on the major HR issues facing Services and other presentations focused on excellent leadership, employment law and the Retained Duty System.  Andy Dark, from the Fire Brigades Union, gave a presentation outlining their views on the savings Services are proposing, and different duty systems being introduced around the country.
  • A meeting was held with the Chairman at headquarters, as he will be writing to the Fire Minister about funding for our Maritime team. We are also looking at how we would support the Fire Service College after its sale to Capita and to prepare for the next Members’ seminar. We will have to consider future savings and what areas of work currently delivered by ESFRS that we may no longer be able to continue to deliver.
Crews from the City and surrounding areas stations responded to a serious fire at the popular Pinocchio's restaurant in the theatre district of Brighton.  This was a potentially very difficult fire but great action by firefighters, supported by good incident command, and enabled crews to prevent the fire spreading to adjoining properties.

Firefighting operations were made more difficult due to the numerous cavities and voids in the building, but with the effective use of numerous BA wearers, and the good application of water jets and Compressed Air Foam System (CAFS). Fire damage, whilst severe, was contained and the restaurant is likely to be closed for some time.  

Whilst the recent cold weather has been fun for many people who have enjoyed the snow, ESFRS have warned drivers to be aware of the need to be mindful of ice on the roads, the danger of skidding, to be aware of black ice and to leave more room to the vehicle in front.

The snow has seen people on their sledges, but an accident over in St Leonards saw a teenager crash under a fence on her sledge and plunge into a drainage ditch. Firefighters responded and using short extension ladders rescued the young lady who was badly shaken and very cold but thankfully with only minor injuries.  

Firefighters from Hailsham, Herstmonceux, Battle and Lewes responded to an incident where three people had fallen through the roof of a car spray booth in Hellingly. Crews worked to free the casualties who were transferred to the care of SECAmb and taken to hospital for treatment.  

Once again, animals were in the news when ESFRS crews responded to a call to rescue a cat that was stuck on a chimney stack. Whilst we frequently pass such calls to the RSPCA, they often are unable to rescue trapped animals and therefore it falls to the Fire Rescue Service to carry out this humanitarian service. On this occasion, crews from Bexhill, Battle and Hastings were initially mobilised to assist.  

We received a number of calls this week reporting a strong smell of gas - as we now know this was as a consequence of a chemical leak from a factory in Rouen, Northern France. The odour was not at all pleasant, but was deemed to be no risk to public health.

However, the incident illustrates that chemical leaks and similar industrial accidents can spread far and wide and those of you who can remember the nuclear incident in Chernobyl in 1986 will know that nearly 27 years later over 300 farms in the UK are still restricted in the way they use land because of the radioactive fall-out.

Finally, many congratulations to Dave Amiet who has been awarded the Barclays Community Sports Award for 2012.  This prestigious award has been made to Dave for his contribution to football over three decades and his dedication in educating young people through football.  Dave developed the very successful Coaching for a Safer Community Project that has worked with over 80,000 young people, including disability groups and also helped 63 coaches achieve FA Coaching Badges.