Friday, 22 February 2013

It is interesting to see the different approaches being taken by Fire Authorities with regard to council tax. Some, like East Sussex, have taken the freeze grant, some have raised council tax by an average 1.9% and some of those, who are able to, have increased council tax by £5.00 per household.
We are now preparing for a seminar with the Fire Authority to consider options over the next four years. We know that our government grant will continue to reduce over that period, but what is not certain is whether there will be any increase in council tax.

What is certain are that we will need to plan for a significant reduction in our finances and how we balance this against our aim, which is to make our communities safer and more sustainable. Recently, the Fire Minister Brandon Lewis suggested that Fire Authorities should consider setting themselves up as mutuals and went even further by saying that Fire & Rescue Services could be privatised. My strong belief is that Fire & Rescue Services are a core part of the public sector and should remain in the public sector. Some years ago I saw a private Fire & Rescue Service in operation across much of Denmark, it was not a model I believe should be introduced into the UK.

We do need to ensure our Service is run professionally, adapts to changing circumstances and does even more to protect our communities as what might be termed a Civil Emergency and Community Safety Service. I also believe we should be doing a lot more in emergency trauma care and to support the increasing workloads in the emergency ambulance service. I look forward to Sir Ken Knight's review, which I hope looks at strategic issues and what the Fire Rescue Service (FRS) should be doing to add real value to our communities. East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service (ESFRS) will be making a response to the review, which should be published later this year.

After quite a work focused week I was looking forward to a bit of light relief watching the Brit Awards, but found it all a little dull. Mumford & Sons are unquestionably great musicians but not a patch on Coldplay or Emeli Sande’s great voice and they are not in the same league as Amy Winehouse. As for One Direction, just a later version of the Monkeys, they are never going to get anywhere near the Beatles.

The music scene is just lame today; bring back the Pistols, the Clash or Siouxsie and the Banshees, that was proper music! Now finishing off the Blog watching the super Blues, although still finding it difficult to get excited about the Channel 5 Cup, this is for underachievers like Spurs, Liverpool, Everton and Newcastle. Disappointingly, the European Champions have to compete in what, in rugby circles, is known as the Plate Competition. As I write I don't know the result so this will go to print with me expecting Chelsea to be the only English club left in the competition! Was I correct?

My week:
  • Met with colleagues in Wales and had the opportunity to look at whether there were going to be any further re-organisations. In 1996, the then eight Welsh Fire Rescue Services amalgamated to form the three Services we now see and I understand there are some views that Wales should follow Scotland and have one FRS for the whole country, whilst our Members are still looking at options for a merger. Catch up meeting with Principal Officers (POs) to discuss forthcoming Marlie Farm civil court case; a briefing has now gone out to staff to update them on this matter. Planning for the LGA Fire Conference in Brighton is going well and we will have a number of volunteers at the conference, who will showcase the work of ESFRS.
  • Telephone conference call with a number of colleagues from across the country; I try and use video and telephone conferences, where I can, as it’s a great saving on time and travel.
  • Went to a meeting of the cross-sector leadership exchange, where we had a presentation from the Design Council on how leaders should be bringing the principles of 'design' into business change initiatives; quite impressive and a useful business tool.
  • Had a meeting with Capita who are the new owners of the Fire Service College to discuss how we can support the development of courses, accreditation of the programmes they deliver and how to support them to grow the business. It is in all our interests to make this new venture a success. The Fire Service College is a unique asset with a fantastic range of operational training facilities but does need investment. Capita will bring this investment and the Service will have the knowledge and expertise to make this a real success for now and future generations of firefighters.
  • I had an evening meeting with the Chief Constable Martin Richards to talk about the role of the new Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) and how this is working. Will be meeting with the PCC Katy Bourne to discuss how ESFRS can work with the Police to support community safety. Last week, it was announced that Northants Police and FRS were sharing a headquarters and workshop, as well as looking to share the use of other buildings. The Government is keen to see how this works and for other Services to do the same.
  • Busy day at headquarters and should have met with Alex Probyn, one of our firefighters from Preston Circus, to shadow me. However, unfortunately due to crewing Alex had to remain at Stn 4. My first early meeting with the Chairman covered a lot of finance issues and his preparations for a seminar next week, then a meeting with Brighton & Hove lawyers to discuss the service we get from them, followed by a meeting with one of our officers, Pup Upton, then met with Bruce Hoad for an update on Operation Florian, then a briefing from Paul Evans, Irene Woolway and Mark O'Brien on how we can introduce 'lean' principles into our business, to save time and money and be more effective. After that, a briefing with POs and finally a meeting with Dom Hawkings, a consultancy firm working on behalf of Capita.
  • Went to National Strategic Advisory Team (NSAT) meeting at the London Fire Brigade Control Centre in Merton; this is a small team of senior officers who provide strategic advice to government in preparation for or if we have serious incidents and civil emergencies. Debriefed our role at the Olympics and lessons learned and also the co-ordination of flooding during November and December where many High Volume Pumps (HVPs) and other national resources were mobilised across the country.
Firefighters from Hailsham and Heathfield were called out to a road traffic collision (RTC) near Horam where two vehicles had collided, with one female casualty trapped. The two crews worked together to release the casualty, who was then transferred to hospital. Heathfield were out again the same day, this time with firefighters from Uckfield responding to another RTC at Cross in Hand, where two vehicles were involved with two people trapped. Again good work by the crews, they managed to free both casualties who were initially treated at the scene. It was real drama at Uckfield Picture House (such a quaking name and far removed from the modern multiplex, where the audience were evacuated following a smell of burning.

Crews from Uckfield used a thermal imaging camera to find the source of the fire which was located in stair safety lighting. Firefighters from Barcombe along with two appliances from Haywards Heath were called to a fire at the Coach House, North Chailey, where they found the roof well alight. Further appliances from Uckfield, Crowborough and Lewes responded to the incident which required the use of three main jets and eight sets of breathing apparatus to bring the fire under control. And crews from Bexhill and Bohemia Road were called to a 'persons reported' incident in Bexhill; firefighters wearing BA rescued one person from the property which was 'well alight' using three hose reel jets to extinguish the fire.

It's great to close on a good news story and to truly acknowledge the power of technology and IT and how it can really improve quality of life. I'd like to say hello to Kevin Beverley who has been paralysed and brain damaged for the past 20 years. Kevin, who has only been able to communicate through grunts, now has an iPad app called Grid Player that has let him 'speak', with his first words being "at last, someone can hear me". How fantastic, my very best wishes to Kevin; talking is good for the soul!

Friday, 15 February 2013

This is an astonishing week, with the announcement by Pope Benedict XVI that he was to step down as the head of the Catholic Church, the spiritual leader of 1.3 billion followers of the Catholic faith.

I come from a Catholic family and I know my mum, in particular, will be very sad to have heard the news. I was in Dublin when the announcement was made and you could sense the shock, particularly in such an important week in the Catholic calendar.

Also, Tuesday is always one of my favourite days as it was 'Pancake Day', the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of Lent. This is a traditional time for 40 days of fasting before Easter, so this is a good time if you want to lose a bit of weight, as you give up something you really like. That's why we celebrate 'Pancake Day' or Mardi Gras which, as you know, is 'Fat Tuesday' in French and a time when you have traditionally rich foods such as eggs, flour, milk, butter and sugar (pancakes) before your 40 days of fasting. My favourite pancakes always have coconut, raspberry jam and lemon juice as the filling, really yummy, but unfortunately I was away at the Fire Service College and they didn't seem to realise how disappointed I was not to get my pancakes!

This week marks the 68th anniversary of the bombing of Dresden, carried out by Allied Forces. Whilst the rationale for the raid is considered contentious by some, there was a graphic account on the radio this week of the bombing by Victor Gregg, a British soldier who was a prisoner of war in Dresden at the time. He managed to escape his cell but then found himself caught, as the bombs dropped and the firestorm, that was a consequence of the incendiary bombs, caused the city to be engulfed in fire.

Victor gave a personal account that can only be described as moving and horrific; for the German firefighters this was an incident on an unimaginable scale. Their bravery and determination to try and help in an Apocalyptic situation will hopefully never have to be repeated. However, it is crucial we train and prepare for wide scale civil emergencies and during the last few years, there have been events across the globe that have severely tested the response capability of emergency services.

There was an announcement this week, which may soon have an impact in the way we run our emergency services. Northamptonshire Fire Rescue Service (FRS) have announced that they will be sharing headquarters and workshops with Northants Police, who are looking to work more closely and are working towards the FRS coming under the responsibility of the Police & Crime Commissioner. Is this a model that will soon be rolled out to other Services?

My week:

  • Part of a panel to assess the syndicate presentations at the NHS leadership programme; students have been working over the last four months on a strategic NHS issue and were asked to make recommendations for implementation. This leadership programme is based upon the FRS Executive Leadership Programme and will help to develop future leaders in the public service, whilst looking at how we can collaborate to improve training and reduce costs.

  • I had a weekend away in Dublin to watch the rugby. It was a great weekend with a hard fought win over Ireland and then a good night out, meeting up with Mike Teague and Roger Uttley, two ex- British Lions. I heard some 'touring' stories over a meal with the bonus that Sean Fitzpartrick, the recently retired All Blacks captain, came over and joined us for a chat!

  • Meeting with colleagues to consider changes to conditions of service for senior managers, our draft response to the 'Efficiencies Review' being undertaken by Sir Ken Knight, what benefits there would be from sharing managers and moving the FRS from the local authority to a mutual. This seems popular with central government but amongst senior officers, we are not convinced this will deliver benefits or a better service.

  • I went to see the Executive Leadership Programme students at the Fire Service College, who are now in their second module. They were at an evening session where Pete Bungard, Chief Executive of Gloucestershire County Council, talked about financial pressures, the need for leaders to be self-aware, and the complexities of leading in austerity.

  • Spoke with the Chairman following last week’s budget setting Fire Authority meeting; we are now preparing for a Members seminar at the end of the month, where the Fire Authority will look to give direction as to how they will make savings over the next four years.

  • I have been working with our staff to prepare for the Local Government Association Conference in Brighton next month. Delegates from across the country will be at the Hilton Metropole Hotel and we will have a stand promoting our community safety initiatives, our volunteer scheme innovations and our operational training.

  • Discussed with the Deputy Chief Fire Officer (DCFO) a number of secondment opportunities for operational staff. We are currently undertaking a review of incident command and would want to, where we can, provide development opportunities for officers. Firstly, we must ensure we have the right numbers of competent staff for our own needs and to support the national resilience programme

  • Just listened to an interesting presentation from Matt Wrack, Lord Michael Bichard and Andrew Haldenby the Director of Reform. They talked about the public sector spending cuts, the impact right across the public sector and how the fire & rescue service can respond to the undoubted challenges.

  • I had the opportunity to present at the same conference (thanks to Matt for putting my presentation together, I couldn't do my job without the support from Matt and Sue). I updated the audience on pensions, the launch of the 'Firefighters Performance Framework', the work with Capita, as the new owners of the Fire Service College, and how we can develop and accredit courses and the project we are involved in with Bath University on fitness standards. 

Firefighters from Crowborough worked with the swift water rescue team from Kent Fire Rescue Service (FRS) at an animal rescue incident in Laddingford, where a horse was in a fast flowing river. Crews managed to secure a head collar around the animal, which was sedated by a vet and then using the winch, pulled the horse out of the river.

Firefighters from Lewes Community Fire Station, supported by the Aerial Ladder Platform (ALP) from Preston Circus, responded to a chimney fire in Lewes. Crews quickly extinguished the fire, although there were concerns about the stability of the chimney. Once again, householders with open fires are reminded to ensure that their chimney is swept regularly and East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service (ESFRS) has information on its website about safety with open fires.

Crews from Lewes, supported by Barcombe, were called out at breakfast time on Tuesday morning, to a fire in a bathroom at a property in the town centre. Firefighters quickly established the cause, which was due to an overheated electrical fitting and undertook an immediate home safety check. Our firefighters continue to promote home safety and we want to increase the number of home safety visits we undertake, as we are determined to reduce the number of fires in the home.  We firmly believe that prevention is absolutely vital to reduce the personal and social costs of fire to ensure our communities remain safe and sustainable.

Crews from Bohemia Road, The Ridge, Bexhill and Battle responded to an incident in Hastings where a fire was reported in a derelict building of four floors, with persons reported. Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus (BA) encountered a fire on the top floor, which they extinguished using hose reels, with no casualties as a result of the fire.

 Well done to Eastbourne firefighters and Argos who have joined in an initiative to provide kitchen timers to local vulnerable people. There have been a number of incidents where cooking has been left unattended and has caused a fire, sometimes with serious consequences. Borough Commander Dave Shepherd, who launched the initiative with Sarah Hayler from Argos, said: "We are delighted to have the support of Argos in helping to prevent fires in the home”.  Sarah added: "Argos take their responsibilities for community and social responsibility very seriously and are delighted to be involved in this project with Eastbourne firefighters".

As I mentioned earlier, this was a big week to remember, Pancake Day, Ash Wednesday and then 14th February. I hope you didn't forget Valentine's Day! I understand this can be a big mistake; otherwise you spend the next few days regretting you didn't use Moonpig!

Friday, 8 February 2013

Over the last few days there has been a considerable amount of correspondence and comment from our Government Department regarding council tax, with the Minister advising local authority politicians on Government expectations for the coming year.

There is no doubt that the coalition Government's continuing drive to reduce the fiscal deficit, as well as the reductions to Government grant and the desire to freeze council tax, will have an impact on all public services.

Here in East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service we have delivered significant savings over the past three years whilst continuing to maintain a high quality service, but from April we will have lost a number of jobs and a number of staff. Unfortunately, as the budget pressures increase, then we will have no option other than to reduce our costs.

By the time you read this the Fire Authority will have agreed the budget for next year and I will know what financial envelope I will have to work within. I absolutely believe that we deliver a crucial and effective public service and that we add real value to society.

I am also a great supporter of the NHS, it is a wonderful public service with many dedicated staff, but I am very disturbed by recent reports about appalling care in some hospitals and am astonished that there are instances where patients have been denied basic care.

Everyone who is involved in the public sector has an absolute responsibility to put their public duty first. At the Fire Authority meeting on Thursday we recognised one of the most public spirited public servants it has been my privilege to work with. Diana Williams will be retiring at the end of March after 39 years in the public sector, the past 19 with ESFRS and the Chairman made a well-deserved presentation to Di at her last Fire Authority meeting.

I have spent a lot of time in recent weeks working on the budget report but sometimes I think we have lost sight of what we should be spending money on. Many of you who read this Blog will know I am a keen Chelsea supporter and I still find it difficult to understand how we paid £50million for Fernando Torres, which is more than the annual budget of ESFRS, with more than 900 staff.

I know that in a capitalist society the market forces will prevail, but he's absolutely rubbish and I expect the depreciation factor means his value is now rock bottom and probably ranks alongside an Arsenal or Liverpool season ticket. Although to be fair to Torres, he has only failed to deliver for two seasons where for Arsenal and Liverpool, you need very long memories to remember when they last needed the silver polish!

And whilst Torres has failed to reach his undoubted potential, I finally reached the pinnacle of my career on Thursday; after 37 years in the Service and 12 years as Chief Fire Officer, I finally managed to get the key to the coffee machine. Only a very few people in ESFRS have ever seen the key and I am sure there is a secret society who have been through some sort of secret initiation ceremony that allows them to hold the key to the coffee machine; but someone in the society left the key unattended and it slipped into my pocket. I had the key in my possession and it felt great. Sadly, the feeling did not last too long, as I was required to return the key. I held the power for only a few minutes and I will never forget the sensation of achieving self –actualisation. I have climbed Maslow’s 'hierarchy of needs' and am fulfilled!

My Week

  • Meeting in the stunning venue of Windsor Castle where we discussed, with representatives of the Windsor Leadership Trust (WLT), how we could work together to support our training programmes. A number of Service personnel have been on WLT programmes and they are now keen to learn about the cross-sector developments that are taking place in the Fire Rescue Service; late night though as the M25 was a car park!

  • Met with Penny Thompson, the new Chief Executive Officer for the City Council to see how we can work together on community safety and emergency response. Penny brings a wealth of experience to the role and was involved in Haringey just after the 'Baby Peter' tragedy and is very keen to share data across authorities as well as wanting to ensure we deliver on the 'every visit counts' principle.

  • Went to see Caroline Lucas, one of the City MPs to discuss the Fire Authority budget proposals including council tax, how we continue to deliver community services when our budget is being reduced and also to talk about any future proposals for a merger with another Fire Rescue Service.

  • A very long but enjoyable day was spent assessing and interviewing for the Executive Support Officer’s role. This is the role that supports the Chief Fire Officer and was vacant, following Mani's move to Wealden Borough Commander. I was delighted to have interviewed a group of very able candidates, all who did themselves much credit but, in this case, we only have one job and I am delighted to say that Matt Lloyd was the successful candidate. Matt will now be leaving a great team at Service Training Centre and will start working with me next week.

  • I had to Chair a meeting of the Fire Service College 'Stakeholder Board'. This will be the last meeting of that Board, before the sale to capita is completed at the end of the month. We will then look to establish a relationship with Capita to ensure the College delivers the training and incident command courses that the Service needs.

  • Discussed with Deputy Chief Fire Officer, Gary Walsh, early proposals for incident command in ESFRS and Officer rotas and also how we would wish to take forward our Maritime response arrangements, now that central Government have stopped central funding. We will be meeting representatives from Kent and Hampshire later this month, as we look to maintain a Maritime response for one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

  • I met with a group of senior leaders from the NHS, as I am acting as their syndicate director on their leadership programme. There has been a lot of 'benefit in kind' for me undertaking this role, as some of our staff have been able to access NHS leadership training and 'Masterclasses' free of charge.

Fire Authority Members agreed to accept the council tax freeze grant and not to raise council tax, at a budget setting meeting. There was a lot of debate as members considered a number of options before coming to their decision. Whilst we have a sound budget for the coming year, the Corporate Management Team will now consider the implications for next year and up to 2018. They will be discussing with the Fire Authority the measures they would want to take in the next four years to deliver a balanced budget. Met with staff in the afternoon to discuss the earlier meeting and we will continue to keep staff updated on any future proposals regarding the medium term plan.

A busy weekend for crews with firefighters responding to chimney fires in Seaford, Crowborough, Willingdon Trees and in Lewes, where the Aerial Ladder Platform from Preston Circus was required to assist. Steve Wright has again reminded home owners who like the warmth and glow of an open fire and the smell of toasted crumpets, to ensure that they get their chimneys swept regularly. Lewes firefighters were also called out to a severe fire in a bungalow where the householder had been woken by his dog in the early hours.

Both managed to escape the property through a window and crews wearing breathing apparatus entered the building using compressed air foam system (CAFS) and a hose reel to extinguish the fire. The property was not fitted with smoke detectors and you cannot rely on your dog to wake you if a fire breaks out. ESFRS continue to remind local residents to fit smoke detectors, which will provide an early warning. Also, make sure they are regularly tested, have an escape plan in case a fire does break out and always call the Fire & Rescue Service immediately in the event of a fire.

Three pumps and the Aerial Ladder Platform were sent to a fire at the Brighton & Hove High School where crews found the building heavily smoke logged. The fire appeared to have been caused through an electrical fault, although investigations are continuing. Crews from Preston Circus and Roedean responded to a fire in the Queen Vic (not the Albert Square in Eastenders, so don't worry, Alfie's OK), in Rottingdean. Firefighters entered the property in BA, using hose reels to extinguish the fire and then using a positive pressure ventilation fan (PPV) to remove the smoke.

Firefighters from Eastbourne, alongside staff from headquarters and other stations, as well as a number of our 'Old Friends' attended a ceremony on 7th February. They gathered to remember those who lost their lives 70 years ago during the Second World War, when a bomb was dropped on the old fire station which stood on the site of the current Council Offices in Grove Road.

Keep your eyes open next week for asteroid 2012 DA14; it is hurtling towards Earth at five miles a second, nearly as fast as my touch typing, but will miss our planet by 20,000 miles. In astronomical terms this is a mere Gnat’s whisker, and has a better chance of hitting Earth than Fernando Torres has of hitting the back of the net.

Deep depression hangs over the Super Blues although just about hanging on to a Champions League spot which I'll put a bet on will go to the two Manchester sides, Chelsea and the late surging Gooners. You can get 25:1 for that, so I'm a bit tempted to put some of our reserves on this, as part of my income generation proposals but the rest of Corporate Management Team are not with me on this one; apparently something to do with corporate governance although I still think its within my delegated powers!

Friday, 1 February 2013

The appalling fire in Santa Maria in Brazil illustrates the very real dangers of fire that can strike anywhere and at any time. As I listened to the terrible news, it reminded me immediately of the Stardust Disco fire in Dublin in 1981 where 48 people lost their lives.  I was a young Sub Officer back then and the events in Dublin were much talked about on station. The speed with which the fire spread in Dublin was a great shock and the panic that ensued when people tried to get out simply contributed to the horror.

The Brazil incident will no doubt have some similarities and I cannot imagine what it must have been like, the sheer terror that those young students felt, with early reports saying there was only one fire exit; and the graphic scenes with Brazilian firefighters breaking through the wall of the building only served to illustrate the horror.

It should also focus our minds on the need for fire safety, for DP inspections (During Performance) and that prevention and protection is not an optional extra, it is not a desirable part of the role of the Fire & Rescue Service, it is absolutely essential.

We are fortunate to have high standards of fire protection in the UK, highly qualified and experienced fire safety officers and firefighters who know about means of escape, fire alarms, exit signs, emergency lighting etc. We must continue to reinforce these skills and ensure the UK Fire & Rescue Service not only remains excellent in operational firefighting, but remains at the forefront of fire prevention and fire protection.

I'm looking forward to the start of the six nations rugby this weekend and have managed to wangle a ticket - pretty confident that we'll beat the Scots who look like they will do well to avoid the wooden spoon, although they should be good enough for Italy. However, I wouldn't take a lot of notice of my sporting tips as I got it completely wrong last Sunday when I thought Andy Murray would win his second Grand Slam, then Chelsea would absolutely muller Brentford! I got both of them wrong and it was looking like a miserable weekend when along come Spurs and Liverpool to give us all a good laugh - and good old Brighton nearly beat the Gooners but another Walcott miss hit managed to spare Arsene's blushes with the Albion well worth a replay.

But if you want some sporting fun, check out the surfing on the Atlantic coast off Portugal. Earlier this week Garrett McNamara surfed a wave estimated to be 100ft high, looks incredible and must have been a great adrenaline rush. It makes the three footers I ride in my kayak off Seaford seem just a little pink and fluffy!

So shall we follow the Police and look to see the next Chief Fire Officer as a 28 year old direct entrant? The Police Service  are considering proposals to open up their middle and senior positions to direct entrants and to people from outside the Police Service who have not been constables. Is it necessary for senior Police Commanders to have served as constables and moved through each rank and does this traditional route prevent talent from outside joining the Police?

What about the Fire & Rescue Service? Is it necessary for senior operational commanders to have been firefighters and operational junior officers? There are currently two Chief Executive Officer’s leading Fire & Rescue Services in England and they are both highly regarded. We have exceptionally talented staff in senior leadership positions in East Sussex who have not been operational firefighters, but they bring different and complementary skills that benefit our organisation.

I believe we are ahead of the Police in this debate but am keen to understand more about the Police proposals and how we may continue to provide opportunities in the Fire & Rescue Service to ensure we recruit and retain exceptional people who are outstanding leaders.  What about a Fire Commissioner along the lines of the Police and Crime Commissioner? This is more of a political debate and it will be interesting to see how this new model works in the Police before considering any changes in Fire & Rescue Services. And if you are planning a holiday and looking for cheap flights, just check before you book with Transavia a cut price Dutch airline who have just reported that one of their pilots fell asleep at the controls of the plane with the Captain locked out after he went to the toilet. Apparently it took some time for the Captain to gain access to the controls where he found the co-pilot sound asleep. Thankfully in a scene reminiscent of Airplane, the emergency blow-up pilot had activated and was in control although I'm not sure that having Mr. Blobby's cousin in charge at 30,000 fills me with confidence!

My week
  • Joint project board meeting with WSFRS; the section 16 agreement is now in place and WSFRS transfer their call handling & mobilisation over to us and we are now discussing the arrangements with staff for the WSFRS control staff to transfer across to ESFRS although they will still work from their Chichester base until the new Sussex Control Centre opens.
  • Met with Principal Officer team in preparation for the Corporate Management Team meeting on Wednesday and also to review our meeting with West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service and the opportunity to create a shared training and Learning & Development function. Also discussed the comments by Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, regarding council tax and our preparations for next week’s crucial Fire Authority meeting.
  • A busy day at HQ meeting with the Fire Brigade Union to discuss our draft medium term planning and the options we are considering to find savings over the next four years. These discussions are at a very early stage; then met the Treasurer to discuss the detail of our budget proposals, council tax collection rates and grant settlements for this year and next.
  • Had the pleasure of meeting two of our longer serving firefighters who will be retiring in the next few weeks. Firstly Mark Hodiak from Hove has completed nearly 32 years with East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service, Mark is a vastly experienced and highly respected firefighter who embodies all you would want in a firefighter and there is no doubt he will be a loss to our Service but he has passed on much of his knowledge to younger firefighters.
  • I also saw John Message from Herstmonceux who will be retiring at the end of February after completing a quite staggering 46 years with East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service having joined in 1967! John's service to his local communities as a Retained Duty System firefighter is simply magnificent and he spoke to me about going on standby to Burgess Hill and Keymer when East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service didn't include the City area but included the Mid-Sussex district. We wish both Mark and John a long, happy and healthy retirement.
  • Short listing for my support officer role now that Mani has moved to the Borough Commander role in Wealden. Very good applications and I'm looking forward to the assessments and interviews later this week where I know we have a good group of very able applicants for the role, which will work very closely with me and be involved in local and national work.
  • Met the new Police Commander for East Sussex, Neil Honnor, to talk about his plans over the next few months, how the relationship with the new Police & Crime Commissioner is developing and the opportunities for East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service and Sussex Police to work together to make our communities safer.
  • Had discussions with the Employers secretariat of the National Joint Committee to look at potential changes we may want to consider for negotiating with the representative bodies, the challenges facing Chief Fire Officers as they seek to review how their service is delivered and possible changes to the national occupational standards.
  • Corporate Management Team  meeting where we considered new  hydraulic rescue equipment, the future of community safety initiatives including LIFE and Coaching for a Safer Community, our very successful volunteer scheme and options for the future. The Fire Authority meeting next week  and very early but important discussions on future savings options.

  • Met up with the Chairman of the Fire Authority, Cllr. Livings, at HQ to discuss his recent meeting with the Fire Minister and discussions on the future for our Maritime firefighting team. Also looked at the review Sir Ken Knight is undertaking into efficiencies in the Service and any response East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service would want to make.
Crews from Rye and Broad Oak responded to a house fire in Military Rd, Rye where on arrival they found smoke issuing from the hallway. Breathing Apparatus crews entered the building to fight the fire where sadly one male casualty was found to have been overcome by the effects of the fire and died at the scene.  

Firefighters were out over the weekend making visits to local homes, fitting smoke detectors and providing safety advice to local residents. Hove firefighters were kept busy on the night of 25th January responding to a number of deliberately started fires involving vehicles, rubbish and garden sheds. We are working with Sussex Police in the investigation of the incidents which are being treated as related and the work of the same person or persons.

Crews from Lewes responded to an incident on the A27 involving two cars, a van and a coach. Whilst it was fortunate there were no serious injuries, a large quantity of fuel had leaked onto the road surface with firefighters using environment protection packs to remove the fuel and to ensure the scene was made safe.  

Six pumps and an Aerial Ladder Platform responded to a high rise incident in White Rock Road, Hastings, where a fire had broken out on the 6th floor of a building. Incident Command established high rise procedures with firefighters in Breathing Apparatus and a thermal imaging camera using hose reels to extinguish the fire.  

On Sunday morning a property fire in Barcombe saw firefighters from Barcombe supported by crews from Lewes and Uckfield respond to a 'persons reported' call. The first crews quickly established that everyone was out of the property but they were confronted with a fire in the roof which they swiftly brought under control.  The initial investigation concluded that the part of the building where the fire had started was not fitted with smoke detectors and Crew Commander, Peter Lilley, advised local residents that working smoke detectors would provide an early warning of fire and advised local residents to fit smoke detectors or to contact East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service for advice on home safety.

Eastbourne firefighters have once again come up with a novel idea to promote community safety. Working with the town's supermarkets and the local newspaper, Eastbourne firefighters have launched a competition in Eastbourne, Seaford, Polegate, Hailsham, Westham and Pevensey called 'Operation Lifesavers' where they encourage local residents to fit smoke detectors by promoting all the benefits of safety in  home and with a host of prizes including groceries and goods from local stores.  

The competition winners will be invited for a fun day at the station where they will be treated as VIP guests - second prize is two fun days at the station! (only kidding!)