Thursday, 28 March 2013

No more Toblerone and the end of Dairylea cheese as all triangular food is banned. Major manufacturers are following the lead of Castle View School in Essex who have issued an instruction to school cooks to ensure that they only bake flapjacks with at least four corners. 

In an effort to quell unrest amongst those currently auditioning for MasterChef, a Government spokesperson has said any such ban would only apply to food being sold for public consumption and that they would not be extending the ban to foods baked on private, domestic premises. An expert in Health & Safety has said that it would still be permitted to make triangular foodstuffs provided a rubber bung was securely fitted to each corner before sale. 

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the now infamous report by a local Sussex born lad, Dr, Richard Beeching, which saw the most radical shake up of the railway system ever seen.

Although brought up in Maidstone, Dr. Beeching was born in the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead and in the 1960s delivered his recommendations to Parliament that saw almost 2000 miles of railway closed down, including the Lewes to Uckfield line.

He reportedly travelled across the country to research his report, sustaining himself with mugs of British Rail team and heaps of sandwiches. Would he have been so vigorous in his report if the 'ban the triangle' movement had been about then?

British Rail sandwiches were well known for their white bread, cheddar cheese or corned beef and pickle, and most importantly, their triangular shape.

Dr. Beeching was clearly oblivious of the lethal object he was holding when he sat down to write his report and we can only be thankful he was never arrested and charged with being in possession of a dangerous weapon!

And our politicians continue to look at transport with this week's announcement that after more than 70 years of providing search and rescue, the RAF and Royal Navy will be stood down and the role handed over to the private sector. 

Bristow's will now provide search and rescue with a fleet of Sikorsky and AugustaWestland helicopters replacing the existing ageing Sea Kings. The new helicopters are faster but have a smaller carrying capacity and will be based at 10 sites around the UK including Lee on Solent and Manston. This is of keen interest to East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service as we continue to look at our Maritime response capability and the arrangements for transporting firefighters to incidents at sea.

My Week

  • Meeting with West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service to talk about the progress of the Sussex Control Centre. Due to open in March 2014 the project is on target. Also we are continuing to work on joint training initiatives and we would hope to be doing more joint training with West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service.
  • Called in at Preston Circus and Lewes to have a chat with staff. Good opportunity to listen to the views of Junior Officers although noticed that when offered a cup of tea, both stations went out of their way to find a Spurs and Arsenal mug, but just like trophies at White Hart Lane and the Emirates, they couldn't find any! 
  • Team meeting with Principal Officers to consider the Audit Plan prepared by Ernst & Young, proposals for the new Newhaven Community Fire Station and the opportunity for premises sharing with Lewes District Council and an internal auditors report which will be considered by the Fire Authority.
  • Met with a recruitment agency, who are working with the public sector to provide interim managers - useful discussion on one level although I sometimes feel that these organisations get more out of my time than I get from them.
  • Had a discussion with our occupational health service provider to find out how they think the service is working and what other services we could contract in. Discussed how we could improve health monitoring to improve long term well-being.
  • Met with colleagues to look at the proposals for what type of Fire & Rescue Service we may have in the future moving away from local authorities and creating a mutual. Some concerns have been expressed as this could lead to privatisation of the Service although the Fire Minister has said it was not his intention to privatise the Service. Also looked at a new pilot scheme for fire safety where one Fire Authority becomes the 'primary authority' for national companies.
  • Attended a meeting to look at how we can work with the Fire Service College, which will have to be re-branded as the new private sector owners can't use the existing Crown insignia. Also discussed implications of employee pension increases, peer review of Fire & Rescue Services and the new fire professional framework that will support operational competence for firefighters.
  • Discussed our proposals for Newhaven with the Chairman and whether we could build a facility to meet our needs and those of Lewes District Council. Said goodbye to a number of our staff who are leaving this month offering our very best wishes for their future and thanking them for the great service they have given to East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service.
  • Spent some time looking at the draft report from our new auditors. I can see the different approach Ernst & Young are taking from the Audit Commission, it's an interesting time now working with private sector auditors and their approach to scrutiny.
  • Working with Matt on a presentation I am making at a national Health & Safety conference. This is about my personal experiences at Marlie Farm during and post the incident.
  •  Discussed the outcome of the European Commission's recent publication on the outcome of consultation on the Working Time Directive. There has been no agreement between social partners and therefore the Commission will need to bring forward new proposals on working time including whether to continue with an individual member state opt-out.

This week firefighters from Lewes were called out to an incident in Ringmer where a car had collided with a parked vehicle. Crews released one female casualty and made the scene safe as there had been damage caused to mains electricity and domestic gas supplies. 

Firefighters from Crowborough and Heathfield were called out to an animal rescue in Burnt Oak where a horse had fallen and become trapped in mud. Crews working with a local vet used the Unimog to lift the horse which was then assisted to a safe area.

Seaford crews attended a house fire in Jevington Drive, having to commit four firefighters in breathing apparatus to fight the fire which was contained to the first floor.

And on Tuesday afternoon, Hastings firefighters responded to a fire at the Victoria Tyre Centre, where they committed breathing apparatus wearers with hose reel jets to fight the fire. One male casualty was injured in the fire and was transferred to hospital by Ambulance. A further casualty was then later transferred to hospital. Crews used a Positive Pressure Ventilation fan to clear smoke from the premises. 

Uckfield firefighters are organising a ‘fun and safety day’ next week and are working with Wealden District Council to put on a great event for their local community at the fire station. Any of our staff are welcome to volunteer to help at what should be a fantastic day out. The crews are hoping to see a similar turnout to last year when over 700 people visited the fire station.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Earlier this week, it was announced that Lance Corporal James Ashworth 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards had posthumously been awarded the Victoria Cross for making the ultimate sacrifice as part of the Armed Forces deployment in Afghanistan.  Testimonies by his Commanding Officer and his fellow soldiers spoke about the bravery and selflessness of Lance Corporal Ashworth, a soldier held in the highest regard by his colleagues.  The Victoria Cross is only awarded to those who show the highest courage. Lance Corporal Ashworth's sacrifice will not be forgotten as his name is added to the long line of those who have given their lives to save others.

I have mentioned before the Firefighters Memorial at St Paul's and in the week after the recent Marlie Farm court proceedings, can I suggest it is certainly worth a visit. You can pay your own tribute to colleagues who have given their lives and also at the National Arboretum in Arlesford; this is a wonderful place, very peaceful and tranquil and is a very good day out.

It was a sporting weekend where dreams were either made or shattered and the biggest disappointment was the England Rugby team, on the verge of their first 'grand slam' in ten years and absolutely blasted off the park by a really fired-up Welsh team. They'll be singing in the valleys for weeks and I had to turn my phone off, as just about every Welsh citizen I know wanted to speak or text to ask if I had seen the match!

I am sure many people will have listened carefully this Wednesday to see what George Osbourne had to say in his budget speech. It looks like more of the same, although there is some help for people wanting to buy their own home, removal of planned fuel duty increases and an increase in the threshold for income tax from April 2014.  As ever the 'devil is in the detail' and the analysis indicates that some think it is about as far as the Chancellor could have gone, whilst others wanted to see more money put into stimulating growth.  As for the public sector, whilst some departments have been protected, overall the message is that we still need to make more savings.

For the wider picture, I am sure the news from Cyprus was unexpected, but for the Cypriot people, the proposal to put a levy on their savings caused uproar, and is anyone surprised by the reaction?  We have had to check to see whether we have any retired staff now in Cyprus and receiving pensions, as wanted to make sure that if we were making any payments into Cypriot banks, that their money would be secure.  It is often the dream to retire to one of the Mediterranean countries, but in recent years, the reality is unfortunately not quite as rosy as the dream once seemed.

Out of any adversity, there is always the story of triumph and I was delighted to see Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl who was shot for simply arguing for the right of all young girls in Pakistan to go to school. A very courageous young lady who thankfully has made a very good recovery and is now going to school in Birmingham; I expect this is not the last we have heard of Malala and I would be surprised if at some time in the future we hear of Malala in the same way we have heard of Benazir Bhutto, Indira Gandhi or Aung San Suu Kyi.

My week:

  • Went to a meeting of local authority chief executives where we discussed the opportunities to share premises, future infrastructure projects across the county and city and the programme for every elector to have to register to vote in any future election.
  • Had a number of meetings at headquarters to discuss health and safety issues, the internal process we have for short listing, leadership and management training for supervisory and middle managers and future training at the Fire Service College.
  • Meeting with Corporate Management Team (CMT) to look at Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP) proposals, to develop plans to meet our savings targets for the next three years and to prepare for the new Fire Authority which will be in place after the local elections in May, where we will have at least six new members on the Fire Authority at their next meeting in June.
  • A busy Monday with three exit interviews, Liz Bryant who works in the HR team looking after our payroll - is any job more important! Liz will be leaving after ten years with ESFRS and we send her our very best wishes. I also saw Ian Smith a stalwart of M&CC with 26 years in ESFRS and he has been the reassuring voice on the end of the phone to many people. Now off to play more golf and spend more time at the Amex Stadium (odd for a West Ham supporter). We wish Ian well and hope his team don't have to play Chelsea every week! Then I met with Diana Williams who has worked for 39 years in Brighton & Hove Council, East Sussex County Council and the last 19 years with ESFRS. Diana is a true star and has been an absolute pillar of ESFRS. I shall miss Di and there is no doubt there will be a huge organisation void when Di retires; good luck and best wishes to a dear friend.
  • Quite a bit of business was discussed when I met with the FBU for our regular quarterly meeting. Next up was a meeting with our new auditors, Ernst & Young, and after many years working with the Audit Commission it is interesting to work with a private sector business that will bring a different approach to auditing our Service.
  • Further meeting with Karen who was back in on a 'keeping in touch day' as Karen is still on maternity leave and finally a meeting with staff to discuss how we can approach income generation and what commercial opportunities there may be for ESFRS.
  • Went to see the Chief Fire Officer (CFO) of West Sussex, Sean Ruth, to discuss how the two Services can continue working together. The Sussex Control Centre project is progressing well but there is now much less likelihood of a merger so we discussed how we can share functions and will be discussing this with our individual Corporate Management Teams to see what is realistically achievable.
  • Meeting of the South East CFOs where we discussed joint procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), workwear, appliances and equipment and also the work that we have been involved in on standard operating procedures, and national operational guidance.
  • Monthly CMT where we looked carefully at the financial outcome for the current year as we finalise out accounts. ESFRS has managed to deliver a small underspend in a number of areas, including fleet and engineering where we have reduced our fuel costs, on insurance and made savings in procurement. We have also delivered an underspend in the employees budget due, partly to staff turnover and also savings on the capital programme where some projects have slipped. The Authority have agreed that underspends can be carried forward and put into reserves for earmarked projects and to keep the capital programme on track.
  • I attended the funeral service of Merle Carden, the much loved wife of Cllr Bob Carden who is one of the longer service Members of our Fire Authority. Merle sadly passed away recently and many friends, colleagues and local Councillors attended the service to pay their respects to Merle and to offer Bob our support.
This week firefighters from Crowborough and Uckfield responded to a road traffic collision near Five Ashes involving two cars with one person trapped. The police and SECAmb were in attendance and crews freed the casualty who was then looked after by paramedics.   

Earlier in the week, crews from Battle and Bohemia Rd responded to a road traffic collision in Battle with three vehicles involved and two people trapped and two others quickly released and taken to hospital. Firefighters worked to free the trapped casualties who were then taken to hospital.  The Mobilising & Communications Centre (M&CC) received eight separate calls to a van fire in Patcham, which was causing damage to a neighbouring property. Firefighters from Preston Circus responded using a hose reel and Compressed Air Foam System (CAFS) to extinguish the fire.

Firefighters from Eastbourne responded to a serious road traffic collision near Beachy Head, involving one car and a Large Goods Vehicle (LGV) with one person trapped. Crews worked to free the casualty with the air ambulance crew in attendance at the scene. 

And congratulations to 12 pupils from Manor Primary School and St Phillip's School in Uckfield who designed the winning posters as part of the national "Fire Kills" campaign. They were invited to Uckfield fire station where they helped local crews at a charity car wash - what a fantastic prize. 

As I write this Blog, I have heard the news that Gus Poyet may be leaving the Amex for pastures new in Reading. Gus has done a fantastic job with the Seagulls and I hope he stays to get them into the Premiership but if he does leave, then good luck and who knows, in three years it could be The Bridge!

Friday, 15 March 2013

Having just returned from a week in the wonderfully picturesque and snow covered Portes de Soleil ski area on the French and Swiss border, imagine my surprise to arrive at Gatwick Airport on Monday evening and to be met by Matt, who said it had taken him two hours to drive to Gatwick from Brighton.  I must say that my previous Support Officers have been known to take the odd wrong turning now and again, particularly on the M42 toll road interchange, but I always thought the Brighton to Gatwick run was relatively straightforward, so unless Matt had borrowed one of the cars from the road traffic collision compound at Service Training Centre (STC), there must be some other reason.

As many people found out, it was the snow, brilliant stuff in the Alps but less fun on the tarmac.  We were heading for Brighton to meet up with the staff who would be working at the Local Government Association (LGA) Fire Conference at the Metropole Hotel and were due to have a meal together at 7.30pm. However, we became stuck along with hundreds of others in the massive queues on the M23 and A23 and eventually got home at around 2.30am after 7 hours, with Matt having been in the car for nearly 11 hours!

When we eventually got to the Conference the next morning, there were stories from people who had travelled from across the country with our old friend Jon Hall, also being stuck in the queues, and taking nearly ten hours to get from Gloucester to Brighton.  At one point I got out of the car and walked about a mile along the hard shoulder to Pease Pottage Services at around 11pm to get Matt and myself some food and drink. I got back to the car about an hour later with a couple of chocolate brownies and some foul tasting fruit drink (not much stock left) with Matt having only driven about 20 yards in that time. Now, I know he's a steady driver, but that's taking the message to reduce your speed just a little too seriously!

You could probably choose a Pope quicker than you can drive from Gatwick to Seaford and the College of Cardinals did just that with the "white smoke" rising from the chimney on the Sistine Chapel just after 7.00pm on Wednesday, where we saw Cardinal Bergoglio of Buenos Aires elected to head the Catholic Church, taking the name Pope Francis.

I can recall visiting the Sistine Chapel a couple of years ago and being stunned by the sheer magnificence of the Renaissance art. I have always thought that I have a wonderful view from my office at headquarters, but I have to concede that the Vatican just about trumps the views across Eastbourne, although my favourite view in East Sussex is when you come up through High and Over from Alfriston and you look across to Cuckmere Haven to the east and Seaford Head to the west - now that does make you feel good and at peace with the world.

Unlike the feeling at the Emirates Stadium, poor old Arsenal they win 2-0 away in one of the toughest places to win and go out of the Champions League. Oh dear, how sad their season all over, apart from their mini competition with Spurs and West Ham to see which of them will be the second highest placed London club this year. Still, just think of the money they have saved on silver polish over the past decade.

My week:

  • Regular discussions with Deputy Chief Fire Officer (DCFO) Gary Walsh on the Marlie Farm court case, which has now concluded and the Judge will consider all the evidence and give his judgement in about six weeks. This had been a difficult two weeks for everyone involved in the case, particularly the families of Geoff and Brian, those who were injured and those of our staff who were called to give evidence. The whole experience of being in court having to recant the events of such a tragic and sad day was not easy for them and their professionalism under such difficult circumstances is to be commended.

  • Met up with our team at the LGA Fire Conference; well done to everyone involved, all of you were a real credit to ESFRS with delegates from across the country complementing our staff on their helpfulness. Many other Fire Rescue Services (FRSs) wanted to find out about our volunteer scheme, the Black Museum, Care Providers and other Community Fire Safety (CFS) initiatives. We also gave out information on blood and organ donation to support this vital area of work in the NHS.

  • Spoke with the City Mayor Cllr. Bill Randall who gave a welcome to the Conference; the Mayor is a great supporter of the work of ESFRS and the City crews.

  • Working lunch with a group of colleagues, who have been working on Incident Command qualifications. This will link with the Joint Emergency Services work we are doing with police and ambulance, specifically to support the first commanders on scene so that all the emergency services have a common understanding of incident command arrangements.

  • Listened to the Fire Minister's speech to the Conference where he made it absolutely clear there were no plans to privatise the FRS, but that Government did want to provide the flexibility for Fire Authorities to establish a "mutual". This would allow a Fire & Rescue Service to enter into a contract with a Fire Authority to provide a service on their behalf and also to earn income by using the staff to provide services to other organisations.

  • Early meeting with Capita in their new role as owners of the Fire Service College (FSC); looked at their early plans for new teaching and accommodation facilities and for joint service training courses. Very exciting times for the FSC and I am sure many of our younger staff will really benefit from the training opportunities that will be developed over the coming years.

  • Went to a separate meeting with the Minister to discuss the work we are doing on leadership with the NHS and police, the innovations we are introducing on cross sector training and to ask for Government support for better sharing of data and information across all local authorities, to ensure we do not have a repeat of the 'Baby Peter' or Soham tragedies. On a local level I believe we must improve data sharing, as we find the vast majority of fire fatalities were known to one of our local agencies, but they have not passed relevant details onto ESFRS.

  • Met with Sir Ken Knight to discuss the efficiency review he is undertaking and to look at a number of areas where we can improve efficiency in training and personal development, conditions of service and to ask for access to a great learning tool developed by the Civil Service Learning.

  • Attended a meeting of the national Learning & Development (L&D) and HR managers where we were looking at apprenticeships, Retained Duty System (RDS) issues, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), Learning Fund and HR data. We are also considering the opportunities we have to develop national frameworks to support L&D and HR across every FRS to improve efficiencies and cost savings.

Crews from Battle responded to a fire at a domestic property in Ashburnham; this was 'make-six' with additional pumps from Bexhill, Herstmonceux, Bohemia Rd, and The Ridge.  Firefighters used breathing apparatus (BA) and main jets to fight the fire returning the next day to re-inspect.

Monday was a busy day with the snow and high winds with a number of calls to assist South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb), who were having difficulty reaching patients. All the emergency services worked extremely well together in some difficult circumstances and I was pleased to see firefighters from West Sussex FRS out during the night driving along the A23 to give reassurances to motorists who were stuck in their vehicles overnight.

In East Sussex we had crews from Battle and Heathfield making good use of their four by four vehicles to assist the Ambulance Service and Hailsham crews responded to a car fire and then took the casualty to hospital as there was no ambulance available. Firefighters from West Sussex FRS also assisted SECAmb and worked with the British Red Cross during an exceptional night of bad weather, where we were called upon to do exactly what the public expect us to do, to assist them when they need help.

I know a number of our staff served in the Armed Forces during the Falklands conflict and so I am sure they will have watched with interest the results of this week’s vote, which was 99.8% in favour of remaining British. This was an overwhelming endorsement by local people, but now questions are being asked as to who were the "The Port Stanley 3"; they were probably keen football fans who want to have a team to cheer that has a reasonable chance of winning the World Cup!

In closing, I will return to our staff who assisted and supported the LGA Fire Conference; over the past two days I have received numerous phone calls and emails saying just how fantastic our staff were, how helpful and knowledgeable they were and how they were all a credit to ESFRS. From those who were on hand at the Metropole Hotel, to those who helped to set up and take down our stand, to produce the art and banners and to those who rescued the car of  the Assistant Chief Fire Officer (ACFO) from Tyne & Wear, who had got stranded on Devils Dyke, a big thank you.

Friday, 8 March 2013

One of the real benefits of modern technology is being able to keep in touch with family and friends when you are away from home, the office or on leave.

For those who have to be away you can continue to work; for me it is important to be able to be in contact with work wherever I am and for staff to be able to reach me.

The current court case has I know been extremely difficult for many of our staff, ex-employees and of course the families who have suffered loss of their loved ones. I have been in regular contact with my management team who keep me updated of any developments that need attention. I have also been speaking every day to Deputy Chief Fire Officer Gary Walsh and other members of staff, who have been in London at the Marlie Farm Trial. Gary has updated me on a daily basis and Gary has been supporting staff who have had to attend the hearing in London. I have also been liaising with Mark Matthews to see how the other members of our staff and the families are coping with this very testing and challenging time.

Everywhere I look I can see people on their mobile devices and have we now let this technology become too intrusive. How often do you see a group of people out together and then you will find them on their mobile phones, not talking to each other but keeping in touch with other friends. I must admit there is one aspect of having a mobile phone that I find particularly rude and discourteous, and that is when you are having a meeting at work and other people attending the meeting are spending time on their phones; why do they think they are so important.

I know many of you are Twitter users and on Facebook and other social networking sites. They are brilliant communication tools but there is a lot of drivel too; why anyone needs to tell their friends that they have just washed their hair or have just dunked a jammy dodger in their coffee I'll never know.

However, I do believe we can make use of social media to help get across community safety messages and also to let people know when roads are closed and provide other public information. It may be the time for us to look at developing our own App, it would be brilliant if we could create an ESFRS community safety App that we could issue free of charge, that should be our future ambition.

Strangely enough I can get a better phone signal on Mt. Blanc than I can across most of Sussex, which can be both a blessing and a burden. But is it really good to be 'in touch' all of the time and have we lost the art of relaxing? As I'm some 8000 ft up near Mt. Blanc, I am having fun talking and texting to my son who should have been skiing with me, but with his final exams coming up at University, he has other priorities.
I see Batman left Gotham City this week to bring justice to the streets of Bradford; so if you were going to do your good deed, which superhero would you dress up as? My choice would be between Danger Mouse or Buzz Lightyear, both noble and fearless, with strong jaw lines and perfect diction!

We managed to find a TV out in a local French bar to watch the Manchester United versus Real Madrid match. Oh dear, poor old Sir Alec complaining about a poor refereeing decision, let’s face it, you got beat, and what about all the dodgy decisions that have gone United’s way over the years. Remember Moscow when Chelsea should have won the Champions League but were down to ten players after Drogba got sent off in a dodgy decision, no complaints from Ferguson then!

My week:
  • Met with colleagues to consider how we should respond to the current debate on creating a Fire & Rescue Service mutual, moving away from the current local authority Fire Rescue Service. There has also been debate on privatisation, which has sparked a lot of discussion, and it will be interesting to see the outcome of the review currently being undertaken by Sir Ken Knight. Attended a monthly Corporate Management Team meeting at headquarters, where we considered the future of Community Fire Safety (CFS) initiatives, including LIFE and Coaching for a Safer Community. With funding from other partners being removed, or reduced, we will continue to support for the coming year as we have a budget set aside for these excellent programmes, although we must look at new and different ways of delivering these initiatives to ensure we can afford them.
  • We agreed the key capital programme projects for the medium term and trying to ensure we have sustainable funding for buildings and appliances. The Newhaven project is on target and we are having final discussions with other partners who may want to be part of a new building. The new build and refurbishment at Crowborough is on budget.
  • Meeting with the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) at headquarters to discuss a number of issues regarding budget pressures and that we would want to engage with the FBU and other trade unions, when we have some proposals for consideration. Also, discussed the continuing support we will be offering to our staff involved in the Marlie Farm court case which will continue into a second week.
  • Discussed with colleagues the recent announcement that Norths Fire Rescue Service will be sharing an HQ and workshops with their local Police Force and that the Chief Fire Officer of Hertfordshire will also be performing the role of Chief Executive to the Police & Crime Commissioner for two days a week. The Government is keen to see closer working between emergency services with the ESFRS response to Sir Ken Knight's review mentioning our proposal for merger with West Sussex Fire Rescue Service.
  • The team are making final preparations for the LGA Fire Conference in Brighton next week, with the Fire Minister due to attend. East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service will be promoting some of our CFS activities and hopefully will also be promoting blood and organ donations. I know I have mentioned this before but the more I work with colleagues in the NHS the more I see how vital it is that we all try and donate blood if we can and also carry organ donation cards or go onto the organ donation register, not everyone can do this but organ donation can make so much difference to the lives of others.
Crews from Bohemia Road and The Ridge responded to an incident in St. Leonards early on Sunday morning where a fire had started in a house of multiple occupancy. Eight people had managed to escape the building but firefighters had to force entry to one flat where they rescued male casualty. Crews extinguished the fire and used a Positive Pressure Ventilation Fan to remove smoke from the building. The benefits of smoke alarms were highlighted when a neighbour heard a smoke alarm operating in a next door property. Crews from Seaford responded on the initial attendance but there were a number of repeat calls and therefore Mobilising & Communications Centre increased the pre-determined attendance (PDA).

With a 'make-up' from the Incident Commander pumps from Eastbourne and Hailsham were mobilised to the incident in Alfriston, as it was a 'persons reported' incident but fortunately there was no one in the building. Crews found a well-established fire in the basement which caused serious damage to the property. C01 was also in attendance for command purposes. Crews from Lewes and Brighton supported by the Technical Rescue Unit (TRU) from Battle responded to a road traffic collision (RTC) involving two cars and a bus on the Offham Road. Firefighters found one male casualty trapped with crews having to use hydraulic cutting equipment to remove the doors and the roof to enable them to free the casualty who was then transferred to hospital.

Firefighters from across ESFRS are supporting a new video as part of the 'Fire Kills' campaign to test their smoke alarms and to test them regularly and, if necessary, to change the batteries when they change their clocks. There is absolutely no doubt that working smoke alarms save lives, but despite all the efforts ESFRS and other Services have put in over the past decade to either fit smoke alarms, work with housing associations to fit their own smoke alarms or encourage householders to buy smoke alarms, there are still too many properties that do not have them.

ESFRS also asks for carers, friends and families to check to see if there are properties that need smoke alarms and to contact ESFRS. Check this out on youtube. We are also working nationally to continue to lobby Government and the building industry to promote the fitting of sprinklers in the built environment, as part of our safe and sustainable communities’ strategy.

Friday, 1 March 2013

This week was the start of the Marlie Farm High Court case. The events of 3 December 2006 are still very vivid in my mind and I do have enormous sympathy with those who still bear the pain of that day and they are all very much in my thoughts.

I would once again want to pay tribute to all the staff of East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service who attended the incident and did their very best in exceptionally difficult circumstances. We know that our job sometimes puts us in a position where there is no easy answer, but we utilise our knowledge, skills and experiences and the excellent teamwork that abounds in our Service, to try and save life, to render humanitarian services and to protect other people's property and their livelihood.

Sometimes the work that our operational staff do is taken for granted, the decision making of our officers, at all levels, is 'just expected'. In this week where I am reflecting on the events of 3 December 2006, I would want to say a very personal thank you to our firefighters for the crucial and vitally important work that you do. 

Our condolences to the family of Ray Cusick from Horsham, who sadly passed away earlier this week. Ray was the inspiration behind one of this country's most iconic designs that has kept children hiding behind the settee for almost 50 years. Ray was the inspiration behind the Daleks, still the most scary 'bad boys' there has ever been and whilst Arnie may have become known as the Terminator, the Daleks were the original exterminators.

One of this country's finest eccentrics, who I have in my top ten of most inspiring people, Sir Ranulph Fiennes has been forced to give up his attempt to make the first crossing of Antarctica in winter. The legendary explorer has suffered severe frostbite whilst attempting to fix his skis with bare hands in temperatures of minus 30. West Midlands Fire Rescue Service helped the expedition to load all their equipment onto the ship bound for Antarctica and I understand the firefighters had to come up with some ingenious techniques to get the many tonnes of equipment onto the cargo deck. I'm off for a week’s skiing on Saturday and whilst I expect it to be chilly at the top of the Chamoissiere black run and the Pointe de Nyon, I don't think minus 30 is on the cards!

The latest plan from those running the economy is 'helicopter drops'. I bet you thought that quantitative easing was a little difficult to understand, but earlier this week we have the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England proposing 'negative interest rates', supposedly only for banks putting their huge reserves into the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street. However, we know that they would only claw it back from us, the public, and then another bright spark no doubt, with a double first from the London School of Economics proposes 'helicopter drops' where the Treasury parachutes money to all of us to spend and therefore stimulate the economy, but they are frightened we will save it (who would do that with negative interest rates?). I think I'm in the middle of a Kafkaesque play or an extra in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest!

My week:
  • Joint project board with West Sussex at Hove, discussed progress on the Sussex Control Centre, sharing training facilities and any other areas of joint working, including sharing facilities as it appears less likely that West Sussex Fire Rescue Service would want to progress a merger.

  • Met with the Director of Finance at East Sussex County Council to discuss our future arrangements for Treasury support, following the changes we will need to make when Assistant Chief Officer Williams retires in March.

  • Went up to Service Training Centre (STC) for the latest Retained Duty System (RDS ) Pass Out Parade. It was great to see ten new RDS staff who will help to ensure the availability of appliances. It was one of the coldest afternoons I can recall at Maresfield with families and friends shivering but still enjoying the display; thanks also to our hard working STC staff who do a brilliant job. It is a very busy and hectic environment at Maresfield but there is always a great buzz when you go there.

  • Held a Members’ Seminar at HQ with the Chairman speaking about the financial challenges over the next four years, that there will be a new Fire Authority in June, with up to eight new local Councillors who have not previously been on the Authority, and that they will have to deliver significant saving by 2017.

  • Went to speak at a 'people's summit' in London which was organised by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD). This was an opportunity to meet with other senior leaders from across the private and public sector to look at what they are doing to meet financial challenges and also to find out their views in some of the comments from our Government Department about creating mutuals for Fire Rescue Services (FRSs) and even privatising some parts of the Service. Interesting meeting one of the senior people from the RAF who said that in the last 20 years the RAF had reduced staff numbers from 93,000 to 30,000; quite staggering considering the many theatres of operations the UK armed forces have been involved in.

  • Monthly Corporate Manager Team meeting at headquarters, our first meeting after the Fire Authority agreed our budget. We discussed the outcome of the Members’ Seminar and how we can deliver the medium term plan that the Members agreed we need to put before the new Fire Authority.

  • Had an exit interview with Iain Stewart who will be leaving us after more than seven years with East Sussex Fire Rescue Service (ESFRS). Ian served in a number of operational positions, as well as Community Fire Safety (CFS) and was the Asian Fire Service Association (AFSA) rep on their national committee, as well as contributing a great deal to supporting minority ethnic firefighters. We offer Ian our best wishes for the future.

  • Attended the Fire Service College as it was the official date of the sale to Capita; we are now working closely with the new owners to ensure that the college remains as a world leading training centre for Fire & Rescue Services and really pleasing to see the investment.

Another sad story with three people being killed with suspected carbon monoxide poisoning at an incident in a caravan in Cambourne. Earlier this month another person lost their life through carbon monoxide poisoning in St Ives. This silent killer causes a significant number of deaths and injuries every year and it is one of the areas we should do all we can to improve when we are out and about on our community safety activities and when undertaking our home safety visits. We should do what we can to make every visit count when we are in the homes of local people; we all know that we can make a real difference to the safety and security of people in their homes and all ESFRS staff can play a part in making our communities safer and sustainable.

This week crews from Lewes, Hove, Barcombe, Newhaven and Preston Circus responded to a blaze at Light Brothers in Lewes. Good firefighting operations prevented the fire spreading with much of the damage contained to plant and machinery. The animal rescue team from Crowborough supported by crews from Uckfield were called to an incident in Buxted where a large steer had got stuck in a boggy field; using the rescue paths crews were able to rescue the animal.

After a spate of chimney fires, ESFRS urged those who have open fires to ensure their chimneys are swept on a regular basis. Since the start of the year we have responded to 82 chimney fires, nearly 40% more than the same period in 2012. The vast majority, if not all of these fires, are preventable and whilst they are mostly contained to the flue, there have been some extremely serious property fires that started in the chimney; householders are advised to use a reputable chimney sweep.

Now off for a week’s leave and hoping for lots of snow and some good off-piste skiing!