Monday, 22 April 2013

The news this week about the bombings in Boston once again illustrates how vulnerable we are to the threat of such an attack.  Public places are always a soft and easy target and it would be impossible to ensure safety and security at all times.   Whilst the vast majority of people across the world want to live in harmony with their neighbours, sadly, it only takes a few to bring death and destruction to any community; all too frequently we see such atrocities in other parts of the world and we can become a bit complacent, but when it comes closer to home it makes us all feel just a bit less secure; but is this the price we pay for the freedoms and liberties we enjoy?  An alternative is a totalitarian state like North Korea where any dissent or questioning of the State is quickly put down and the concept of personal freedom is very different to what we take for granted in the UK. 

The funeral this week of Margaret Thatcher was one illustration of the freedom of speech and the freedom to protest; some argue that their liberty to protest is restricted but any freedom must come with a responsibility and must be within the law - personal liberty cannot be unrestricted and each and every one of us must be accountable for our actions.  The measles outbreak is an example of freedom to choose whether or not to be vaccinated; or is it?    

A baby or young child does not make the choice, it is the parent who makes the choice for them, but should the State be the guardian of public health?  And what about the right to die, can the individual make the choice or does the State have the final say?  Many have fought and died to maintain personal freedom and liberties and for less control from Government, whilst others argue the opposite. 

The Fire and Rescue Service is both a State and local community service and we add value and benefits to both.  We support national resilience and give an assurance to Government that in the event of a major catastrophe we can provide a highly professional and immediate response to assist the public and aid recovery, and for local communities we can provide an emergency response to incidents from fires to transport and industrial accidents, animal rescues and a host of other emergency incidents whilst also providing a community safety and prevention service that is second to none. 

Our Service is part of the fabric of our society and we must do all we can to protect and preserve our excellent service and ensure those with influence recognise the benefits we provide as a public service.

The work of the Fire and Rescue Service and other emergency responders was brought into sharp focus in Waco, Texas with the news of a massive explosion at a fertiliser plant.  It is believed up to 15 people have been killed with over 160 injured and four firefighters, who attended the initial call to a fire at the site, are still believed to be missing; this is a real tragedy for everyone involved with emergency responders doing their very best to provide assistance and make the scene safe; our sympathies to everyone involved.

My week:
  • Met with the Leader of Lewes DC to discuss the new fire station in Newhaven; the Council are keen to be involved in the building for joint use and we are also looking at having a common reception area and to see if other partners including Sussex Police, SECAmb and the Town Council would like to be involved.

  • Prepared a draft report that considered the role of the Chief Fire and Rescue Advisor and how this role could work to support local FRSs and national resilience arrangements whilst able to provide independent and professional advice to the Fire Minister and Government.

  • Met with an Assistant Director from the NHS who I am working with on leadership development and also mentoring; this is all part of our cross sector work and is paying real dividends as Fire and Rescue staff can also access personal development support from senior managers in the NHS.

  • Attended a presentation from Professor Carol Baxter who has developed a programme for NHS Trusts that champion fairness and inclusion for patients and staff and which, it is hoped, can be rolled out across the public sector.

  • Spoke with the Chief Constable to arrange a meeting with our two principal officer teams to discuss future community safety and engagement strategies and then had a meeting with Katy Bourne, the Police and Crime Commissioner who is very keen to work with ESFRS on joint community safety initiatives to reduce anti-social behaviour, improve road safety and to look at sharing premises and facilities.

  • Was invited by The Lord Lieutenant to meet HRH, the  Duke of Gloucester who was visiting the County; I attended an event in Etchingham where the Duke was visiting a local community project that had turned the derelict railway station into a community sponsored  cafe and restaurant with a park and play area and also a revitalised local shop.

  • Went to a meeting with LGA representatives and the new owners of the Fire Service College to discuss their proposed governance arrangements and how the FRS through CFOA and the LGA could work with the Board to support the new business model; we have a real interest as a successful and financially secure College will be a real benefit for operational and incident command training and will be able to support the development of standards.

  • Had a meeting with colleagues from other FRSs to consider how we take forward joint incident command training and develop common standards across the emergency services.

  • Discussed with colleagues the opportunities for Fire and Rescue Services to establish a trading arm and to look at ways to generate income; there may be opportunities through undertaking fire risk assessments which would mean FRSs entering a competitive market, but with the deep financial cuts now facing here in ESFRS, we need to consider all options to remain financially viable and whilst this will mean internal restructuring, we must also look at income generation.

This week Lewes firefighters responded to a serious fire at a local property; using BA, hose reels and compressed air foam, crews were able to extinguish the fire although there was damage to the ground and first floor and smoke damage to the next door property.  The Fire Victim Support Unit attended to provide support to the family involved and one casualty was taken to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation. 

Crews from Broad Oak, Rye and Hastings were called to a property fire in Beckley where they found a single storey property involved in fire and heavily smoke logged; firefighters used BA, hose reels and main jets to contain the blaze and again called on the services of the Fire Victim Support Unit. 

Firefighters from Hailsham, supported by crews from Herstmonceux, responded to an RTC on Battle Road where two cars had been involved in an accident and two people were trapped in the vehicles.  Firefighters managed to release both casualties and made the scene safe. 

Crews from Preston Circus were called out to a car fire in Stanmer Park, an area where we do get a number of similar incidents.  Crews used BA and hose reels to extinguish the fire.

Heathfield were called out by the RSPCA to rescue a cat from a tree in the nearby village of Waldron; best of traditions the crew rescued the moggy and left the animal in the care of the RSPCA. 

Well done to all our staff who took part in the Brighton Marathon last weekend; congratulations on your tremendous efforts and I know many of you will have been raising money for your favourite charity through your efforts; our sympathies and condolences also to the family of Sam Harper Brighouse who is believed to have suffered a cardiac arrest and died whilst running.

I am looking forward to a relaxing weekend. Last weekend was just too stressful culminating in the disappointment of a trip to Wembley, a football stadium unfamiliar to those who support Spurs, Arsenal, Liverpool and Newcastle but, hopefully, somewhere that will become familiar to the Seagulls next month.  Good luck to the Albion who are making a determined push for the playoffs - it would be a fantastic boost to the City and County if we were to see Premiership football at the Amex Stadium next year and a real reward for those local supporters who 'kept the faith' after they were treated appallingly with the sale of the Goldstone ground and their round trips to Gillingham and there decade at the Withdean, so even if you’re not the world’s greatest football fan (Sue) get behind Gus and the team for the final few games!