Friday, 17 May 2013

The outcome of the local elections is now a little clearer, as we know the political changes on the Fire Authority. Prior to 2nd May, the Authority was made up of nine Conservatives, four Liberal Democrats, three Green, and two Labour.  Following the elections, we now have seven Conservatives, three Green, three Labour, two Liberal Democrats, two UKIP and one Independent, a much changed Fire Authority.

I now also know that only five of our existing members will return to the Authority with 13 new members joining in June. This will be the biggest change of members since the Fire Authority was formed in 1997 and I will need to ensure I meet all the new members to offer support and advice in their new role.

Just seen Ashley Bango's 'Secret Street Crew', checkout the Essex firefighters from Clacton Fire Station, brilliant and it just goes to show that "big guys can dance".

I read with great interest the news this week that Angelina Jolie had made public her decision to have had a double mastectomy.  Unfortunately, breast cancer is all too common and takes the lives of many women (and men) in this country and I have experienced the tragedy this causes to families when first one of my very good friends died of this cruel disease in her mid-twenties and my brother lost his wife when she was only 29, leaving my brother with two children under five. More recently, my mother in law has also suffered from breast cancer and I have seen the tragic consequences up close; so well done Angelina for speaking out about this and hopefully women will have more confidence in coming to terms with breast cancer. I will continue to wear my pink ribbon with pride and also, to support the charities that are doing their utmost to eradicate this killer cancer.

My week:

  • Went across to Plumpton College where we had a number of our local firefighters, Community Fire Safety (CFS) advisors and community volunteers involved in the college's open day. This was quite an event with an estimated 12,000 people attending, with our staff taking the opportunity to talk about what they did, with the animal rescue team being a big attraction. A great opportunity also to get across community safety messages and we were also supporting the NHS Blood and Transplant Service, encouraging people to sign up as donors.

  • Spent a lot of time at the weekend talking with local Councillors to see if there was any information on who will be serving on the Fire Authority. Discussions are still taking place between the various political parties and we will not know until 6th June who will be elected as Chairman and Vice Chairman.

  • Had discussions with the County Council Chief Executive about our Treasury services, as the county is moving to a joint enterprise with Surrey for financial services. We would want to be a party to this arrangement and also discussed continuing working relationship with the County Council and the on-going discussions that the political parties will be having, regarding Fire Authority Members.

  • Attended a quarterly meeting with the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) where we discussed a number of issues that have been progressed through the consultation processes. Also talked about the financial position and the spending review currently being carried out by the Treasury. An  update on the local government elections and the significant differences this will make to the political representation on the Fire Authority.

  • Met to discuss a report that looked at our operational incidents over the last ten years; this report was broken down by station, day of the week and time of day. Staff should be congratulated on the significant improvements ESFRS has made with a continuing downward trend in incidents at every station which is as a result of our CFS work, Automatic Fire Alarms (AFA) reduction strategy and other initiatives to make our communities safer and more sustainable. I will be able to present this to the new Fire Authority as a clear demonstration of the need to have an integrated approach to prevention, protection and response.

  • Discussed forthcoming meeting to debrief the adverse weather we experienced in March where we had heavy snow on 11th March, which brought much of the County to a standstill and also caused great pressure on SECamb and other services. This debrief will consider lessons learned and how we can respond more effectively including review our media strategy to warn and inform the public.

  • Met with Dave Hayes, the Watch Commander at Hailsham, who will be retiring later this month after completing over 30 years of service. I can’t speak highly enough about Dave and his enormous commitment to ESFRS, as Dave has been a 'full unit' providing about 140 hours cover every week. Many of our RDS staff provide fantastic cover and Dave is right at the top of the tree; with Hailsham being a very busy Retained Duty System (RDS) station. Dave is one of the most experienced Junior Officers (JOs) in the Service, attending at a large number of incidents every year due to the hours he is available; a hard act to replace. Dave has passed on his experience to his crew at Hailsham and we offer him our very best wishes for the future.

  •  Went on my level four refresher training and had to take a refresher in my knowledge of incident command (pressure to pass!) and then into the operational scenario, which was a passenger ship in dock at Newhaven with a major fire on board with 100 passengers still on the vessel. Half way into the scenario I got a message that the ship was listing and could keel over into the quayside (just waiting for the plane to crash into the dock which would have stopped the exercise!). I then had to act as level three commander at a fire at an office block and processing plant. The company processed biohazard waste with the fire in this area and then we had a radiation leak, explosion, building collapse and a hazardous cloud spreading across a town where we had to consider evacuating 15,000 people - this was a VERY good training scenario and it is an important part of incident command training to maintain competence; also attending was Andy Reynolds as all officers in ESFRS undertake this training.

  • Had a meeting with Penny Thompson, the Chief Executive of Brighton & Hove Council; this was an opportunity for myself and the Principal Officer (PO) team to meet Penny and her team to look at how we can work together, what improvements we need on data sharing, how we identify vulnerable people and to consider safety in the many houses of multiple occupancy (HMOs) in the City. 
This week crews from Heathfield, Mayfield and Lewes were called out to a collision between a bus and a car on the A267 near Five Ashes. Twelve passengers were trapped on the bus and working with the HEMS Doctor who triaged the casualties. Firefighters released the passengers, removing them on a stretcher through an opening that they had previously made in the rear of the bus.  A great example of joint working between ESFRS, SECamb, HEMS and Sussex Police enabled all the casualties to be released and taken to hospital. 

Firefighters responded to a large barn fire near Ringmer in the early hours of last Friday, remaining at the scene for some considerable time. Crews from Lewes, Brighton, Uckfield and Heathfield were needed to tackle the blaze with investigations on-going to establish the cause.  And around midday on Tuesday, firefighters from Preston Circus and Hove along with the TRU from Lewes were called to a flooding incident at the Royal County Sussex Hospital. The flooding was caused when work in the plant room resulted in a significant leak with patients in a number of areas having to be relocated for their own safety. Firefighters remained at the scene for some considerable time assisting with clean-up operations. 

Firefighters from Battle and The Ridge responded to a difficult rescue where a female had fallen down a well shaft at a property in Battle. Crews using specialist line rescue equipment stabilised the casualty who had fallen approximately 25 feet and then working with colleagues from SECamb, recovered the casualty who was taken to hospital for treatment. Strong winds during Tuesday night in Brighton caused to a large fascia board to hang dangerously over the front of a busy bar in the City; firefighters from Roedean worked in gusting winds to cut down the board and make the area safe.

I have received some sad news regarding retired members of staff, with Alfred Ernest Brittan, a previous Station Commander at Hastings and Michael Ball, who served in the RDS at Bexhill, both passing away in recent days. Alfred and Michael were both loyal members of our staff and great servants to their local communities and we offer our condolences and sympathies to their families and friends.

After the glorious run of the last few weeks which saw the Albion get into the play-off places, they couldn't find that little bit extra to get into the play-off final for what would have been a great day out at Wembley, and I understand from speaking to Brighton fans that it’s a bitter pill to swallow when you get beaten by Crystal Palace; but don't worry, they will lose to Watford in the final and you can get your revenge next season, although will Gus be there, that's the big question!

Don't forget Saturday evening there is a charity boxing match taking place at the Metropole Hotel, where some of the "finest" in East Sussex will be pitting their pugilistic skills against opponents from the Army and Police. Then at HQ on Wednesday, Sharon Jakeman will be bringing in some wonderful, scrumptious, hip hugging cakes, (yummy yummy!) for you to buy with all monies raised going to a wonderful charity that works with sick and disabled children, so treat yourself and give generously.

Finally, yes they have done it again, Chelsea are European Champions having won the Europa Cup after a devastating display against Benfica on Wednesday evening; once again, Chelsea blaze a trail in Europe that others can only dream about; Blue is the only Colour!