Friday, 31 May 2013

This week we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the first time the summit of Mount Everest was reached. Chomolungma the Nepalese name for the mountain at 29,029 ft was climbed by Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay on the historic date of 29 May 1953, and considering the equipment and training of 60 years ago, this was a triumph of human endeavour.

However, have we been mistaken in celebrating the undoubted achievement, endurance and triumph of Sir Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tensing as being the first time the summit was reached? There is still an unanswered question as to whether the 'top of the world' was first conquered in 1924 by George Mallory and Sandy Irving; what is known is that Mallory and Irvine were sighted just 800ft below the summit and still making progress, but it remains a mystery as to whether they ever reached their goal.

The achievements of the 1924 expedition were astonishing given the equipment available to them at the time and there is photographic footage of the team climbing above 25,000 ft in tweed jackets and hobnail boots. I continue to marvel at the way people push themselves to achieve goals that seem impossible, whether it is those like Mallory and Irvine, or Hillary and Tenzing, Ranulph Finnes the polar exploration or Felix Baumgartner free falling from space; but we can all push ourselves to achieve something and many of our staff have pushed themselves through charity fund raising, getting diplomas and degrees, writing a book, or playing in a band. It is surprising what you can achieve if you put your mind to it - so what is your goal this year, what do you aspire to do?

Remember, the only limitation is the one you set yourself, every one of us is capable of achieving, sometimes you just need to push yourself; this week we can reflect on the achievements of Hillary and Tenzing, this time next year, you can reflect on your achievement.  Congratulations to the Seagulls closest rivals as Crystal Palace win promotion to the Premiership for next season; a football match worth an estimated £135million to the winners with TV sponsorship and other revenue streams and having a Premiership team brings a boost to the local economy; so close this year for Brighton & Hove Albion, the Amex is a fitting stadium for Premiership football and let's hope next year they go one better.

My week

  • Attended the Asian Fire Service Association (AFSA) Conference and gave a presentation about the challenges posed by Sir Ken Knight's efficiency review and the volatility and uncertainty this creates, alongside the complexity and ambiguity this leads to for public services. This is known as the VUCA model and it allowed for a lot of debate amongst the audience. I must compliment AFSA on organising another successful conference and I was pleased to meet and talk to many of the delegates, including Raj Baksi and Mo Ahmed who were representing  ESFRS.
  • Went to the Hove Carnival and met with the crew from Stn 02 and our Community Fire Safety (CFS) staff from Hove. Raj, Dave Ivemey and Jenny Taylor are doing some great work with the many visitors who came to see them. The Mayor, Councillor Denise Cobb came across to meet the crew and had her picture taken with Watch Commander Chris Mann (the crew said he was the best looking!).
  • Had a discussion over the weekend to prepare for the Fire Authority's AGM. As I understand it, we now have all the nominations for the Fire Authority and it has been confirmed that there will be 13 new members and a new Chairman and Vice Chairman, to be decided on 6th June. We will have a programme in place for the new members to visit HQ, Service Training Centre (STC) and fire stations to meet with staff and will try and get the councillors to the various opens days this summer.
  • Went to the Fire Service College to discuss the new Board arrangements to ensure the Fire Rescue Services (FRSs) across the country are properly represented as the college starts to develop its business. There are plans to attract the police and ambulance personnel to train at the Fire Service College (FSC) and also for the hazardous industries and defence fire services to train at the site.
  • Discussed with representatives from local government, FRSs in N Ireland, Scotland and Wales, Skills for Justice how we can work together on national standards and to ensure we have consistency in training. We also considered the Rule 43 letters which are published after hearings in the Coroner's Court and may have implications for FRSs, particularly in areas of operational training.
  • Meeting at HQ with Liz Foster and Graham Gray to discuss the Peer Review we will be having for Operational Assurance. Some of our staff have been involved in Peer Review teams in other FRSs and we have learnt a great deal from speaking to colleagues who have been thorough the Peer Review process.
  • I went to a breakfast meeting at Haywards Heath with members from the Institute of Directors (IOD). This is part of my Continuing Professional Development (CPD) as a few years ago, following my annual appraisal; I undertook the Chartered Directors programme and these breakfast meetings are a useful opportunity for me to catch up with colleagues from the IOD.
  • Monthly Corporate Management Team (CMT) meeting at HQ where a main item was the budget monitoring to ensure we are managing within budget. We also reviewed the draft papers for the Fire Authority meeting.
  • Prepared an article for the Fire Magazine on the work of Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) People & Organisational Development and the work on a framework for all Services to use to support personal development, operational competence, achieving excellence and workforce planning - also continuing to develop fitness standards and reviewing the current Aspire Leadership Model.
  • Had a detailed look at our capital spend this year and our future spending priorities. We have to carefully consider our fleet and operational equipment replacement programme, the building programme to look at whether we need to replace or refurbish any of our building stock and if so, how we prioritise and how we fund any capital replacement programme. A number of projects are underway at Crowborough, Newhaven and STC and of course the new Sussex Control Centre; all these projects need to be carefully managed within budget.

This week crews from Preston Circus responded to a fire in the roof area of the Beaufort Public house, where the Aerial Ladder Platform (ALP) was used to assist in firefighting operations and cutting away in the roof to expose the fire.

Firefighters from Lewes and Uckfield responded to a fire in Piltdown where a householder enjoying the good weather found that the barbecue was positioned too close to the house and had caused some damage to the property. Crews used hose reels to extinguish the fire and would like to remind people to ensure they keep the barbecue away from their property and any fencing or other materials and to ensure they keep the unit clean and free from excess oils and fats. 

Firefighters from Newhaven and Lewes were called out to a road traffic collision in Piddinghoe, where a private vehicle JD overturned with the driver trapped inside. Crews stabilised the vehicle and then freed the casualty who was transferred to hospital by paramedics from SECamb.  Lewes firefighters were quick to praise a local motorist after they were called out to a vehicle fire on the A27. On arrival firefighters found that a fire had started in the engine compartment but had been extinguished by a member of the public who had been travelling in another car and had stopped to render assistance.

Crews from Seaford and Newhaven were called out to a fire on the ground floor of a property in Seaford; firefighters we wearing breathing apparatus (BA) and using hose reels quickly extinguished the fire and then used the Positive Pressure Ventilation Fan (PPV) to clear smoke from the property. 

Crews from Preston Circus, Hove and Roedean along with the ALP responded to an incident in New England Street where initially it was believed there was a serious fire. Crews found that the cause was smoke from a woodchip boiler and they spend some time at the scene dismantling the ventilation to ensure that the fire had been extinguished. 

Our firefighters in Hastings have been working with students from William Parker School who are studying on a Public Services Course. The students took part in a road traffic education and collision demonstration, as part of their studies gaining first-hand experience of casualty extrication and learning about the 'fatal four' seatbelts, distractions, drink/drugs and speeding.

We are hoping for another warm and sunny weekend as there are Open Days at Forest Row and Seaford, everyone is welcome so bring along your family and friends to support the firefighters.  Watch Commander Dave Reed at Stn 7 will be supported by colleagues from SECamb, Sussex Police, Seaford Lifeguards, Coastguards and the local bonfire society for what will be a great community event with lots to do for everyone. Whilst at Stn 10, Watch Commander Ian Franks is keen to invite local people to see the Water Rescue team from Crowborough, the Black Museum and The Fire Fighters Charity stall, always a great attraction  and as a special treat, the refreshments will be provided by the Forest Row Brownie Pack, who are renowned for their delicious cakes, so with no football this weekend, make your way to Forest Row or Seaford.