Friday, 14 June 2013

Over the last few weeks I have been driving quite a lot across the county and taking the train to London. Whilst traffic on the roads can be a bit of a pain and the overcrowded trains are not the most comfortable form of transport, what has caused my stress levels to rise the most is the complete unreliability of the Vodafone mobile phone signal, which can only be described as less than average!  I have no idea whether Orange, Talk-Talk, O2 or others are any better but if you were offered a year’s free subscription with Vodafone or a CD of "Teach yourself Acupuncture" then go and get yourself a large bag of needles, as this will be an infinitely better experience.

The adverts on the TV portray a picture where everything always works superbly, you connect first time and the signal never drops out. Well Vodafone, come out with me for a day and whether I’m driving across the county using hands-free or on the train, I'll show you the customer experience, and believe me, it's not good!  When you look at the mobile phone companies’ websites, they claim to have about 95% coverage; well I must spend my time in the other 5%! These companies are making huge profits and yet their service is pretty unremarkable.  Our performance in the Fire & Rescue Service is considerably better and much cheaper.

Last week I mentioned that the Queen was one of the world's most respected leaders; this week we hear that one of her contemporaries, Nelson Mandela, is seriously ill in hospital.  Mandela can be assured of his place in history and I am sure in centuries to come, his will be one of the few names of 20th century that historians will look back on. I remember going to a Labour Party Conference in Brighton in 2000, when Mandela was a guest of honour and when he entered the conference hall the atmosphere was electric. It was one of those occasions which made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up; a truly remarkable and inspiring man.

My Week
  • Seminar at HQ with the new members of the Fire Authority to talk through their roles and responsibilities; we also agreed the arrangements for the various Panels that meet in between the full Authority meetings and which drive the day-to-day business. Membership is determined by political proportionality, so whilst the Chairman is a member of UKIP and the Vice-Chair is from the Green Party, the largest political representation on the Panels is the Conservative Party.

  • Met up with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NHS Blood & Transplant to see how we could share mentoring and coaching arrangements. The Fire Rescue Service (FRS) has also been offered a number of free places on action Learning Sets and Leadership Masterclasses, which will be extremely beneficial in supporting the development of FRS leaders.

  • Meeting with Principal Officers to discuss the tenders for the building and refurbishment of the new Sussex Control Centre. It is hoped that the costs which are shared equally with West Sussex Fire Rescue Service (WSFRS) can be agreed this week, so that the contract can be approved and a start can be made on the building.
  • Spent some time with another Fire Authority on their arrangements for the appointment of a new Chief Fire Officer (CFO). FRSs often work together on senior appointments as part of the selection processes, to share good practice and to provide professional expertise in operational command assessments.

  • Spent part of the weekend liaising with Members of the Fire Authority and preparing a briefing paper for an Urgency Panel meeting. Also discussed the current consultations on the proposed staffing arrangements for the new Sussex Control Centre with other Principal Officers and will be briefing the Fire Authority on its progress.

  • A very busy Monday at HQ with a series of meetings to catch up on training, the Sussex Resilience Forum and arrangements for joint training with police and ambulance services. A great deal of progress has been made on the Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Programme and we have now created a common understanding of incident command arrangements to improve how we work together at major incidents

  • Discussed with the CEO of the county council, the proposals for local authorities in a particular area to pool part of their budgets in specific initiatives to improve community well-being. East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service (ESFRS) is keen to be engaged in this work to support our work with vulnerable people.

  • Discussed the option for ESFRS to set aside a part of our reserves for joint funding sprinkler systems in high risk domestic premises. Derbyshire FRS announced earlier this year that they had agreed with their local authorities to jointly fund the installation of sprinkler systems in specific premises and our Fire Authority is keen to see whether we can do something similar in East Sussex and Brighton & Hove.

  •   Met to discuss the tenders for the building project at Haywards Heath; we hope to be able to award the contract in the next few weeks and begin the build and refurbishment for our new Sussex Control Centre.

  • Last minute catch up on emails and other correspondence after reading a report this week about how much time people spend writing and reading emails and also attending meetings. Research shows that the majority of us get annoyed by an "all persons copied in" email and also by emails from work colleagues who could simply walk across and speak rather than taking what is seen as the lazy option; it's all too easy to hit the send button. Also researchers found that many meetings had little purpose or structure; we can all do our bit in ESFRS, by only sending emails to those who need to know, speaking face to face and ensure if you are the one calling the meeting, then it is absolutely necessary and to the point, and if you attend, then you contribute.

Good luck to firefighter Ben Melton who will be competing in a European triathlon competition in Alanya, Turkey, over the weekend.  Ben has been training hard for the event and will be competing in extremely difficult conditions.

Very sad to hear that Derek Stevens who served for many years at Preston Circus, sadly passed away earlier this week after bravely battling against cancer. Derek was a very popular member of our team here in ESFRS and will be missed by his many friends and colleagues. I have sent a message of condolence to Derek's wife and family on behalf of everyone in the Service.

Firefighters from the City supported by the Technical Rescue Unit (TRU) from Lewes were called out when the roof of a Victorian house collapsed in Brighton on 10th June.  Crews quickly rescued a woman from the upper floor by ladder, and then worked for several hours to search the whole of the building in case other people were trapped.  Group Commander Richard Fowler was interviewed by BBC South East and BBC Sussex, who gave an account of the difficulties firefighters had experienced at the scene and how they had worked through the building searching for casualties. 

Four fire appliances from Roedean, Preston Circus and Hove were called to Falcon Court, after a fire started in the second floor lobby area. The Control Unit from Lewes also attended the scene with crews wearing breathing apparatus  and using hose reels to tackle the fire before leading the residents to safety.  Area Commander Mark Matthews was interviewed by BBC Sussex providing a warning to local residents of the potential fire hazard warning caused by uncollected rubbish as a result of industrial action by council refuse workers.  Mark provided advice asking local people and businesses to store rubbish responsibly, to ensure access for emergency vehicles was always maintained and that fire exits are always kept clear.

Finally an invitation to staff - I am now on annual leave and hoping to watch some rugby and therefore this blog will be briefer than usual, so would anyone like to take the opportunity to contribute as a "guest Blogger" for the 21st June and 28th June editions? If so, just email me a paragraph on what you would want to say in a blog and I will try and build a "collective guest blog" for the next two weeks.