Friday, 19 July 2013

19 July 2013

Sadly, last weekend we learned that Firefighter Stephen Hunt of Greater Manchester FRS had tragically lost his life whilst fighting a fire in a City Centre shop. This news will have touched all of us in ESFRS and the wider Fire & Rescue Service family and I know you will all be thinking of Stephen's family and friends and his colleagues in GMFRS.   Chief Fire Officer Steve McGuirk has said that the family and Stephen's many friends have been touched by the many messages of sympathy. We will do all we can to offer our support and our thoughts and prayers are with those who are grieving at the tragic loss of a firefighter who was simply doing his job.  At the weekend we also heard about the two TA soldiers who died during a training exercise on the Brecon Beacons; our sincere condolences to the families of these two young men who were training to serve our country and yet sadly and tragically lost their lives. 

With that sad news, there was also some light relief to watch the cricket and after the great win over the Aussies in the rugby, it was good to see the England cricket team continuing the winning streak. There were a few controversial decisions, particularly when Stuart Broad was so clearly out but behaved like a kid in the playground when you have jumpers for goalposts and denies his best friend a definite goal by insisting 'it hit the post'.  I'm all for beating the Aussies but can't say I agreed with Broad; he should have walked.  Sports personalities do have a responsibility as they are looked upon as role models and this week we heard that  two of the world's best sprinters had tested positive for banned substances. Sport is so high profile and there are enormous pressures to win, but it can't be at all costs; train clean, work hard, stay focused and you'll get your rewards just like Andy Murray and Bradley Wiggins. Alf Tupper was my boyhood hero and he never needed to take any fancy supplements, he trained on a diet of fish and chips and broke world records on the track!

Another sporting event this week caused controversy but not with regard to the sport itself, but the 'admissions policy'; the Open Golf Tournament is taking place at Muirfield in Scotland, a beautiful links course, but the club is a 'male only' members club.  It strikes me as being very odd that in 2013, a club with the status of Muirfield still has such an outdated policy; many people suggest Muirfield should come into the 21st century and recognise that women are here to stay! I thought this anachronistic and silly rules had been left behind in the last decades of the 20th century. Emmeline Pankhurst was born 155 years ago this week, and in honouring her indomitable spirit, can I suggest to the honourable members at Muirfield that they review their membership criteria!

My week:

·         Went across to Chichester to meet one of the watches in the Chichester Control Room;  the staff have now transferred to East Sussex as part of the arrangements for the new Control Centre and they were very positive about working arrangements.

·         Attended a function where I had the opportunity to speak with the Chief Constable and the Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) where we discussed opportunities for closer working and sharing facilities with Sussex Police. Also met the Chairman and Leader of West Sussex County Council where we discussed the Sussex Control Project and what both Services could do to share facilities and working arrangements.

·         Met with one of the watches at Bexhill where we talked about the new link road, discussions on staffing and proposals for changes to shifts and duty systems, how we were preparing for making further savings and a general chat about the Service. Worthwhile visit as good opportunity to catch up, a welcome cup of tea and quick topography update which provided me with a shortcut to Bohemia Rd.

·         Went to open day at Bohemia Rd; lots going on and good to see Cllrs Phil Scott, Peter Pragnell and Michael Wincott, who were all keen to visit. Rope rescue and road traffic collision (RTC) demos, lots of Community Fire Safety (CFS) activities and fundraising for the Fire Fighters Charity on station. Thanks to staff and volunteers for their support; also the bonus of the very scrummy flapjack and banana and white chocolate bread and then went out to a four pump incident on the seafront where I saw local crews in action and then picked up some fire safety issues in the premises, a busy morning!

·         Visited Crowborough's open day which was part of local event at leisure centre; very large crowds on an extremely hot afternoon and had to deal with a lady who was suffering from the heat and was in a state of near collapse, ably assisted by the Crowborough crew - a lot to put into my Continuous Professional Development (CPD); operations, trauma care and fire safety!

·         Very useful Officers Training day with good updates from Glenn Jones and then an update on Incident Command. Also had a chance to have a quick wear and go through the breathing apparatus (BA) chamber. Good to see the extension for BA classrooms and other training rooms and store is on schedule.  Had a look at one of the four-day refresher courses with a number of Retained Duty System (RDS) firefighters going through their road traffic collision (RTC) training.

·         Went to a meeting of East Sussex County Council and met some of the Fire Authority Members who serve on the County Council. Spoke with the Chairman on his future meeting with the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) and opportunities for further collaboration and sharing of facilities with Sussex Police.

·         Met Heather Wicker and Lesley Wembridge and we went out for a meal and had a chat about family and a general catch up. I always meet Heather and Lesley with Dave Sheppard and Jenny Allen who have been the family liaison officers ever since the Marlie Farm incident. Dave always finds some out of the way place to meet up and this time he excelled himself as we met up in Warbleton; only took me 2 hours and 47 miles from Seaford to find the place.

·         Attended the Firefighters Pensions Committee in London where Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) officials updated the attendees on a number of matters, including the current position with regard to pensions, the analysis they have undertaken on opt-out rates, and the actuaries assessment of future costs based on longevity.

·         Went to a Board meeting where we looked at how we continue to find the resources for the Operational Guidance Programme Board, the annual subscription with Skills for Justice our response to Sir Ken Knight's Efficiency Review and the future development of Fire Service Emergency Cover (FSEC) and a number of Integrated Risk Management Programme (IRMP) issues.

·         Listened in to the telephone conference between the Fire Minister and staff regarding pensions. A number of issues raised by callers and I would hope that those who dialled in found it helpful.

This week crews from the Newhaven based Maritime Team were mobilised to assist the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) after a car had gone over the cliffs near Belle Tout Lighthouse, where one person was believed to still be in the vehicle; firefighters from Bohemia Road, Lewes and Battle were called out to an incident where a person was trapped in a vehicle following a collision on the A21 at Hurst Green. Battle crews freed the casualty and passed her into the care of the SECamb and HEMS team.

The hot weather has seen an increase in risk for fires in the open with six pumps mobilised to a gorse fire at Castle Hill, Newhaven earlier this week. The next day another fire in gorse saw crews called out to an incident near Peacehaven Golf Course. Firefighters worked well at both incidents to limit the extent of the fires and prevent them spreading to properties with Lewes Borough Commander Garry Collins giving out a fire safety message to advise the public of the hazards and how to reduce risk in open areas.

The good weather is expected to continue into the weekend so get along to the Hailsham Open Day on Saturday which is always good fun. Also good luck to everyone taking part in the 'Tunnel to Towers' race from Rotherhithe Tunnel to Canary Wharf, in memory of the 9/11 attack in New York, if you're taking part then hydrate and re-hydrate and I'm sure you'll be fine.

Des Prichard
Chief Fire Officer & Chief Executive
East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service