Friday, 26 July 2013

26 July 2013

I am sure everyone was deeply saddened to hear the news about the train crash in Spain and I would like to offer our deepest condolences to everyone affected by that terrible event. It must have been an awful scene for the survivors and the emergency responders and we can only hope that the number of fatalities does not rise any further.  

Whilst the UK media has covered this tragedy, it has undoubtedly been dominated with the news of a 'Royal Baby' this week. Our congratulations go to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of their son George Alexander Louis.

The 'Royal birth' also dominated the front pages in Canada and Australia with what was described as wall to wall coverage in the USA, with China, France, Germany and many other countries carrying the story on their front pages.  Whilst there has been much debate over the years in the UK about the Monarchy, many other countries greatly admire our Royal Family and whilst I am still a little surprised that both Canada and Australia have not taken the decision to become a Republic, a number of my Canadian and Aussie friends are firmly of the view that although we are separated by thousands of miles and a different language, they much prefer to have Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State rather than the alternatives that have been suggested. At least for my Aussie mates, the Royal baby is something to celebrate with a VB (Victoria Bitter) or bottle of Penfolds Grange as their sporting fortunes continue to plummet whilst the UK goes from strength to strength. 

It seems as if the spirit of Olympic success continues to burn brightly with Justin Rose winning the US Golf Open Championship, Andy Murray's brilliant effort at Wimbledon, the British & Irish Lions completely dominating the Wallabies and the England Cricket Team simply running away with the Ashes.  And last weekend, Chris Froome became the second British winner of the Tour de France, so lots to be proud of.  Our nation is one that does have its difficulties and challenges but I believe we do have a spirit of tenacity, perseverance and a willingness and determination to make things better. 

And where this is much more tangible is here in ESFRS; last Friday we had our Ceremony where firefighters, support staff and M&CC personnel received Long Service and Good Conduct Medals, the East Sussex Medal, CFO Commendations and the Chairman's Award for Excellence.  An evening to celebrate, especially for those receiving awards and my thanks to the Lord Lieutenant for presenting the LSGC Medal.  It was also a great evening for the families and friends of those who came up to receive their awards; I saw delighted children as their mum or dad went up to receive their medal, to warm applause from the audience and I saw proud wives, husbands and partners and some very proud parents with beaming smiles as the Awards were made.  An evening of celebration and a real privilege for me to be there; lots of work went on behind the scenes with many staff involved in organising, preparing for and cleaning up after the event; we do have much to be proud of in ESFRS with many great staff showing their support, even when I have to convey difficult messages.

Another good thing about the UK, isn't the weather just fantastic!!!  One thing that is not considered so fantastic though is the management of major Government procurement and IT projects. Whilst I am not qualified to comment with any intimate knowledge, the Public Accounts Committee this week said that the Regional Control Centres which were cancelled in 2010, was as reported in the Times, one of the "worst cases of project failure" ever seen, wasting at least £482 million. The result of this cancelled project led to the decision for ESFRS and our neighbours in West Sussex to move to a joint Sussex Control Centre and in the light of Sir Ken Knight's 'Efficiency Review' one may ask the question, why, particularly in light of the further savings we have to make, do we not now move to combine our two Fire and Rescue Services?

My week

*. couldn't have started better with the Awards Ceremony; great to see some old friends and colleagues and two of our recent Chairmen, Mike Murphy and Ted Kemble along with the new High Sheriff Graham Peters

*. went across to the Hailsham Open Day - must improve my timing for next year!!

*. met with the PO Team to discuss our preparations in case of any industrial action; whilst I recognise this is a sensitive issue, I have a responsibility to have plans in place to provide an operational response in the event of any strike action taking place

*. telephone discussion with the CSE Assessor who visited ESFRS last week where he updated me on the meetings he had with various staff groups and the issues that were raised with him; we look forward to receiving his final report and any recommendation which we will action

*. visited Preston Circus to meet with Blue and Green Watches; a useful opportunity to meet with staff and discuss our current financial situation and then savings we are going to have to make over the medium term, also discussed outline proposals for refurbishment and renovation of the station and plans being discussed with the Duke of York Cinema; I believe it is very important to meet with staff and talk with them face to face and to discuss the issues being faced by the Service

*.  a day of appraisals, firstly with two of my team and then I had my appraisal with the Chairman, where we discussed the objectives I would be expected to deliver this year and how I would continue to provide leadership to ESFRS and work to support the Fire Authority.

*. telephone conference with colleagues for other FRSs to discuss our response to the efficiency review, correspondence with the TUC regarding their protocol for trade unions providing basic emergency response during industrial action and collaboration with the Emergency Ambulance Service and Police

* meeting with the Chairman to discuss future collaboration with Sussex Police, how we can share services and buildings and proposals from Surrey to discuss closer working with their County Council, Police Force and FRS; this is very much in the planning stage and we will know more following the Chairman's meeting with the Police & Crime Commissioner

* attended a meeting of the new Fire Service College Management Board which will determine the future direction of the College and the development of new business; I have also been asked to Chair the College Customer Advisory Board which includes representatives from Police, Health, Risk Critical Industries and well as local and national government reps, should be interesting!!!

* seminar for the Fire Authority at HQ including presentations on our work with vulnerable communities, an opportunity to see the new ARP at Eastbourne and an update on the progress of the Sussex Control Centre; builders are now on site and have started their refurbishment programme.

This week was another busy one for the Service with crews from Eastbourne supported by the TRU from Lewes being called out to rescue an elderly male who was injured after a lift fell from first floor to ground floor level at a care home in Denton Road.  Firefighters from Bohemia Rd and The Ridge were called out to an RTC involving three cars on Harley Shute Road; two people were released prior to the arrival of the Fire Service, with one casualty being extricated by crews and transferred to hospital by Ambulance.

On Monday afternoon, firefighters were responded to a Special Services incident after a teenager became trapped by their hand at premises on Seaside; crews dealt with what could have been a difficult incident with great care, before passing the casualty over to Ambulance personnel for further treatment.  City crews have been to a variety of incidents including being called out to rescue a cat that had become trapped on the roof of a premises in Terminus Rd, using the ALP to access the building to free our 'furry friend'.

Seaford  crews may have been expecting an animal related incident when they were called out to Drusilla's Zoo but found themselves responding to release a small child who had become locked inside a car; with temperatures rising crews quickly gained access and released the two year old girl.  Two events this weekend, with Open Days at Pevensey and Broad Oak; these will be great events with two very proactive OICs and Station personnel determined to put on a show for their local communities; I am away this weekend so will not be at either of these events, but they will be worth a visit;  Chris Freeman will always have a surprise or two up his sleeve at Pevensey and Chris Sands and his crews put on a fabulous event on the playing fields with some of the best hotdogs and burgers in the County, and you may get a chance to see George O'Reilly 'twirl his baton'.  In my absence there is a chance for someone else to win the horseshoe tossing, a trophy I have won a number of times over the past few years, but in the words of Arnie "I'll be back"!!!

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