Friday, 23 August 2013

23 August 2013

I managed to see a bit of Eastbourne Airbourne on Friday, a bonus of our HQ building is the great view we get of the planes flying overhead and as always, I was mightily impressed by the Red Arrows. These pilots are simply the best and I just had the vision of Top Gun where Maverick and Iceman are hurtling through the skies in their F14s, in what must be most peoples’ dream but only a very few ever get close.  But the Red Arrow pilots live that dream and they are just magnificent with split second precision and timing and certainly thrilled the crowds; blue sunny skies over Eastbourne with the Red Arrows screaming overhead, what a cool way to spend your afternoon tea-break!  As for Tom Cruise, he definitely gets some great movie roles and does a lot of his own stunts, apart from flying an F14. 

But whilst Tom Cruise thinks flying is fun, he should come down and spend a day with White Watch at Preston Circus; their Watch Commander Richard Chamberlain invited me to spend a day with the watch as a firefighter. I rode the Echo pump as No5; met up with Hannah and Murray, the members of our crew and after checking our Breathing Apparatus (BA) sets, all the equipment and then a crash course in how to operate the main pump and how to get the Compressed Air Foam Systems (CAFS) to work, there was no time for a quick cup of tea as it was straight into fitness assessments and under the watchful eye of Ben, we had to take the treadmill test.  The other crew members all passed with ease, so no pressure on me as I took my turn; fortunately I managed to pass although there was quite a bit of sweat and hard breathing!!!

The first shout of the day with the Whiskey responding to an AFA, and then time for a quick cuppa before a BA exercise; great fun but also served as a good reminder just what our firefighters do every day; another shout with the Whiskey and aerial ladder platform (ALP) called out to a Make 3 with Hove and then lunch; there are some good cooks on fire stations with a cracking, healthy meal!!! Another shout, this time the Echo went to a lock out and then a home safety visit to a care home; back to the station for a debrief and I have to say it was a very worthwhile experience for me to get out and work with a watch for a day. 

But outside work I am overjoyed that the football season is back and I have a real purpose for my weekends! But I am really concerned that with only one game played, tensions and stresses are already evident amongst our staff (well Arsenal supporters); I met Steve Brown our procurement manager on Monday morning and he didn't look well as it’s all doom and gloom at the Emirates Stadium. Can I ask you to sensitively try and find out if there are any Gooners fans on your fire stations or departments and keep an eye out for them as part of our colleague support, they will need a lot of TLC over the coming months, despite one good night in Turkey!!! 

Good luck to all those teenagers who got their GSCE results on Thursday; the older generation are always going on about how "exams were harder in our day", but I don't think that's the case. I have seen many young people in schools and universities and I know they put in a huge amount of work to get top results, so give them credit for their achievements and well done to all of those who have achieved in their GSCEs and good luck for the future.

Not so good news following a report this week, that one of our most famous resorts, Hastings is the fourth most deprived coastal town in the country behind Skegness, Blackpool and Clacton. The ONS report discussed how seaside towns have suffered from a lack of investment, ageing populations and cheap foreign travel; a pity they didn't look at the fish and chips because you can get some of the best in the country in Hastings and the Old Town is pretty cool and trendy with some great little cafes and bars.  We have the best fire station security system in the country at Bohemia Road as well as some of the finest countryside down towards Fairlight.  Hastings was a regular summer visit for me and my son Ben when he was younger where we went on the funicular railway, played around in the country park and visited Rock a Nore.  Now with the Jerwood Gallery and the pier due to be restored to its former glory, the town has much to look forward to.

My week

*. went to visit the new Sussex Control Centre in Haywards Heath and was very impressed with how the building work is coming along. This should be a really good facility with plenty of space for our mobilising staff, as well as having a major incident room and some shared facilities with the firefighters; Haywards Heath was originally Station 16 in the pre-1974 East Sussex Fire Brigade so in many ways we're returning home.

*. attended the Open day at Station 6 Newhaven; the station was packed out with scores of local people and the firefighters had put on a great range of activities; the crews take it in turns to organise the event and this year it was the turn of the RDS crews; they did a fantastic job with support from colleagues and although the event was interrupted by two fire calls, there were plenty of people on hand to keep the show on the road - ACFO Ferrand even found time to pick up some tips on practical pump operation!!!

*. went out on a 6 pump make-up in the City that eventually went to 8 pumps.  A difficult job for the initial BA crews with a number of people unaccounted for but the firefighters did a great job and confined the fire to the lower floors; a lot of BA wearers needed to search a complex building and then decontaminate equipment afterwards; all in all a good job by those involved.

*. met with our Investors in People Assessor to discuss his visit to ESFRS; he was very complimentary of all the staff he had met during his visit and to our staff who had helped prepare for the visit; lots of good work going on and also a number of areas for CMT to consider including ensuring our communication strategy is effective. We now await a final report for our further consideration.

*. met with the PO team to review our contingency planning arrangements; a huge amount of work had taken place to ensure we have fire cover across the City and County in the event of strike action and we will continue to look at how we can improve the fire cover we have available to provide a response to local communities; currently we are visiting stations to update staff on the contingency plan

*. visit to Heathfield Station to see the crew along with Mayfield; were we discussed contingency planning arrangements to make firefighters aware of what plans we are putting in place in case of any strike; other members of CMT have also been out this week speaking to our RDS and some day-crewed staff and next week we will brief wholetime staff.

* met with the Chair of the Sussex Business Leaders Forum to talk about how ESFRS can support local business and business development; also discussed training and development for leaders and any opportunities for work exchanges and placements.

*. meeting with the Treasurer as part of our regular monitoring of the revenue and capital spend; we will be reporting our spend profile to the Fire Authority next month and have identified some areas for in-year savings which should offset our future savings target.

*. met up with Red Watch at Preston Circus and we had a good chat about pensions, future service proposals and what cuts we may need to make, and we also talked about our contingency arrangements. The watch were very engaging and spoke passionately about their concerns but they also recognised the reality of the situation we are facing.

* series of meetings at HQ with Treasurer, IMD, HR  just to catch up on business and then a telephone conference with other CFOs to discuss national resilience issues and a number of recent government consultation documents.

* met with the Chairman to catch up on Fire Authority business as there are a number of key issues for our politicians to consider; we also discussed the new Sussex Control Centre, collaboration with other Authorities and future opportunities for our HQ.

This week crews from Hove and Preston Circus responded to an incident at Lansdowne Place, Hove, where they found fire had spread through the wall cavity and three floors. Firefighters used two hose reels and CAFS to extinguish the fire, using a snake eye camera to track the spread of fire in the wall cavities.  Firefighters from Bohemia Road and The Ridge, Hastings, responded to a kitchen fire in St Leonards using four breathing apparatus and hose reel jets to contain the fire. 

There has been a spate of gorse fires in the Hastings area with incidents in the Country Park, North's Seat, The Firehills and Tackleway.  Crews have been urging local residents to be careful and vigilant and to immediately report any incidents of fire to ESFRS.

Sussex Police requested assistance from ESFRS after reports of an aggressive dog at a property in Brighton; crews using an extension ladder rescued two people including the dog's owner from the property.

Firefighters from the City stations responded to a serious incident in Ship Street, Brighton during Saturday lunchtime when a fire was reported at a disused property in Ship Street; crews found a number of squatters still in the property, eventually rescuing six people; in total eight appliances and an ALP responded to the incident.

This Saturday, Preston Circus throws open its doors for its annual open day; staff are hoping to put on a fun day for all the family with displays, demonstrations and a chance to meet with the local firefighters; everyone is welcome so come along to what should be a great day out.

Not to be outdone by their City colleagues, Heathfield  Community Fire station will open their doors to visitors on Bank Holiday Monday in conjunction with ‘Le Marche’ Heathfield’s famous Anglo/French market. Lots of fantastic, exciting displays and demonstrations are planned throughout the day. Engineering Equipment Officer, Alan Summerfield said: “This family event will be a great opportunity to meet the firefighters. There will be fire engine rides for the children and younger adults, vintage along with new fire engines and fire safety advice. 

Burwash Community Fire Station will also be holding their Open Day on Monday with local families invited to come and meet their local firefighters and find out more about what’s involved in modern day firefighting and extrication techniques. 

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