Friday, 30 August 2013

Chief's blog 30 August 2013

In a week when we have had great Bank Holiday weekend, where the England Cricket Team celebrate their Ashes win and the football season starts to take shape, you can sometimes lose sight of the realities of our world and on Tuesday it was depressing to hear that Parliament was being recalled to discuss the crisis in Syria.

As someone who has lived all his life in the safety and comfort of the United Kingdom, the lives of many millions of people across our globe continue to be blighted by war, famine and dictatorship.  We are a very liberal country and enjoy freedoms much of the world can only dream of; but what can we and should we do when we see what is going on in other parts of the world such as the undoubted atrocities that are taking place in Syria.  Of course, not everything is right in so called 'Western democracies', but sometimes we lose focus and get wrapped up in our own perspective.  I do not envy our Parliament as they face the dilemma of what to do next following Thursday’s MPs vote against military action. We often criticise our politicians and whatever their actions, it will have lasting consequences and will probably divide opinion; I just hope they have all the information needed and are guided by the principles of fairness and justice. The weight of democratic freedoms weighs heavily on their shoulders. 

You will also have heard this week that our Insurers are to appeal the recent High Court decision in the Marlie Farm case, and you will also have seen our press release. I will not dwell any more on this apart from saying my thoughts are very much with Lesley Wembridge and Heather Wicker and their families, as well as those who were injured in the explosion and I hope everything is done to resolve the matter as soon as possible. 

I have also just heard about the result of the Fire Brigades Union ballot for national strike action. No dates have been announced by the FBU. I hope this matter is swiftly resolved, but now have to focus on preparing for every eventuality. I want to reassure you that we have plans in place to keep communities in East Sussex and in Brighton and Hove safe should there be any industrial action.

This week was also the 50th anniversary of one of the most important civil rights speeches of the 20th century when Dr Martin Luther King Jr. spoke on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C and addressed a crowd estimated to be over 250,000.  The address which will be forever known for the very poignant lines - "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character", is particularly relevant in a world where at times there appears to as much inequality and oppression as when Dr. King stood up and delivered an address that should inspire us today to continue his ambitions for fairness and equality for all.

My week:

*. meeting at HQ with a team from Greater Manchester FRS who were visiting a number of our staff who had been closely involved in the Marlie Farm investigation; sadly, GMCFRS lost one of their team, Firefighter Stephen Hunt at a fire in the City Centre a few weeks ago and we have offered to support them as much as we are able - Firefighter Hunt's funeral is next week and ACO Cheryl Rolph along with Neil Walter and Andrew Petch will be attending to pay our respects; our thoughts will be with FF Hunt's family.

* an afternoon in the office catching up with our financial services provider, briefing a group of our politicians on contingency planning arrangements and a telephone conference with a senior officer from another Fire Rescue Service on pension and conditions of service matters; I am keen to cut down travelling by using telephone or video conference and would encourage the use of Skype; I am sure many of us use this or apps like FaceTime in our personal lives and I believe we need to use this technology much more at work as I believe it will deliver business benefits and save money

*. went to Preston Circus Open Day where despite the early morning downpour, the local community were out in force and having a great time; well done to Blue Watch and other staff including the crew from Roedean, who helped out at what was a very busy and entertaining Open Day; good to see Ff Dean Clarke 'overacting' when giving the demonstration in the ALP which the kids loved!!!

*. Burwash firefighters were at the local fete and I went across to see them taking part in one of the highlights of the local village activities during the year; ever popular with everyone who attended. Dave Helmsley and his crew were providing safety advice and also talking to local people about joining the Burwash fighters; Dave and his crew supported by Greg Lee have have put together a fantastic local letter with personal testimonies from crew members about why they joined the RDS; a really excellent local station initiative

*. after Burwash, next stop Heathfield where the station open day coincided with the French market; loads of visitors to the station all day long and the crews put on some great displays culminating in a ladder and pump demo with rescues from the tower and main jets; I noticed however one member of the crew who looked a little out of place and who seemed to want to take over even though he was No. 6, and his control of the main jet was in danger of soaking the rest of the crew!!!  I am sure the OIC will soon sort him out!!!

*. monthly CMT meeting where much of the focus was on the budget and the Sussex Control Project; we also discussed our Corporate Risk Register and contingency plans

*. meeting with the Chairman to catch up on business and to prepare for the Policy & Resources Panel meeting

*. had a meeting with the Fire Authority Group Leaders representing UKIP, Green Party, Conservative, Lib Dems, Labour and Independents where we discussed the authority's approach to strategic planning and their medium term plan; we discussed future direction setting and key outcomes for the authority as well as how they wanted to approach our savings target over the next 5 years and more immediately, how they wanted to deal with any industrial action and the agreed contingency plans

* discussion with the Chief Constable on a range of issues; Sussex Police have had a focus on the fracking demonstrations at Balcombe which have diverted a lot of resources to ensure that demonstrators have the right to lawfully demonstrate whilst keeping the local roads open, maintaining public order and also allowing legitimate businesses to continue their activities; the Chief Constable and his officers have a very difficult balancing act to maintain and I have to say that in my view they are doing an excellent job

This week crews from Bexhill were called to a serious fire at a property in Windsor Road where fire had spread into the roof; supporting pumps from Hastings, The Ridge and Pevensey attended along with the Control Unit from Lewes with firefighters in BA using hosereel jets and CAFS to put out the blaze.  Crews from Crowborough were called out to an incident where a private car came off the road and ran into a fence, with one person trapped; crews worked alongside SECAmb colleagues to free the casualty who was then taken to hospital. 

Firefighters from Bexhill also attended a fatal RTC at Holliers Hill in Bexhill and were able to release a casualty from a car with a further 2 people being treated by ambulance crews at the scene. 

The warm weather continues to see ESFRS responding to fires in the open with firefighters from Battle being called out to a gorse fire along the A21 near Seddlescombe, where crews uses hose reel jets and beaters to bring the fire under control.

This weekend will see the penultimate Open Day of the summer when Bexhill invite the local community to visit their station; the firefighters plan lots of activities and will have CFS staff and volunteers supporting the event; everyone is invited to what should be a fabulous day out.

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