Friday, 6 September 2013

6 September 2013

This week saw the funeral service for Firefighter Stephen Hunt of Greater Manchester FRS; ACO Cheryl Rolph represented ESFRS along with Firefighter Andrew Petch and Watch Commander Neil Walter who carried the Service Standard; our thoughts are with Stephen's family.

On another sad note, we lost one of this country's most well-known TV personalities and interviewer of the famous, David Frost, whose most iconic moment came when interviewing Richard Nixon.  An extraordinary talent, Frost was able to get beneath the veneer of many of those who he interviewed and bring us some of the most interesting and informative TV of the past 30 years.

Just got back from a long weekend away with my son, a bit of 'bonding' before he goes away to Central and South America to get involved in some charitable projects - we had a great time in Prague (apart from a little disappointment over football) and saw the Prague '999 day' with their equivalent of Sussex Safer Roads Partnership.  They were demonstrating the dangers of not wearing seatbelts using a simulator very similar to the one we use, but they also had a 'rollover' simulator which we had to try; what a great bit of kit as it clearly lets you feel what it's like to be in a car that rolls over a couple of times; I'll suggest to the SSRP that they get one.

I tried to use the latest social media 'Vine' to capture the experience but nearly lost my phone when the car rolled!!! If you haven't got into 'Vine' yet, it’s a great free app. We also saw the Prague firefighters showing local kids around their appliance, a Mercedes and I had to have a look; there's no doubt it was well equipped but nothing as comprehensive as our Echo appliances and their firekit was similar to the Nomex PPE we used to wear.

Prague seemed to me to be in the style of many other mainland European capitals and illustrated to me some of the differences between our neighbouring European countries and the UK.  Whilst there is nothing at all wrong with that, it perhaps goes someway to explaining why we can be at odds with others in the EC on some issues.  

Staying with an international theme, earlier this week the BBC reported Vodafone were selling their stake in a U.S. telecoms group for £84 billion, yes £84 billion pounds. Founded in Berkshire and with its HQ based in London, you might expect it would be liable for UK tax. But as the US business is owned by a Dutch holding company, it's paying $5 billion in the US instead.  I would have to pay capital gains tax here if I sold an asset, the question is why is Vodafone treated differently?  

My week: 

  • Spoke with Chief Executives and senior officers of other local authorities and services in County and City to update them on the national industrial dispute with the Fire Brigades Union and also wrote to our local MPs; continuing discussion with the Fire Authority about local arrangements and they will be liaising with the national employers representatives.
  • Went for a lovely breakfast at Station 11 which was Crew Commander Bob Newton's last night shift with his watch after more than 40 years in East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service; Bob will be retiring after a long and distinguished career and he will be much missed by his many friends and colleagues and also the local community he has spent a lifetime serving
  • Discussed the latest proposals for Newhaven. We bought a site for potential redevelopment last year. Since this time we have been talking to partners to discuss the possibility of a multi-agency build. The Fire Authority are keen to work with others and ESFRS will continue to look at all options although to answer questions recently raised during station visits, the likelihood of a merger with West Sussex FRS seems extremely remote.
  • Finally put together the agenda for the CFA Conference in Bedfordshire next month; East Sussex FRS are the co-ordinators for the 24 Combined Fire Authorities and arrange meetings with the Chairman from across the country and also with the Fire Minister.

Most of this week has been spent on operational refresher training, compartment fire training using main jets and CAFS, RTC, working at heights, ladders and pumps, water safety and a refresher in general firefighting; also had a session on knots and lines but found out we don't teach this as I remember and when I went to put the chair knot on the short extension ladder for lowering by line underfoot, I was corrected by the team!!!  Water safety at Weir Wood Reservoir was really useful, but I particularly enjoyed the day at STC and got a lot from our training instructors who are really top class.

For a bit of light relief I listened to the football transfers talking place; now I know there are a lot of Arsenal fans in ESFRS and I hope they are not too disappointed to learn that their expected star buy Mesut Ozil has failed his medical and won't be joining the Gunners; apparently he suffered an asthma attack brought on when someone opened the trophy cabinet!!!

This week crews from Heathfield and Uckfield responded to a farm fire in Isfield where a large dung heap of approximately 100 tonnes was well alight; that's a big pile of dung!! Crews had to use the water carrier due to a lack of nearby water supplies and after a lot of hard work on a very warm day, the crews managed to extinguish the fire after about 8 hours.

Eastbourne crews were called out to an RTC in Willingdon Trees involving two vehicles, with firefighters working with SECAmb paramedics to free one person.  

At another RTC near to the Boship Roundabout where two vehicles had collided, crews from Hailsham and Herstmonceux had to tackle a fire in one car where one person was still trapped; in all, three people were rescued by firefighters, assisted by paramedics and police officers, with one person taken to hospital in the air ambulance with the two other casualties taken to hospital by ambulance.

I always like to close on a good note and was very pleased to see that despite the terrible accident in Kent with more than 130 vehicles involved, there were no fatalities; a very traumatic incident for everyone involved and a reminder for road users to always be on their guard when driving; one second of distraction can have enormous implications.