Friday, 13 September 2013

Chief Fire Officer's blog 13 September 2013

Some good news on the job front with Jaguar LandRover going from strength to strength, with the announcement of 1700 new jobs and another 7000 in the supply chain in the West Midlands.  Jaguar LandRover is a great example of how an industry can transform and become a world beater; the UK car industry once one of our biggest employers, failed to adopt new working practices and was steam-rolled by overseas competitors; Jaguar were a perfect example and nearly went bust, but now under the ownership of the Indian Tata Group they are leading the way and good luck to them and the staff who have been prepared to embrace new working practices and are securing their employment. 

And what about High Speed2, is this a complete waste of public money or will it provide a boost to the economy and provide the infrastructure we need for the 21st century? Well a report out this week suggests it will generate £15 billion per year to the economy, and of course will generate thousands of new jobs in the construction and engineering industries; but there is still a lot of opposition, particularly from those who believe it will cause environmental damage.  I tend to be in favour, as much of our infrastructure is still based on the vision of the Victorians and has suffered from decades of underinvestment from successive Governments, but I just wish Government doesn't forget the South Coast; our rail network needs investment now as it is one of the busiest parts of the railway and yet it is a nonsense that it takes so long to get to London from Hastings, Eastbourne and Brighton. So my first campaign would be to get immediate improvement on the South Coast railway network before we spend any money on HS2.

My week.

*. went to the Firefighters Memorial Service in London a truly wonderful and always moving occasion; thanks to Neil Walter who carried the Service Standard with many others alongside the Pipe & Drum Band from Devon & Somerset FRS and the Colour Party from Staffordshire FRS; laid wreaths at the Memorial with the Wembridge family and the Kent family and laid a wreath on behalf of the Wicker family; the Memorial is adjacent to St Paul's and if you are ever in London it is always worth a visit; also accompanied Cllr. Stephanie Powell who also laid a wreath on behalf of her aunt who was a firewoman in the Second World War and was killed in a bombing raid.  Cllr Sheppard also attended on behalf of the Fire Authority. This week we also remembered our 343 fallen colleagues in the Fire Department of New York who lost their lives in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre 12 years ago; we should never forget their sacrifice nor the loss of 2996 lives in the attack on the USA on 11th September 2001.

*. meeting in London to plan the Cross Sector Leadership Programme for 2014 where the theme will be Public Value.  We are now getting the Voluntary Sector involved alongside FRS, Police and the NHS and also local government and the Civil Service which should really benefit the development of future public sector leaders

*. was invited to speak at the Fire Service College to a group of Officers from another FRS who were training over the weekend; a really useful opportunity and good to meet up with staff from other Services

*. meeting with PO team to discuss our contingency planning and resilience arrangements in preparation for a strike and also discussed the major problem with have had with our IT system; this has been extremely challenging for the IMD team who have been working all hours to rectify what is one of the biggest problems we have ever had; thanks to all staff for bearing with the difficulties you have had doing your work and thanks to the IMD team who have pulled out all the stops to find a solution

*. discussion with Surrey and West Sussex FRS on a proposal put forward by Surrey County Council along with the Police and FRS to work with Sussex Police, SECAmb and East and West Sussex FRS on a major collaborative project that could result in much closer working in a range of areas in coming years; Government Ministers are very keen to encourage this type of working and so we will be included in the discussion to see what could be achievable in coming years

*. attended a meeting at the FSC which was the first Customer Board meeting under the new College privatisation arrangements; I was asked to Chair the meeting with reps from local, central and devolved government and a number of other people who all have a stake in training and development at the College

*. met with Warwick Business School to discuss the Executive Leadership Programme for 2014 and any changes to the content; this programme is now in its 6th year and is proving really beneficial for senior FRS leaders with a number or students having subsequently been promoted to CFO, DCFO and ACFO posts

*. early meeting with the Chairman before the full Fire Authority meeting at HQ; there were a number of reports on the performance of ESFRS with Councillors considering options to meet our savings targets over the next 5 years, an update on the Sussex Control Project and the business continuity plans for the impending strike action notified to the Authority by the FBU

*. meeting with Red Watch at Stn 05 and a great opportunity to speak with the watch about a range of issues; slightly delayed as crew were called out to kitchen fire in Saltdean

Crews from Bexhill and Battle responded to an incident in Bexhill to assist the Coastguard after a women became stuck in mud on the beach; firefighters arrived to find that the incoming tide was now up to the casualty's waist, but worked to free the woman from the mud and remove her to safety and to the care of SECAmb paramedics.  Station Commander Bexhill, Scott Hartnoll said "We would like to take this opportunity to remind people that whilst walking on the beach during low water, there could be soft areas of mud and sand, which could cause you to become trapped."

Last Friday crews from Hastings pitched up outside the Morrisons store in the town to carry out a chip pan fire demonstration and to promote the benefits of using frozen oven chips, as opposed to frying.  Crews have out fire  safety advice and frozen chips donated by the store and despite the rain the event  was hailed a huge success and allowed firefighters to meet with around 100 people, including some of the most vulnerable members of the community, in the hope of reducing the number of kitchen fires in the town and this Saturday the crews will be out in Warrior Square with the chip pan demonstration unit  providing advice to local residents and to try and reduce the number of accidental dwelling fires in St. Leonards where over two thirds of the fires are cooking related.

The heavy rain earlier this week resulted in a number of weather related emergencies with crews from the City called out 3 times in the space of half an hour; a lightning strike triggered a burglar alarm at a premises in Court Farm Road, with the specialist alarm that had been installed at the premises filling the whole property with smoke after it had actuated; the alarm is designed to set off cosmetic smoke to deter intruders from entering the property. Crews from Hove were called out to a kitchen fire in Portslade; swift action by firefighters ensured the fire was quickly extinguished, although one person required hospital treatment.

ESFRS have recently advised householders of the importance of having adequate home insurance after a number of fires where the occupies have not had building or contents insurance; we recognise the difficult economic times and the financial choices people have to make, but the recent spate of fires have shown how the effects of fire can have long term impacts for householders and their families if they do not have home insurance.

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