Friday, 27 September 2013

Chief Fire Officer's blog 27 September

I would imagine that most people in East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service were extremely disappointed to find ourselves involved in national strike action this week, the first national strike in nearly 11 years.  As I mentioned last week, I sincerely hope this matter (a dispute between the Fire Brigades Union and the Government) is resolved very quickly. I must pay a compliment to everyone who ensured we were able to provide an emergency response service during the strike period on Wednesday and I am very pleased we are now back to our normal working arrangements and our firefighters are doing the job that they do very well.  For my part, it was the first time I have worn a breathing apparatus (BA) set at a working job for many years and the very first time I have used CAFS (foam) at a working job; and how well the CAFS worked, although the road closure on the A23 would not have been popular with the commuter traffic! (You can find out more below.)

On the wider stage, I would want to extend our sympathies to those caught up in the terrible atrocity in Kenya. It is difficult to say much about such a brutal act with so many innocent people losing their lives and we should pay a tribute to the Kenyan emergency services, particularly the hospitals who had to cope with such a scene. 

This week marks a major anniversary, it being the 40th birthday of the legendary Wigan Casino; as a southern fan of northern soul I spent a few weekends at the Torch in Tunstall and the Catacombs in Wolverhampton in addition to a visit to the famous venue in Wigan, once the most famous nightclub in the world, knocking Studio 54 in New York off the top spot.  My favourite venue (as it was a lot nearer) was the California in Dunstable where they had some fabulous soul bands and we had some great nights, but the northern clubs did rock and fair play to the Wigan Casino, it was just about the best around. Other great venues included the Rum Runner in Birmingham although that was a bit later, but you can't beat northern soul if you want music to dance to!

My week:

* interview with BBC South East where they asked about pensions, industrial action and our contingency plans; Chairman Cllr. Phil Howson is leading on behalf of the Fire Authority, calling on us all to look out for older and vulnerable members of the community and to make sure they are not at risk from fire (Read more in our press release page). I also did a TV interview with Meridian who wanted to know about our contingency plans, how many pumps we had on the run and what we would do if we had a major incident. It was interesting chatting to the cameraman afterwards as our media companies are cutting back on staff, a few years ago you would have a cameraman and a reporter and sometimes an assistant, but in 2013 it's a one person show operating the camera and doing the interview. Th BBC had a reporter operating the camera and Meridian had a cameraman also doing the interview; changing work practices everywhere!

*. early start on Wednesday as I had a number of radio interviews to do and then off to the City to meet up with the contingency crews to cover the industrial action. After detailing our roles we checked the appliance and then did a few drills and prepared for whatever was to come.  This included a standby to Lewes and just before we were due to stand down we got an over-the-border call to a bus on fire on the A23 near Pyecombe, which is on West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service’s ground.  When we arrived the bus was almost fully involved in fire; I was one of the BA crew and we got a CAFS jet off, the bus was going well so we got a second CAFS jet to work and managed to extinguish the fire before any damage was caused to the road surface, although the bus was pretty much gutted. WSFRS crews backed us up with hosereels but the CAFS was really effective. After we had done our work and cleaned up the road, the Police were able to open one lane as the traffic had become a real problem.

*. Spoke with the Chief Constable about a range of issues including opportunities to share sites, how Sussex Police are working more closely with Surrey Police and if this is a model we could learn from and then looking more medium term, at the options for Fire, Police and Ambulance Services working together across the whole of the South East region

*. went up to STC to see our 'Old Friends', these are retired ESFRS staff and we meet about 4 times a year which is a great opportunity to catch up, share stories and look at old photos; Guy Bowers has put together a fantastic collection of photos which tell the story of ESFRS including the old county borough brigades and ESFB over many decades; fantastic photos of old rescues, hook ladders, wheeled escaped, proto-sets and even some horse drawn appliances; thanks to STC, M&CC staff and the Battle rope rescue crew for helping out the Officers who organised a great day out

*. dropped in at Stn 12 to have a chat with the duty crew and CFS staff, have a cup of tea and a general catch-up

*. meeting at Royal Sussex Hospital with Chief Execs from across Sussex to talk about safeguarding and child exploitation issues. Sussex Police gave a presentation about a recent criminal case in Oxfordshire and the lessons for all of us across Sussex as to our role and responsibilities and how each of our Services can help protect vulnerable people and in particular children;

*. CMT meeting, long day until 7.00pm lots to discuss with a presentation about our future IMD Strategy and how we need to prepare now for the future, also the capital asset strategy which caused much discussion and then onto our future funding provisions; there is a lot going on at the moment as we prepare reports for the Fire Authority to consider over the next few months

*. I went down to Eastleigh for the funeral of a very dear friend, who was in her early 50s but struck down by that terrible disease, breast cancer; we wore our 'Pink with Pride', sadly I have lost some very dear and close friends from breast cancer and it is a charity that I will always do my very best to support; if you do get the opportunity, please donate to cancer research

*. was invited to a meeting at the University of Bath to discuss knowledge exchange and how the University wanted to work with private and public sector organisations using the academic research facilities at the University to support projects initiated through the private and public sector; we are already involved in a collaborative project with world leading researchers from the University's physical fitness and occupational medical research teams and would want to look at how we can draw down funding for further research.

* visit to Mayfield on Monday evening to have a chat with the crews who told me a rather amusing story about when the carnival came to a close, but - for those that know him - I'll leave Neil Walter to elaborate!  They were all a bit worn out having been up most of the night at a fire.

* went to see the crews at Stn 14 who had the appliance out in Mayfield High Street as a warm up for the street carnival later in the day. The firefighters proved to be a hit with many people stopping to have a chat and thanks to our local volunteer Trevor Green for supporting the day. I had a walk through the village and came across the local W.C. which must have one of the most stunning views in East Sussex looking across the down to Broad Oak; a definite entry for the loo-with-a-view awards!!!

Earlier this week a call was received by the ambulance service requesting assistance at an incident in St. Leonards, where crews from Bohemia Road responded to assist at an incident where a female casualty had fallen 5ft into a basement storage area.

Firefighters from Hove, Preston Circus and Roedean along with the Control Unit from Lewes responded to the fire on the fourth floor of a nine-storey building with the initial call indicating the need to put into place high rise procedures.  Crews using CAFS and a hose reel jet responded to a fire at a property in Marchants Drive and found a two storey building well alight, with further crews wearing BA checking adjoining building to see whether the fire had spread and caused further damage.

Firefighters from Crowborough and Wadhurst were mobilised to the scene of a road traffic collision involving a car and an oil tanker at Bells Yew Green, having to cut one person free from the wreckage.

A fire investigation took place following a fire at The Old Polegate Station Restaurant in Polegate with crews from Hailsham and Eastbourne using hose reel jets to tackle a fire at the two storey building. The cause was found to be accidental.

This Saturday please come and support firefighters from Heathfield who will be running out over 26 miles of hose in a charity fund raising effort.  They have been training hard but would welcome your support and encouragement and also appreciate if you could run our a few lengths for them!

And if you have any spare time after that, don’t forget that ESFRS will be taking part in the ‘World’s Biggest Coffee Morning’ in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support on Monday.  Pip Budd would welcome donations of any baked or bought goods or even a spare pair of hands on the day!

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