Friday, 29 November 2013

CFO's blog 29 November 2013

As the old joke goes, how many men does it take to change a light bulb or in the case of Heathrow Terminal 5 the £4.2 billion state of the art flagship building, how many men does it take to change 120,000 light bulbs. Well the question remains unanswered, but just to show how even the most well planned projects can be let down by forgetting about the small stuff, Terminal 5 is getting darker by the day as more than 60% of the light bulbs are defective and they haven't been able to change any since the building opened. Why you may ask - well they don't know how to do it.  A job perhaps for Battle and Bexhill's line rescue crew as the Terminal owners are now having to bring in specialist 'high access line workers' as the solution to the problem.  The work is expected to last 4 months, just in time for the lighter evenings when they probably won't need so many lights - I hope they put this out to tender as we may consider putting in a bid!

Interesting report this week on some female RAF recruits suffering stress fractures as they had to overstretch when marching with taller male recruits. Working in teams whether marching, carrying equipment or lifting and shifting requires a co-ordinated and disciplined approach and the Fire & Rescue Service has a long tradition of working in teams, sometimes in difficult situations. It is to the credit of firefighters that we suffer few serious injuries, even though most crews are an eclectic mix in terms of size and weight.  But if you really want to understand teamwork, discipline and working for each other, apart from the naval gun carriage crews, there is one team that stands head and shoulders above the rest and they have been at the top for decades; it is the New Zealand All Blacks Rugby Team, an outstanding example of what teamwork is all about with a character and spirit that just will not accept defeat. For sure there are examples everywhere of high performing teams in all walks of life, but for sheer consistency you will never see better than the All Blacks; their Rugby League cousins weren't far behind this weekend. 

So Ed and Dave are not quite so chummy; a revealing Desert Island Discs on Sunday where the man who wants to be P.M. admitted there is still some making up to do with his big brother, but as the saying goes, "on goes your boot off!!!"

My week:

*. went across to Chichester Cathedral to represent ESFRS at a dinner with the Dean and Chapter to mark the Dean's retirement after 12 years; there have been some fantastic restoration work at the Cathedral and they now have over 600 local community volunteers supporting their work in the community; as we extend and develop our community engagement, we need to see how we can work with different faith groups as they often have excellent connections with vulnerable people

*. prepared a draft for the Chairman on our response to the consultation from DCLG on pensions; we are hopeful that a positive approach will lead to further discussions between DCLG and the FBU to resolve the industrial dispute and allow us to return to normal working

*. met with colleagues at Ashridge Management College on the second module of my coaching course; continuing to get great 'payback' as a number of our staff are now accessing free coaching sessions from other organisations and attending action learning sets and Masterclasses at minimal cost.

*. monthly CMT meeting at HQ where we looked at the future IT strategy, monitoring the budget which is currently predicted for a small underspend, annual review of the Occupational Health Contact and how we receive and disseminate information across the Service; also discussed a draft response to DCLG's pensions consultation and how we can implement training to support the Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Programme known as "JESIP"

*. meeting with the Fire Authority Urgency Panel to discuss progress with the Sussex Control Centre Project. The building work has gone really well and all Members agreed that it is very important that we ensure staff are kept fully informed of developments.

*. briefing with senior managers on service planning, financial savings targets and opportunities to put in place a more effective structure to support middle and senior managers; as we all know, the Service going forward will need to be much leaner to meet the financial challenges and it was really pleasing to see the team willingly accept their leadership responsibilities as part of the transformational change all public services are going through

*. discussion with the Department of Business & Innovation and DCLG on the Working Time Directive and a recent consultation document from the EU. It is expected that proposals for the WTD will have an impact on the FRS and we must ensure our concerns are raised through an impact assessment; it is anticipated we will need to meet again with Commissioner Laslo Andor to discuss issues affecting the FRS both in the UK and in mainland Europe

What about the news that a Brighton icon is up for sale? De Vere's who own the Grand have put the hotel on the market with a price tag of £50 million. The Grand was the scene of the IRA's bombing of Margaret Thatcher and her Government at the Tory Party Conference in 1984 where five people died. East Sussex Fire Brigade were heavily involved in the emergency response. A number of our staff who are still in ESFRS were on the crews who attended the scene. Our next 'Old Friends' meeting in 2014 will be the 30th anniversary of the bombing and will no doubt be talked about.

Crews from Preston Circus responded to an incident where a police officer was trapped following a road traffic collision; firefighters released the casualty who was then taken to hospital by paramedics.  Firefighters from Crowborough and Uckfield were called out to an incident at a property in Queen's Road where they found a fire in the kitchen; crews wearing BA used a CO2 extinguisher to tackle the fire. Crews from Wadhurst supported by firefighters from Kent FRS were called out to a road traffic incident near Frant where one female was trapped in her vehicle following a collision with a tree; crews using hydraulic cutting equipment managed to free the casualty and administered CPR, but despite the very best efforts of firefighters and paramedics, the casualty did not survive her injuries. 

Crews from Preston Circus and Hove were called out to a fire in a flat in Grange Close; the incident was on the second floor with  crews wearing BA, used jets to extinguish the fire.  Battle and Bexhill crews responded to a road traffic incident near Catsfield where one person was trapped in a vehicle; firefighters using hydraulic cutting equipment managed to free the casualty who was then taken to hospital for further treatment.

If you're into pre-Christmas night time sky-gazing, keep your eyes peeled for Comet Ison. Scientists are currently debating whether or not it has survived speeding round the sun, but if it does brighten again, you might be able to spot it during the first two weeks of December. Ison - in ancient mythology - was believed to bring good luck; so those who follow the Green Army or the resurgent Wolves, go and make your wish - and for Seagulls fans, this may be just the time to get down on your knees and wish for a place in the play offs; but even a comet with such mystical powers will not be able to help the Gooners who are more likely to need a box of Kleenex to dry their tears, rather than the silver polish they have had on their shopping list for nearly a decade!  And as for Spurs, well it's the best laugh I've had in weeks!

Finally in an exercise of diplomacy of the highest order, Chelsea demonstrated the art of detente when they played in Basle, on Tuesday, skilfully coming away with a 1-0 loss to ensure that the Swiss were happy, at the same time qualifying for the next round!! Poetry in motion.

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

Friday, 22 November 2013

CFO blog 22 November 2013

Sad to hear that at the end of last week, Grace Jones, Britain's oldest person had passed away at the ripe old age of 113. Grace who was born in the 19th century and was the only person who could remember West Ham or Newcastle ever winning a trophy, was still doing her own shopping until a few weeks ago.  We should celebrate Grace's long and what must have been a fascinating life but according to the Office of National Statistics we are likely to see many more centenarians in the 21st century.  This will be a challenge for all of us in the public services as we seek to meet the expectations of an ageing society; a lot of emphasis is being put into ensuring people remain healthy into their old age and can remain fit and able to enjoy a life expected to be significantly beyond the biblical '3 score years and ten'. 

What a surprise this week when Hull was announced as the 'City of Culture' for 2017, how their fortunes have changed after years of being the butt of jokes. I remember having some great times in Hull, particularly in a pub called the Zoological but known to everyone as the 'Zoo', and also a fantastic rugby tour in the East Riding - so good luck to Hull, home of The Housemartins who morphed into the even better Beautiful South. 

A couple of notable anniversary's this week; firstly the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, a great example of being succinct and the second is the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination. It used to be said that 'everyone knew where they were when they heard the news that Kennedy had been shot' but that's a generational thing, although 50 years on from the event, it still keeps the conspiracy theorist going.

The other 50th celebration is that great TV series Dr Who, compulsive viewing from behind the sofa when I was a kid and still with the best 'bad boys' the Daleks and the Cybermen. TV today just can't compete and as for Strictly, well what can one say, although I need to tread carefully here as I understand it is rather popular with those who have never seen the sunrise over Manor Fields in April or eaten brown trout in Resen!

So what is your preference X Box One or the PlayStation 4? The battle began at midnight on Thursday when X Box launched their latest console - the processing power in what was conceived as a toy to play games on is mind boggling with 1.32 teraflops on processing power. Now this is where it gets silly and the geeks are trying to take over the world with their own language and trying to make the rest of us look stupid; so can anyone tell me what a teraflop is, what does it look like, can I buy one in Poundland or do I have to go to Harrods?  And if a teraflop is so good, why can't the mobile phone companies let East Sussex have one so that we can use our mobiles in the county. 

My week:

* telephone conference with PO team from West Sussex FRS to discuss the new Sussex Control Centre and progress on joint learning and development; the building work at Haywards Heath is now complete and we are extremely impressed with the building. Well done to the contractors for bringing this in on time, within budget and to a high spec; we now move to the Mobs and Comms phase which we know will be challenging but credit to the project team for the building and to Cheryl Rolph who has put in an enormous amount of work to ensure this phase of a very complex project has been such a success

*. met with local MP for Wealden Charles Hendry to discuss our future plans for the Service and what impact the reductions in our budget would have over the coming years. We discussed the outline proposals to achieve our savings target and the principle of changes we would need to make our operational resources as well; Charles was also keen to find out about the impact of the industrial action, any future plans for a merger with WSFRS and on this issue, what support he could provide in discussions with Government Minister

*.met with the NJC to discuss conditions of service for senior officers and then took the opportunity to talk about the recent consultation document from DCLG on pension maters around the current dispute; ESFRS will be considering their response and I understand that NJC employers will also be making a separate response

*. attended a breakfast meeting organised by Lady Brentford and attended by The Lord Lieutenant and High Sheriff and about 100 local people who are involved in those local communities. The main guest was Lord Michael Hastings, a brilliant speaker who talked about challenges in our society and that all of us should not look away when it gets difficult, but we should show courage and he gave some real example of people who had shown real courage and sacrificed themselves for others

*. went to the Fire Service College to see the students who are about to start the Executive Leadership Programme; there are 21 student from across the UK  and  I am delighted to see Mark O'Brien on the programme which is designed to develop future senior leaders in the FRS; the students will receive some cutting edge input from a range of excellent speakers over the 5 modules of the program that is designed to prepare future CFOs to lead the Service

*. met up with PO team for weekly meeting and also caught up with Sue Stanton and Matt Lloyd. It has been a really busy time for everyone so we need to spend some time to catch up on business; also met with Liz Ridley who is leading some work on how we can work more effectively with senior and middle managers to drive forward the changes that we need to implement to secure we meet the financial challenges and have a sustainable Service for the future

*. had a meeting with the CEO of East Sussex County Council, Becky Shaw where we discussed emergency planning, sharing facilities, the public health agenda and making better use of our buildings

*. met up with colleagues from the NHS as part of their senior leadership programme at Ashridge Management College; part of the cross sector leadership exchange, many FRS personnel will benefit from our partnership with the NHS and Police and there will be places next year for our staff on one of the 6 courses we will be running, so keep your eye out for the 'expression of interest' which will come out if you want to go on a 3 day course with colleagues from other sectors

*. attended a meeting with other senior colleagues to consider national resilience, the Joint Emergency Services Programme and the next generation of the Airwave radio; we also considered the speech by Damian Green at the Police Conference this week where he called for closer working, a joint HQ, sharing back office services and even moving to a model which may see Police & Crime Commissioners being responsible for Fire & Rescue.

This week crews from Brighton responded to an explosion and fire at a property in Patcham; firefighters wearing BA used a hosereel to extinguish the fire which it is believed was caused by a faulty heating appliance.  One casualty was treated at the scene by colleagues from the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service.  Firefighters from Hailsham and Eastbourne responded to a serious road traffic collision on the A27 at Wilmington where two cars were involved in a head-on collision; despite the best efforts of the crews one casualty did not survive the impact with another casualty being rescued and taken to hospital by colleagues from SECAmb.  Crews from Seaford, supported by firefighters from Newhaven responded to a flat fire in Dane Road where they found the premises heavily smoke-logged.  Firefighters wearing BA used a CO2 extinguisher to put out the fire and then used a positive pressure ventilation fan to clear dense smoke from the property.

As the nights become colder we are now seeing coal or log fires being lit in the home; whilst a real fire is great to sit around, ESFRS are advising residents to ensure their chimney has been swept before they light the fire as our crews are now responding to an increasing number of chimney fires. 

There has been increasing media attention on the fatalities to cyclists mainly in London, but statistics from ROSPA show that accidents involving cyclists are increasing across the country; ESFRS will be involved in 'National Road Safety Week' with events in Lewes on 22nd November, Uckfield on 30th November and Brighton on 2nd December as we increase our efforts to raise awareness of the hazards and dangers on our roads and to reduce injuries and fatalities to pedestrians, cyclists and vehicle drivers and passengers.  Great work this week at Stn 11,where crews were involved with Eastbourne Youth Radio 87.7fm in a project involving hundreds of young people across the town.

This week is CO Awareness Week and ESFRS are supporting a national campaign to raise public awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide which has been called 'the silent killer'.  Every year we see up to 50 deaths caused by CO with over 1000 hospitalisation as a result of CO poisoning.  ESFRS are encouraging householders and landlords to check water heaters and boilers to ensure they are properly serviced and maintained and that there is adequate ventilation to ensure there is never a build-up of carbon monoxide in any property or restricted space.  Firefighters and CFS staff are at the frontline of improving community safety and ESFRS can make a real difference by highlighting the dangers of CO, helping to eradicate this deadly menace from our homes.

On a brighter note, make a date in your diary for 13th December as Father Christmas will be visiting Lewes Fire Station to switch on the Christmas tree lights.  Dear old Santa looks forward to his annual trip to Stn 01 as they do a mean mince pie and always provide an excellent mulled wine just to fortify him on the cold evenings.  Rudolph and his fellow reindeers have a feast on the carrots and turnips that are grown on the Earwig Corner allotments, so bring the kids along for an early festive treat!!!

As for the cricket......

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

Friday, 15 November 2013

CFO blog 15 November 2013

The devastating typhoon in the Philippines has once again shown the raw power of nature and the havoc and destruction that these events can bring.  The news coming from the Philippines tells of a large loss of life but thankfully not as many as first feared, with buildings being destroyed over a large area and the need for immediate aid to people desperate for water, food and shelter.  I am always impressed by the dedication of volunteers who work for the aid agencies and their determination to help and assist people who are struggling to cope in such dreadful conditions.  We are extremely fortunate living in such a temperate part of the world where we do not see the extremes found elsewhere; only a few weeks ago there were the enormous bush fires in New South Wales, and already parts of Canada are experiencing very low temperatures with the icy blasts of winter moving down from the Arctic, although the locals just get their skis on and enjoy the snow; we on the other hand dread the one week in January where we get an inch of snow overnight and everything grinds to a halt!!! 

On Wednesday we had another period of industrial action and I'm sure everyone was pleased to see that our contingency plans ensured that that the strike passed off without any serious impact on our local communities and that crews were swiftly back to their normal working.  On a personal note I am disappointed that this dispute has not been resolved as it is a very difficult and unsettling time for everyone involved. 

I was very pleased to see ESFRS represented across the county and City at a number of Remembrance Day parades, paying their own tribute to those British, Commonwealth and Allied Service personnel who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the two World Wars of the 20th century and who continue to lay down their lives serving our country; we should never forget these dedicated men and women.  There's a fantastic memorial in Peacehaven that also recognises the Merchant Navy personnel and animals who lost their lives in war and I would highly recommend the film War Horse if you want to learn about the life of a horse on the battlefield.  I know many of you will have given generously to support the Poppy Appeal; this Friday we have Children in Need and we also have the disaster relief for the Philippines tragedy; this nation has a great history of generosity so dig deep if you can this weekend, as there are many people who are desperate for help and every little bit of aid you give will help save a life. 

Saturday was mixed emotions watching Chelsea as a draw against the Peaky Blinders felt like a real bonus after the first 93 minutes of complete drivel, must be similar to an evening in, watching 'Strictly'; anyway joy and harmony was restored on Sunday as you can always rely on Spurs and the Arsenal to give you a good laugh, and they delivered a North London double header, funnier than a PASH 'stop message'!!! And the final 'stop' was sent by 'Hercule Poirot' known as the  world's foremost detective but in my view, a style icon with the most impeccable manners; and as for his sidekick Captain Hastings, top bloke.

My week:

*. met with a senior nursing manager who I am coaching as part of our cross sector partnership and then had a chat with one of the watches at Stn 2 (92) Hove where we had chatted about a number of issues; always good to catch up with the watch and find out where Stuart Black is going skiing as he has a nose for good snow!!!

*. went to the Downs School in Brighton to see the local school kids put on their own Remembrance Service; it was great to see the youngsters mingling with war veterans and paying their own tributes, reading poems and singing in memory of those who had lost their lives

*. drove up to Godalming to Surrey Police HQ; quite an impressive site set in acres of countryside and had a meeting with the Chief Constables of Surrey and Sussex, the CEO of SECAmb and the CFOs of Surrey and West Sussex.  We discussed the feasibility of what we could do in collaboration, whether there was any opportunity to merge any parts of our organisation, what plans each Service had over the next 5 years and interoperability; useful discussion and we now have a small team putting together an outline case on areas we would like to look at more closely

*. had a weekly update with the other Principal Officers where contingency planning was top of the list closely followed by Sussex Control; we also prepared for meetings of the Fire Authority later in the week and our meeting with the new external auditors Ernst & Young

*. went up to Stn 25 (80) Hailsham to have a chat with the crew; also saw Stn 24 (79) Herstmonceux who were out drilling as they have a number of their crew taking probationary tests; lots of hose, pumping, hydrants, ladders and knots and lines but no Alpine Butterfly knot!! Hailsham talked about accessing training courses, including the BA refresher and 'safe to ride'; a fine selection of biscuits to go with the tea, and whilst the hospitality was excellent, I would suggest that whoever made the tea may need to go on a refresher course!!!
*. had telephone conference with a colleague from Switzerland who I am also coaching; great experience working with someone from a large multinational company which I hope to bring back into ESFRS to support our own L&D programmes

*. I was invited to speak at the Rotary Club in Eastbourne and had an enjoyable evening talking about the wider community safety and response role that we undertake in ESFRS and was also asked to speak about my early career which did draw a few laughs

*. was part of the contingency crew in the City on Wednesday; thankfully it was a quiet few hours and the majority of crews returned to normal working when the strike ended; went to HQ to de-brief our planning arrangements and any lessons learned

*. met with Cllr. Lambert and Cllr. Butler the Lib Dem members of the Fire Authority to discuss a number of the key issues facing the Fire Authority at this time; a very useful meeting and helpful opportunity to discuss in detail how we may respond to current challenges, what is happening in other Fire Authorities and what actions other Authorities have already implemented that Councillors may wish to consider in ESFRS

* busy day with meetings of the Policy & Resources Panel and then Scrutiny & Audit Panel; members considered reports on budget, service planning, Sussex Control Centre, and an update on the industrial action; our Auditors Ernst & Young also attended to present their report to members, then a separate meeting with our Auditors who are to discuss our future financial plans and our approach to service planning

A worrying trend this week has seen 3 serious fires at farm buildings.  The first was a barn fire in Dallington with firefighters from Heathfield, (92)  Burwash (74) and two crews from Battle, (72)  along with the control unit from Bexhill (73) tackling the blaze, which involved 100 tonnes of hay and farm machinery. Crews used breathing apparatus, hose reels and 1-in-7 foam to extinguish the fire. Later in the week a second fire broke out in an industrial unit, which manufactured apple juice, at a farm in Brambletye Lane in Forest Row. It was reported that a diesel tank had exploded and there were crops, vehicles, cylinders and chemicals in the barn. Crews from Forest Row, (85) Crowborough, (83)  Uckfield, (84) Newhaven (87) and Lewes (89) supported by East Grinstead (64) and Haywards Heath (62) used ground monitors, main jets and foam to contain the extent of the fire, bringing this under control in the early hours of the morning.  During the early evening of Wednesday a fire broke out at a barn in Alfriston, with approximately 20 tonnes of hay alight.  Crews from Newhaven (87) and Seaford (86), Eastbourne (93) and Uckfield (84) responded to the incident remaining on scene overnight. ESFRS have put out fire safety messages to farmers advising them of precautions to take to help prevent fires occurring.

Firefighters from Preston Circus (91) and Roedean (90) responded to a kitchen fire at a property in Sompting Close, where they found that three adults and one baby had managed to escape the property before their arrival; crews found a small fire in the kitchen, which they brought under control and used a PPV fan to remove smoke from the property.  One male suffered burns to the arm and was treated at the scene by the Ambulance Service with others who had managed to escape the property, being treated for smoke inhalation.

ESFRS are asking people to take care on 'Candle Fire Safety Week' and snuff out the risk of fire in their homes.  Candles are becoming more popular these days and add a lovely atmosphere to your home by bringing a warm glow to a cold evening or adding some festive cheer to the season’s celebrations such as Guy Fawkes’ night, Diwali and Christmas.  But candles can also be a danger and a source of accidental fire if they are left too close to other flammable materials or are not placed down securely, or not extinguished when you go to bed.  So be careful with candles and tea lights, follow any safety instructions provided and always extinguish before you hunker down under the duvet.

Next week also sees the commencement of Interfaith Week with various events going on around the County. Such events will provide opportunities for community engagement and a channel for promulgation of community safety messages, whilst in the longer term promoting the development of good relationships and working partnerships.  Please keep an eye out for more details.

I know some of our staff will be involved in raising funds for the 'Children in Need Appeal' this Friday and there are always the few who sit in a tub of maggots or shave their heads to raise money; of course the ultimate endurance is to watch a 5 hour recording of Arsenal matches, but it's all in a good cause; so best of luck with your fundraising and this week we should also be mindful of the disaster in the Philippines and that any spare cash for those desperate people would be very welcome.

Friday, 8 November 2013

CFO's blog 8 November 2013

Much of the last few days have been taken up with the current industrial dispute and I am sure everyone is pleased that there were no real problems and we have returned back to work; however the dispute does need to be resolved and I hope DCLG can put forward proposals that will be seen as an acceptable compromise and we can get back to working normally. We have been notified of a further ballot, but I understand talks are continuing with a clear intention to try and bring about a satisfactory resolution. 

I met with the Chief Executive of South East Coast Ambulance to discuss the changes that have been brought into the emergency ambulance service; there is much less Government control over Ambulance Trusts and this may be a model for Fire & Rescue Services in the future.  There is much discussion in Government about the future structure of emergency services and all this 'background chatter' is quite unsettling - what we need is clarity for the future and then we can devote our energies to delivering high quality emergency services that make a real difference to the public. 

This week, India launched a spaceship to Mars as part of their growing space programme. There has been some criticism that a country where a significant number of its people live in poverty are spending money on a space programme, but it is hoped there will be many benefits as India expands its education programmes and creates more scientists, engineers, doctors and other professionals to help this very large country to build an infrastructure for future generations.  If their space programme is a success then they can earn income through launching satellites which will more than pay back their investment so far; these decisions are always difficult but in my view, aspiration, human endeavour and pushing boundaries should always be encouraged, new scientific, technological and medical discoveries are due to the human spirit being curious; long may it continue.  

This week's bonfire celebrations across the County saw many public events with once again Lewes Bonfire attracting thousands of people to the town and whilst we would never want to try and stop people enjoying themselves, I must admit I am always a little nervous around 5th November.  There were a number of incidents that our crews had to attend and I know SECAmb were also busy but thankfully there were no serious injuries to report and I thank the organisers, local authorities and emergency services for ensuring that people enjoyed the quite elaborate displays and kept safe. 

Along with bonfires, this is a special week as it's "National Sausage Week" that's right, from 4th-10th November we can celebrate the wonderful British sausage one of my favourite foods and in my view much superior to the French and German varieties and our American friends just don't get the sausage; I'm not quite sure what they put into their quite disgusting American 'hotdogs' but it most certainly isn't a sausage.  So get out this week and support your local butcher, you can get some fantastic varieties, wholesome and healthy and typically British, just a bit disappointing it's not 'National Sausage Month'!!!

My week:
*. attended to AFSA conference where there were some great speakers setting some real challenges from Service but also providing some real insights into diversity and how we can work with our local people and recognise that we may need to adopt different approaches to support safer communities.  This Conference is always well attended and I have made some really good friends over the years, AFSA reps hope to join ESFRS at the Pride event in Brighton next year.

*. met up with the crew I was working with in the City on Friday night; a few calls and pleased to see local people heeding our fire safety messages; spent some time sheeting up a roof where it seemed that some work had been left unfinished with the heavy rain causing water to come throughout the roof into flats below; a bit windy but managed to do a reasonable 'running repair'.

*. an early start on Monday morning and again bad weather causing some problems; a few minor calls but spent most of our time removing floodwater from the road in Kingston; localised flooding is always a problem this time of the year when falling leaves block drains and gullys causing road to flood; this can be particularly dangerous and driver are advised to take care and be aware of water lying on the roadway

*. updated the Chairman and Vice-Chair on recent communication from DCLG and a consultation for Fire Authorities on proposals to move forward some aspects of the pension dispute; also meeting at HQ to discuss the Fire Authority meeting next week and our current revenue budget and capital programme; the Crowborough refurbishment has been delivered on budget and the Sussex Control Centre building is on track.

*. met with representatives from the National Joint Committee, DCLG and Fire Authorities as part of our regular meeting to discuss HR and L&D matters; discussed the on-going Firefit project with the University of Bath, senior leadership development, how we are working with the new owners of the Fire Service College and the launch of the Fire Professional Framework which will move forwards the Integrated Personal Development System.

*. went to the Firefighters Charity as I had been asked to meet their management team and to talk with them about the leadership challenges they are facing; the Charity does some fantastic work and I know quite a number of our staff have benefited from using their excellent facilities. 
The Charity is in a very competitive environment and needs to look at a range of opportunities for fundraising; I know some of our fire stations and staff do great work raising funds for our Charity and your efforts are very much appreciated

*. met up with one of my colleagues to discuss operational training and how we can support the recruitment and retention of RDS firefighters; FRSs across the country are introducing new types of duty systems for RDS staff dependent on local needs and we may see some proposals from Government to help RDS recruitment when they publish their proposals to Sir Ken Knight's review

*. was part of the interview panel at the Fire Service College for the new Director of Learning & Development and Operations; this is a very important post and attracted some excellent candidates; the College is one of the best facilities in the world for operational and incident command training with many of our staff having benefited from using the different training rigs on the Moreton site; we are all working to ensure the future success of the College and that we can maintain the facilities for future generations of firefighters

Firefighters from Lewes and Uckfield responded to a 'make pumps 4' at a barn fire at Horstead Keynes over the weekend; crews found the barn and its contents well alight, with firefighters in BA using hosereels to contain the blaze.  At an incident in Hastings where a car had collided with a tree and caught alight, firefighters used compressed air foam to extinguish the fire; luckily the occupant of the car had managed to escape without serious injury.  Crews from Eastbourne and Pevensey were called out to a property fire in Gorringe Road and found the fire contained to a conservatory; firefighters wearing BA used hosereels to extinguish the fire and prevent further damage to the property.

Two major fires occurred on Thursday with a 12 pump incident at Avis Way Newhaven; an excellent 'make up' by the first OIC from Newhaven which enabled pumps and an ALP to be mobilised early and then good firefighting and incident command saw the blaze brought under control in the early hours, and later that day crews from the City responded to a serious property fire in Rottingdean with this going to a 'make 6' and on-coming crews including an ALP and two water carriers providing 4 main jets and CAFS to extinguish the fire.  As a consequence of this incident, there was disruption to all roads around Brighton causing severe congestion well into the evening.  Fire investigation officers will be working on scene in Newhaven and Rottingdean to try and establish the cause of both fires.  

Good luck to firefighters at Stn 12, soon to be Stn 84 Uckfield who will be opening their doors this Saturday to raise much needed funds for the annual 'Children in Need' appeal; there will be loads to do, fun for all the family and the refreshments include some great home baked cakes so get along, bring the family and support your mates at Uckfield, all in a good cause. 

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

Friday, 1 November 2013

This year is flying past and we're already in November. It won't be long before the shops start playing those awful Christmas songs just to get us in the mood, I wonder which establishment will be first to go with the Christmas tape!!!  It's a bit like the central heating, you can't switch it on before the end of November no matter how cold it is, but once it's on, you can't switch it off until the end of March, no matter how warm it is.  

The weather has been much on our minds this past week and tragically a teenager was swept away in heavy seas off Newhaven a few days ago and the high winds brought down a number of trees, which again claimed a number of lives.  ESFRS were heavily involved in the emergency planning for last weekend’s storms and thanks to all our staff who helped to ensure we were ready and able to respond; Mobilising and Control did a terrific job with a high volume of calls in the early hours of Monday morning with crews responding to a range of storm related incidents.  

I thought the utility companies worked well to restore power; the major electricity companies have been getting a lot of stick in the press lately because of their prices rises, but fair play to their staff who often work in some quite extreme conditions to ensure the lights remain on. 
It's the same with the rail companies as it's easy to criticise when your train doesn't arrive on time, but they do have to contend with an ageing infrastructure and decades of under-investment.  

I heard one of the rail unions calling for the railways to be returned to public ownership; well coming from a railway family I think that's looking at the world through rose tinted glasses as it was during most of the last century when the railways were nationalised that there was a lack of investment and forward planning; huge strides have been made in recent years but we need to learn the lessons of the past; I am in favour of HS2 as the national infrastructure investment that we need to grow our economy, not just now but in decades to come; there will be environmental concerns and rightly so, but we should be mature enough to recognise that the UK needs this investment and we can protect our countryside and heritage at the same time. 

I remember as a young lad watching football at Stamford Bridge and other grounds, they were an absolute disgrace and fans were treated abysmally; but over the past 20 years we have seen proper investment that makes the whole experience enjoyable, that's unless you are an Arsenal fan as they were brought back to the reality of what it's like to play a proper football team on Tuesday evening!!!

My week:
  • Met with one of our middle managers as part of their personal development and to discuss their future career ambitions; it is really pleasing for me to see a number of our staff who are pursuing further qualifications and looking to develop  themselves and I am sure our future is bright; I am also delighted to see a number of our operational staff involved in overseas projects with Operation Florian; they bring a huge wealth of knowledge and experience to developing countries but also develop a number of leadership and interpersonal skills which are really beneficial to  their work in ESFRS

  • I have just been asked to act as a coach to a colleague from the NHS and had a useful initial discussion as we spoke about her 'coaching contract' and the expectations of working with me; I find this work very rewarding and I know a number of our staff are benefiting from reciprocal arrangements as we grow our partnership with the NHS and Police

  • Met with the senior officers in WSFRS to update on the Sussex Control Centre (SCC) Project and options for greater integration of training and L&OD. The building at Haywards Heath is progressing really well and is on time and within budget and now we move to the phase of the mobilising system; no doubt there will be some challenges to overcome but we do have a great team working extremely hard to ensure a successful project is delivered.

    We were then joined by our Chairman Cllr. Howson and senior politicians from West Sussex County Council to keep them updated on the SCC. It was confirmed that there is no prospect of a merger, certainly in the medium term but WSCC are keen to look at how we can share training resources and we are keen to look at the potential to develop Maresfield if we can find a partner and funding

  • A number of meetings at HQ to update on contingency planning and a review on procurement where we believe we can make efficiency savings and also make life easier for staff; to order a plate of sandwiches seems to be a bit of a chore and we need to move away from having forms in triplicate; I know some Station Commanders and other managers are a bit frustrated with some of our procurement processes but so are our procurement team; we are determined to make the process 'lean'

  • Went to see the duty crew at Lewes and found the gym busy at 07.30 with the Borough Commander setting an excellent example on the rowing machine; then they all left for a run so I had a leisurely ride on the bike before Matt Elder arrived so I had to put in a bit more effort and try and work up a sweat otherwise I was in danger of looking like West Ham's strike force, anonymous.

    Then I spotted the barbell with about 130kg so thought
      I would  try a bit of dead lifting just to let Matt see I am not completely past it, but it was a case of enthusiasm getting in the way of my ability to lift heavy weights these days although once committed you've got to pick the thing up otherwise you look like a real numpty; fortunately my girdle was tight enough to stop the vital organs from popping out, but next time I will start a bit lighter!!!

  • Had a good chat with the duty crew with a nice brew but if Martin Lusk offers you any of his pumpkin seeds, I suggest you give them a miss unless you're in the habit of eating the droppings from the bottom of the birdcage. It was interesting listening to their conversation where they convinced themselves that a great big wedge of chocolate cake was healthier than a bottle of Lucozade and then proceeded to make a big dent in the cake which was supposed to serve 14 people!

  • Had the great privilege of representing ESFRS at the luncheon for Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II at Harvey's Brewery in Lewes. It was great to see the large crowds and particularly the children all cheering and waving flags when the Queen arrived in the town and also a great honour for Harvey's to host the Royal Visit. I'm sure they will brew a special beer in honour of the visit and how many of you remember when Harvey's brewed a special edition called 'Firecracker' with a yellow cap to signify a fire helmet following the fire in the late 1990's in Lewes High Street.

  • Went across to Sussex Police HQ for a Strategic Co-Ordinating Meeting to discuss preparations for the storms over the weekend, our operational response arrangements and the recovery phase. These meetings are extremely useful and enable the proper planning to be out in place before the event and our staff who are involved in emergency planning arrangements have made a great contribution to resilience across Sussex in such event.

    Also discussed whether it would be realistic to talk about sharing a HQ, combining back office functions and integrating our community safety teams - these discussions and others with other emergency services and local authorities in the South East are at a very early stage, but we do need to think very creatively to ensure we maintain high quality delivery of public services into the 21st century

This week firefighters from Rye were called out to a serious RTC on Rye Harbour Road where a vehicle had left the roadway and collided with a tree; crews managed to free the occupant and provided immediate trauma care but unfortunately the casualty was pronounced dead at the scene.

Firefighters from Heathfield and Uckfield responded to a serious road traffic collision on the A267 near Horam where a van and lorry were involved in a head on collision; sadly the driver of the van did not survive the impact of the collision with firefighters having to free the casualty from the wreckage; drivers are reminded to be aware of the difficult driving conditions that we often find in autumn with low sun sometimes dazzling drivers, rain or spray obscuring vision and leaves or water lying on the road surface that can be an additional hazard.

Crews from across the Service attended a number of weather related incidents including one where a fallen tree had trapped the occupants of a house in Hove.  Firefighters from Forest Row were called out to a flooding incident in Wythiam where they used a submersible pump to remove the flood water, and crews from Wadhurst were called out to a special service where a church steeple was in danger of collapse and a large amount of debris was found in the church yard, firefighters cordoned off the area and made the scene safe before handing over to the church authorities. 

For many years ESFRS has been at the forefront of promoting sprinklers particularly in new build homes and a previous Chairman of ESFA, Mike Murphy was the LGA spokesperson on sprinklers and was extremely knowledgeable in this area.  More recently our current Chairman Cllr. Howson has been appointed as the Deputy Chair of the Fire Services Management Committee and has a vital role in the sprinkler lobby and we must congratulate Cllr Carolyn Lambert who has successfully petitioned Lewes District Council to install sprinklers in new build council owned buildings; Cllr Phil Scott and Cllr Mike Wincott have established an on-line petition promoting sprinklers and which we are encouraging local people to sign up to, and it is great to see our Fire Authority members so active in this important life safety measure.

On Friday evening and again on Monday we will see strike action by members of the FBU across England and Wales and we will be putting into place our contingency planning arrangements. We will have a number of crews available across the City and County but not as many as when we are working normally and therefore we are advising local people to be extra vigilant during the periods of strike action; we have put out advice and information to local communities and businesses through our website and the media and hope that people can remain safe. I am not looking forward to being on duty on Friday evening and Monday morning but we must ensure as far as we are able, that we provide an emergency service to the public we serve.

Finally, don’t forget the Children in Need appeal, which takes place on Friday 15 November.  Uckfield are planning a fun day at their station on Saturday 9 November, so if you fancy getting into the mood, do pop along as fun and games have been promised!

Des Prichard
Chief Fire Officer & Chief Executive

East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service