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.