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.
* 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......
Chief Fire Officer & Chief Executive
East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service