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