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