Friday, 20 December 2013

Firefighters from Barcombe, Uckfield and Lewes responded to a serious fire at a property in Barcombe Mills early on Saturday morning; the first crews found a well-developed fire in a two storey property but made a swift attack on the fire and rescued one elderly female from the ground floor. Crews gave CPR and first aid for some time before paramedics took over; sadly despite the great efforts of firefighters and paramedics the casualty did not recover from the severe effects of smoke inhalation. 
Crews from Hove and Preston Circus responded to an incident in Portslade where 3 cars were involved in a collision is Locks Hill; firefighters worked to free one person trapped in the wreckage with the casualty being handed into the care of paramedics.  City crews were called out to the NCP car park in Russell Square where it was reported a number of people were shut in the lift; crews soon had the lift doors open and found 14 people inside who were all released without any harm being done.
Hastings firefighters supported by crews from the east of the County were called out to a serious fire at a fish and chip shop in Rock-a-Nore Road; crews wearing BA and using compressed air foam and hosereels managed to get blaze under control; in total 16 BA sets were used at the incident. 
This week we see the long awaited first report on future airport capacity with a second runway at Gatwick still in the running.  As more and more people travel by air, it is absolutely clear we need more runway capacity and on the information I have seen, Gatwick looks a good option to build a second runway and it will bring much needed jobs into the area.  The 'Boris Island' scheme has still not been discounted and there will be endless debate and discussion before a decision is made, and then we will build one runway - during the same period China will build over 80 new airports!!!  How competitive will the UK be in 2030 and what prospects for jobs and economic growth will there be if we continue with our restrictive planning rules, local opposition because 'we don't want that development near to where we live' and HS2 at probably its 5th appeal!!!
When will we ever start to build the new homes that we desperately need.  I am all in favour of local people having a voice but there also need to be some strong leadership if we are to create a sustainable economy, so let's just agree to build a second runway at Gatwick, confirm that HS2 will go ahead and build at least the same number of houses as the French do; this will provide much needed jobs, the homes we so desperately need and build a 21st century infrastructure instead of relying on the brilliant vision of the Victorians over a century ago. 
It was very pleasing to see one of the biggest a private sector companies held to account for overcharging the Government and having to pay back over £68million; reports state that Serco continued to charge for people who were in jail or who had died; this is quite astonishing as the public sector is often criticised for lax processes and that we should learn from the private sector. Well I can't say I am keen to learn from this example - we should however not be too quick to damn a whole industry just because of a few bad examples (although the impact of the poor leadership in some parts of the financial industry have had a catastrophic effect on the country); in the same vein, just because some parts of the public sector have performed poorly, we should also celebrate their successes, and the Fire & Service continually delivers high quality services with an outstanding track record in prevention and an excellent emergency response service. 
Can't wait for the weekend and Strictly, it's nail biting time and I'll be glued to the TV watching Natalie, Sophie, Abbey and Susanna; I thought Patrick was really unlucky last week, a bit of a stitch up, so this week my money's on Abbey.
My week:
*. went across to Stn 1 for their 'Open Evening' and what a great event; lots of school kids making badges and finding about home and road safety; thanks to the crews, our volunteers and police for making the event such a success; also hot soup, cake and mince pies and a chance to meet Santa; I bought a raffle ticket hoping to get a chance to sit on Santa's knee and switch on the Christmas lights, but my number didn't come up; a bonus for Santa I think!!!
*. spent Friday and Saturday night as part of the contingency crews in the City; pleased to see that our local communities were vigilant and kept safe during the strike with very few incidents
*. went across to see crews at The Ridge and Bohemia Rd. and talked about the budget, industrial action, and proposals being discussed with the Fire Authority for operational resources; good opportunity to talk with firefighters about a range of issues and also note the culinary skills on show at Stn 9 where their Christmas dinner with honey glazed roasted vegetables smelt delicious!!
*. saw firefighters at Crowborough and Uckfield and had similar discussion at the previous day in Hastings; also chatted with Crowborough about their newly refurbished station which they were very pleased with and also talked to the swift water rescue crew who had been deployed to East Anglia earlier this month when we had the North Sea storm surge; Uckfield were keen to talk about options for the day crewed stations and fire setter advisors
*. one of our staff who has served with ESFRS for over 44 years will be retiring this week; Doug Moody who has been a stalwart of the Service is finally hanging up his axe and his fire safety files and looking forward to spending more time on the golf course and topping up his tan in Spain, but I know there will be many of his colleagues with Doug's mobile number on speed dial just in case they get that difficult fire safety problem in the City!!! Our very best wishes Doug for a long and happy retirement
*. had a cup of tea and catch up with the duty crew at Hove and Stuart Black didn't once mention all of the skiing holidays he has got planned
*. met up with the Preston Circus 'choir' who were outside the station for their annual charity fundraising event, with Christmas Carols and other festive songs encouraging local people to give generously to a worthy cause; fantastic effort with nearly £3000 raised; also we are seeking a keen volunteer to train with Mick Powell on the infernal money counting machine that only Mick knows how to operate!!!
*. attended a meeting with Surrey and Sussex Police, SECAmb and Surrey and West Sussex FRSs to discuss how we can all work more closely to deliver efficiencies and savings and to look at opportunities for creating 'joint service' teams; the discussions included more long term ambitions to discuss what would be realistic over the next 5 years, although this will be for each Authority and the PCCs to agree when a business case is developed.

Eastbourne firefighters have been doing some great work with the charity 'Contact the Elderly' and hosted a tea at the community fire station for elderly people who are living alone.  Crews offered homemade cakes, tea and coffee and more importantly, the chance to have a good old natter.  It is a sad fact that many people are living alone and have very little contact with other people; loneliness can often lead to depression so please remember your neighbours particularly those living alone this Christmas and invite them in for a chat and a turkey sandwich.  Well done to all at Stn 11 for a great initiative.  The Eastbourne firefighters were also busy attending a flat fire in Howard Square where they rescued one male from the property before tacking the fire with crews wearing BA and using a hosereel.
Looking forward to this Friday evening where we are off for a night out with the team on the 6th floor; not quite the Christmas party we had planned as that was organised for last Friday. Hopefully there will be no last minute hiccups and I can go out with the team for a nice relaxing evening, good company and some decent food and maybe a glass or two of wine!!! And if Tony Gurr is reading this, no cheap chicken; Tony I understand has a particular fondness for the cheaper cut, deep fried, but I understand that this weekend for a special treat he will be trying a Kentucky Fried!!!
Des Prichard
Chief Fire Officer & Chief Executive
East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service

Friday, 13 December 2013

I spent a few days in Venice, a very interesting City from a Fire & Rescue perspective. It was my first time in Venice and whilst I knew it was built on a system of canals, I hadn't appreciated the complete absence of any roads or vehicles in the city, people either get about by walking or in boats. I didn't see any cars or bikes although there was a hydrant on most streets but you could certainly not get a fire appliance down any streets. Imagine The Lanes in Brighton, but across the whole City area, I saw the local firefighters in action a couple of times, turning out in boats from their main station just off the Grand Canal and also running down the really narrow streets with portable extinguishers and working from a hydrant. It would be a really interesting opportunity for ESFRS firefighters to exchange experiences with their colleagues in Venice, I'm sure there would be a lot of great learning on both sides. 

Great to see that a Second World War veteran Robert Argyle who served as a pilot in Bomber Command was given a fitting tribute at his funeral in Eastbourne this week. Mr Argyle sadly passed away last month and, as he had no known family, his carers were expected to be the only people to attend the funeral. However, with the launch of an on-line campaign, it was reported more than 100 people attended the service, demonstrating the power of social media and great public spirit. 

This week we have found out that James Bond could do with attending the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership as we have heard that Mr Bond has, on occasions, got behind the wheel of his Aston Martin after having a few too many Vodka Martini's. Now James may well be a style icon and a member of Her Majesty's Secret Service, and whilst he may be 'licensed to kill' he is most certainly not licensed to drink and drive and his conduct sets an appalling example. We have written this week to Mr Bond, aka Daniel Craig, inviting him to visit ESFRS to attend one of our 'Safe drive stay alive' programmes and we hope Mr Bond accepts our offer and then helps us to promote safer driving on our roads - we await a response!

My week:

  • had my annual fitness check at HQ; good to get advice on diet and alcohol consumption as I must confess I do enjoy the occasional glass of wine; but as Louise carefully explained, do these things in moderation and just because Chelsea win it is not always a good excuse to open another bottle!!! These health checks are really good as prevention is better than cure and I am not very good at doing those 'personal checks'. Men in general are not good at this but with a helpful nudge from Louise this was really worthwhile, as well as monitoring cholesterol levels and checks for diabetes.
  • I had an exit interview with one of our HR team who is leaving for pastures new; Vicki Law is moving to a new HR role with the RSCPA and we spoke about her time with ESFRS which Vicki had enjoyed tremendously and had made many good friends. One of our challenges is keeping talented, career minded individuals, particularly in support services where there are fewer opportunities. Vicki did say that one of the good things about ESFRS is the way we invest in training and developing our staff which is absolutely the right thing to do, although the risk is we then sometimes lose our staff to other organisations. However staff are key to the successful public services we deliver, and even in challenging financial times we must continue investment in staff development.
  • had the afternoon off on Friday as some friends came over to take me out for a birthday lunch (but first we went to Brighton Pier to go on the rides); thanks to my great team for organising the day, clearing my diary and getting me the time off!!!
  • had a telephone interview with 'Fire' Magazine who wanted to do an article on the Cross Sector Leadership Exchange and then spoke with some senior managers from other FRSs who want to be part of the programme for next year, either as delegates or syndicate directors; hopefully we will grow the CSLE and provide cost effective development for future leaders across the public sector.
  • met with the Chairman to catch up the work he is doing with the LGA on sprinklers and waste management as one of the Deputy leaders; also discussed industrial action as well as our plans and discussions with other local authorities and Sussex Police on a review of our building estate and what opportunities we had for sharing facilities.
  • was interviewed by our Communications and Marketing Manager, Elizabeth Curtis as part of our review of communications; Elizabeth has some great ideas on how we can communicate more effectively both internally and externally, how we can make better use of social media and how we can use YouTube for getting information out quickly and to the right audience.
  • meeting with the Chairman to discuss preparations for next year's budget with the latest information from Government on Council Tax and whether there will be another freeze grant; also talked about contingency plans for the continuing industrial action and whether the NJC employers are involved in any discussions with DCLG and the FBU. Then it was the Fire Authority meeting where Councillors considered council tax, budget planning for next year and their early discussions on savings proposals which will go for public consultation in February, followed by a staff meeting at HQ where I provided an update on what had been discussed with the Fire Authority.
  • final CMT meeting of 2013; it has been a challenging year to ensure ESFRS are in a position to withstand the continuing cuts to the revenue budget. Proposals have been discussed with the Fire Authority and our elected members now have to agree their medium term plan.
  • With the recent storm surge on the East Coast where nearly 2,000 properties were flooded, we were relatively fortunate that we did not experience similar flooding along our coast. There was some localised flooding in Newhaven with approximately 100 homes being affected by high tides and strong winds. The railway station was flooded which also caused some short circuiting of the electricity supply and crews from Newhaven were called out to assist, warning local residents to switch off electrics and, where they could, to move possessions upstairs. The south coast train service to Lewes was severely disrupted due to the flooding. 

Crews from Uckfield and Lewes were called out to an incident at Sheffield Park where there was a fire in the Coach House Tea Room and swift action by firefighters using compressed air foam contained the fire to a storeroom. 

Firefighters from the animal rescue unit supported by crews from Uckfield responded to an incident where a calf had become trapped in railings at Hadlow Down, crews used hydraulic cutting equipment to free the animal. 

An emergency call was received to a flat fire in Mile Oak, where people were believed to be trapped inside, crews from Hove and Preston Circus responded where they found smoke coming from the building and firefighters wearing BA, used hosereel jets to extinguish the fire and lead one person to safety. 

Firefighters from Hastings were called out to a fire in a vacant property in St Leonards where they used BA hose reel jets and compressed air foam to extinguish the blaze.

Crews from Preston Circus were called out to assist at an incident where a mini bus developed a fault which meant a group of wheelchair users couldn't get off the vehicle, when the crews arrived they made sure that everyone was ok and then chatted to the passengers before assisting them off the vehicle. 

Crews from all three City stations supported by firefighters from Shoreham were called out on Thursday evening to a fire in Embassy Court on the seafront, the fire was in a third floor flat and crews remained at the scene until the early hours of Friday morning. All residents have now returned to their properties apart from the fire damaged flat and a property below that suffered some water damage.

This Saturday, firefighters will be taking part in a 'Santa Run' at Chailey Sports Ground to raise funds for the Firefighters Charity; everyone will be encouraged to wear fancy dress with prizes for the most extravagant and if you haven't got a spare elf or reindeer costume, there will be 'Santa outfits' available on the day for a small fee!!! 

On Friday, firefighters from Lewes hold their 'Open Evening' with demonstrations, fire safety advice and Santa will be dropping in for a mince pie and a chat with the children, so if you have some last minute Christmas wishes, make sure you get across to see Santa before he heads back to the North Pole to prepare for Christmas Eve!

And don’t forget on Wednesday and Thursday, Preston Circus will be holding their Annual Christmas Collection, so anyone who is able to volunteer to help raise funds for the Firefighters Charity please contact the station.

East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service is currently providing advice on safety over Christmas with advice on candle safety. We are also involved with our partners on the Safer Road Partnership advising about the dangers of drinking and driving and to warn drivers not to be tempted to have a drink just because it's Christmas and remember, if you're going to a Christmas party then either make sure you have organised a lift home or have a designated driver.

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

Friday, 6 December 2013

This week marked the 7th anniversary of the Marlie Farm tragedy and we would have hoped that after such a long time we could have put the events behind us and that we could move forward. Sadly, there are unresolved issues before the courts, matters that are entirely outside the control of ESFRS and the Fire Authority. I realise that this truly dreadful matter seems to hang over ESFRS and in particular the families of Brian and Geoff and the staff who were injured in the explosion.

My sincere hope is that the different parties who are involved in this matter resolve their differences as soon as possible and that we focus on the people involved and do all we can to allow them to move forward.  We will never forget that terrible incident, nor will we ever forget Brian and Geoff; they were dear friends and colleagues and remain forever in our hearts.

Thursday was busy for the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service and a number of Northern and East Coast FRSs, including Kent, due to the extreme winds and sea storm surge.  Sadly, a number of people were killed or injured by falling trees or lorries toppling over; thankfully we did not feel the sometimes destructive force of nature on the South Coast.  Our swift water rescue team were mobilised to support their colleagues in Suffolk and local communities under threat of the storm surge and the NSAT team were put on stand-by to staff the emergency control room in London and co-ordinate resource deployment. 

We also learnt somewhat disappointingly, that there are going to be more strikes called by the FBU for next Friday and Saturday. Therefore, we will be putting our contingency plan into operation, to try to ensure our local communities are kept safe and that we provide an effective emergency response during the industrial action.

Late on Thursday we heard the very sad news that Nelson Mandela had passed away; a truly inspirational leader and statesman who demonstrated forgiveness and reconciliation. I had the privilege of hearing Nelson Mandela speak in Brighton in 2000; the audience were spellbound and you just knew you were in the presence of someone truly special.

This week the Government announced their proposals for an eye watering £375 billion investment programme in infrastructure projects over the next 20 years; that's a third of a trillion pounds! These national projects include energy, transport, communications and water and if that's the plan I wonder how much will filter down to East Sussex and Brighton & Hove, as this part of the country has suffered for decades with under investment in infrastructure.

I know some areas such as Cornwall and East Anglia may raise the same arguments, but those parts of the country don't have the same large population as we have in the South-East. Our railway infrastructure is simply rubbish; it is antiquated and is partly the reason (along with our road system), for the lack of real jobs and opportunities for young people in many parts of East Sussex.  You can understand why businesses prefer not to relocate to East Sussex. 

I was with some colleagues from Humberside and Staffordshire earlier this week and they can get to London quicker than I can from Eastbourne, and as for Hastings, you need to take a packed lunch when travelling up to London!  Why are we still waiting for the Dover to Honiton trunk road promised as long ago as the 1960's, do we have some sort of pathological fear of dual carriageways in our county - is it because those in Government think we trot about Sussex in our pony and trap or that we break out in a rash when we see tarmac!

As for mobile phones and 4G, a complete joke south of Gatwick, yet mobile phone companies continue to earn excessive profit from .... Apologies had to stop working on my iPad as travelling from Seaford up to London and no 3G! It is now becoming apparent that Vodafone don't have any mobile phone masts in the local area, and as for 3G, it must be one of the most frustrating aspects of my working day, when you are frequently on the move and trying to work and hey presto, now you have 3G and now you don't; so I'm looking forward to the opportunity to contribute to discussions on how the £375 billion is spent and that some of it trickles down our way!

My week: 
  • Attended a meeting of the Institute of Directors getting a better understanding of the financial picture going forward, the Scottish referendum on independence, the effect of regulation on business and how poor regulation can hamper business growth; important area for FRSs to ensure we do not burden business with unnecessary regulation and also support innovation in building design and use of technology and new building materials.
  • Met with the Programme Board for the Cross Sector Leadership Exchange and extremely pleased to see that the NHS leadership academy and Civil Service learning are keen to be involved in the work we are promoting.

  • Drafted final responses to the DCLG pensions consultation and discussed with CllrHowson and Group Leaders. Also, discussed the response from CFOA; the consultation closed on Friday and we hope that DCLG will continue dialogue with the FBU to resolve the current industrial dispute.

  • A number of meetings with PO team and a Treasurer which is part of the day to day business of running ESFRS. These meetings provide an opportunity to discuss specific areas that each of the POs and Treasurer are responsible for and as we move towards our final draft budget preparations, we can look in more detail at the areas that affect our Council Tax collection and additional costs falling on the Fire Authority as a result of recent decisions on pension arrangements.

  • Went to the Cross Sector Leadership Summit in London with over 120 delegates who had attended our programmes in 2013. Angela Rippon was one of the keynote speakers in her capacity as an Ambassador for the Alzheimer's Society - this year’s theme has been "An Ageing Society" with next year focussing on Public Value.
  • Attended the memorial event we hold at HQ on 3rd December to mark the Marlie Farm tragedy and where we offer up two minutes silence in memory of Brian Wembridge and Geoff Wicker and those who were injured at the incident; we were very pleased that Lesley Wembridge and members of her family attended and we laid flowers on the memorial headstones for Brian and Geoff; Heather Wicker and her family marked the day with their own family reflections and our thoughts were with them.
  • Went to a 'round table' meeting called by Fire Minister Brandon Lewis where he had invited the NJC employers, trade unions and CFOA to discuss the current pensions dispute as part of the consultation process.
  • Attended a meeting of other senior officers at one of the CFOA Strategic Committees; we were updated on progress on fitness standards and the work of Firefit/Bath University, National Occupational Standards and qualifications, new courses at the Fire Service College and progress of work on a revision of the PQAs (Personal qualities and attributes).

Crews from Battle and Burwash responded to an incident at Hawkhurst Rd. Flimwell where two vehicles were involved in a collision; firefighters using hydraulic cutting equipment released one female casualty from the wreckage.  

Firefighters from Preston Circus and Hove were called out to a fire in Denmark Villas; crews wearing breathing apparatus used a hose reel to extinguish a fire in the kitchen.  

Two incidents involving horses saw crews from Crowborough, Hastings and Herstmonceux  called out to an animal rescue centre in Ashburnham where a horse had collapsed and to Battle where a shire horse had become trapped in a pond.  Crews managed to rescue the shire horse without any lasting ill effects and to assist the horse at the rescue centre, back onto its feet. And the animal related incidents continued with Hastings firefighters called out to rescue a cat that had become trapped in a wall cavity. Firefighters managed to break into the wall and rescue the moggy. 

As an early preview, next Friday is one of the much looked forward to Christmas events, when Lewes Fire Station have their Open Evening. The crews are putting on a show for local families, with homemade food and drink, lots of information to stay safe over Christmas, recruiting new firefighters and volunteers and the Mayor will be switching on the Christmas lights; fun for all the family and Borough Commander  Garry Collins extends a warm welcome to the local community and ESFRS staff.

ESFRS will be supporting Small Business Saturday this weekend where we will be promoting small companies in East Sussex and Brighton & Hove to check their fire safety plans and make sure they have a backup business continuity plan if disaster should strike.  Figures from the British Insurance Broker's Association show that nearly 80% of businesses fail to recover if they have a major fire, flood or other disaster and close within 18 months, with a loss of local jobs and an impact on the local economy; we want to do all we can to support local business in the words of Arkwright, to keep them 'Open all Hours'.