Friday, 31 January 2014

Wasn’t it an amazing story this week about a skydiver over Wiltshire being knocked out on exiting the plane at 12,500ft after colliding with a fellow jumper? As he hurtled towards the ground, two fellow skydivers headed towards him, and were able to move his body into a safer position and deployed his parachute. The skydiver regained consciousness and landed safely and uninjured, absolutely incredible and something out of a Bond movie!  Mind you, it was fortunate that this incident occurred in Wiltshire and not the neighbouring county of Oxford, as it could have been a very soggy landing as many rural areas of that county appear to be under water. 

I have travelled up to the Fire Service College twice this week, once by car and once by train - really good to see some of our staff up at the college but travelling across the country I was surprised to see the extent of the flooding. This did cause much more disruption to my train journey than when I drove, which was a tad frustrating.  It is also interesting to note how many major companies are monitoring Twitter these days, as I sent out a 'tweet' about First Great Western's poor service which was 30 mins late, with no announcements to inform passengers and no apology. However, within 10 mins of sending my 'tweet' I received a personal apology from Eli at FGW, so thanks for the personal touch.  But remember this wet winter when we come around to summer; will there be any hosepipe bans or water shortages? I can already see the water companies PR machines getting ready with 'it was the wrong type of water' excuse, when they say reservoir levels are low; and as for the price of fruit, vegetables and salads, almost certain to go up this year because farmers couldn't plant their crops or it was too wet to harvest.  Normally, at this time of year we are complaining about the snow and ice, or that it's too cold; but this year it's positively Mediterranean, at least 6 degrees above normal this suggests all of our heating bills should be lower.   

The energy companies will have already brought on the commodity 'spot' market, so there should be surpluses of gas, resulting in lower bills for everyone. However, in this world where utility bills only seem to be going one way (the opposite to Spurs and West Ham), I'm sure that just like the water companies, the power companies will have some outrageous explanation as to why we won't see any price reductions. What a dream job for nine-–year-old Amelie Hurley from Saltdean; the new star of the Cadbury Creme egg commercial was the envy of most of the team on the 6th floor at HQ, as Amelie got to eat 130 creme eggs as part of making the advert! 'Absolute heaven' and 'it's better than having a night out with Brad Pitt' were only two of the comments I believe I heard. Mind you, 130 creme eggs wouldn't last any longer on the 6th floor than it takes Spurs to ship five goals!

My week:


  • Met with the Operational Assessment Peer Review Team for their verbal report after the week they have spent in ESFRS.  This was a very positive report and they were extremely complimentary of all the staff they have met during the visit; great work on prevention and protection and the work we do with partners to improve community safety and health. They were very impressed with the work at Training Centre and our work with the Local Resilience Forum; we will receive the full report in four weeks and will share with staff.
  •  Had a coaching session with a senior NHS clinical manager who is responsible for delivering significant change including moving from five to three sites in the South of England, and also having to prepare for a much more competitive environment in blood and blood products used to treat many illnesses, as other EU countries are now able to sell into the UK; very challenging times but also opportunities for the NHSBT to sell into Europe as they develop their business.
  • Late meeting with senior managers and East Sussex County Council to look at an audit report on procurement; a very helpful report as it provided evidence on the areas where we are doing well and those areas we need to improve.  Procurement is a key area for all public services as we must comply with EU procurement rules and to ensure that anything we purchase, whether it is a new piece of equipment, an appliance or a new fire station is tendered for and that we get good value and quality.
  •  Had a discussion with the Chairman to update on the Peer Review, the discussions with East Sussex County Council and the meeting of the Fire Services Management Committee; also caught up on Council Tax discussions and budget proposals.
  • Attended a meeting of the ELP Programme Board which is chaired by Cllr. Rebecca Knox from Dorset FRS. We discussed the current programme which has 21 senior managers from across the UK, including Mark O'Brien; later I gave a presentation to the delegates on political awareness and discussed relationships with DCLG, the LGA and NJC, work with the Fire Sector Federation, ACPO and AACE.I also discussed The Emergency Planning College and whether there could be an 'Emergency Services Academy' at Moreton in Marsh.
  • Spoke to colleagues at HQ on some HR and workforce development issues and then our current budget and breakdown of spending areas; also looked at the proposals for our insurance, as this has just been out to tender with the insurance market putting up premiums by a lot more than inflation!
  • Meeting of the Institute of Directors in Horsham where we heard about the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership which is seeking to bring 100,000 new private sector jobs into the area over two decades they are seeking support from employer organisations to improve infrastructure including road and rail links, and digital connections including broadband and mobile phone reliability. They support the second runway at Gatwick and want to work with local councils to increase affordable housing and sites for business development; all sounds great to me, we just need to convince Government, major infrastructure companies and developers to deliver.
  • Monthly CMT agenda where we discussed the future of IT in our Service, a much needed amendment to the PQA process with a lot more clarity, a recommendation for insurance with a number of other services in the South East considering self-insurance through a mutual arrangement and Sussex Control. We also had a revised budget as we prepare for next month's Fire Authority meeting and any immediate lessons from the Peer Review.
  • Attended a meeting of the College Management Board, which is chaired by Sir Ken Knight, where we considered a financial update on the current trading of the college; there are a significant number of students from the Middle East, as the college seeks to expand its customer base, but pleasingly there are now a number of UK FRSs using the college. The new owners Capita have already invested considerably in their first year and it is reassuring to see investment in the fireground and incident command training.
  • Had a meeting with the MD of the college to look at new course developments and how we can ensure they meet local FRS needs, how training can be more flexible to accommodate the needs of RDS personnel, accreditation for courses and linking training to national occupational standards and to see if college courses can be run at local training centres.
Although the weather has been relatively mild for January, firefighters have responded to a spate of chimney fires, with crews from Lewes, Uckfield, Crowborough and Eastbourne all being called out in the last few days.


Our Community Safety Team has been providing advice to householders including ensuring the chimney is swept and properly maintained.  Residents of a large property in Mayfield were awoken by smoke alarms in the early hours of Saturday with crews from Mayfield, Crowborough and Wadhurst responding to a fire in the roof space. G ood firefighting operations confined the fire to the roof area with Crew Commander John Foskett advising of the life safety benefits of having an early warning of fire and urging all householders to ensure they install and regularly test, smoke alarms.  Firefighters from Uckfield were called out to a serious incident where a car had crashed into trees on the A272 near Hadlow Down; crews worked for over an hour with paramedics to free the driver, who was then taken to hospital.  Firefighters from Preston Circus were called out to an incident at Belbourne Court after fire alarms had actuated. Crews found the first-floor smoke logged where initial investigations suggested that a fire had started in the consumer electrical unit; firefighter wearing BA used a hosereel and main jet to contain the fire. 

Some hours later crews from Preston Circus and Roedean were called out to a fire in a third floor flat in Kemp Town where firefighters wearing BA used hosereels to extinguish the fire. Crews from Bohemia Road and The Ridge were called out to an incident in St Matthews Gardens where they found the ground floor and first floor of the building well alight; supporting crews from Battle, Bexhill and Rye also responded along with the Fire Victim Support Unit; firefighters used hosereels and main jets to contain the fire with three people led to safety.  

Well done to Lewes firefighters who today are throwing open their doors and inviting lo
cal people to find out about becoming an RDS firefighter. Across the county we will be recruiting throughout 2014 for RDS firefighters, and are hoping that we will see an increase in staff at our county town.  With more rain due this weekend, we are advising local people to drive safely; there is a lot of surface water about and it's easy to 'aquaplane'; ease off on the gas - lots of advice on our website.  

And for all football fans the biggest match of the season is on Monday evening; we all know who will be smiling on Tuesday morning!

Friday, 24 January 2014

Some very good news on the job front this week with unemployment now down to 7.1%, the lowest it has been for some time. Whilst this has to be welcomed by all those who are looking for work, we still need to create more jobs, especially for the young. That's why I was also pleased to see that the Supreme Court has rejected the appeal against the HS2 railway from London to Birmingham. Major infrastructure projects should provide lots of job opportunities and I would hope that when contracts are let, they include the requirement for apprenticeships to be provided for young people. I do agree that the proposed line is going through some wonderful countryside in Bucks, a county I lived in for many years, but much of the track will be in tunnels and there is still an awful lot of green in the Home Counties.
Previously I have been persuaded that Gatwick had a good case for a second runway, and this country desperately needs more airport capacity. However, recent experiences at Gatwick have not endeared me to the companies that run the business.  Earlier this week I went to Gatwick Railway Station which was a scene of chaos, if you were in a bit of a hurry to get a ticket, with long queues in the ticket hall and self-service machines. Someone needs to get a grip as places like Gatwick are often the first place visitors to the UK see, and they cannot be very impressed.  But they present great opportunities for job creation, so on balance, a second runway at Gatwick would be great for jobs in our part of the South East which often seems to be at the back of the queue in terms of new infrastructure investment. W hilst I think about it, isn't it about time the A27, A22 and A21 were made dual carriageways right across East Sussex. 

Good to see discussions continuing between Fire Minister Brandon Lewis and the FBU on the current pensions dispute, with a meeting earlier this week and a further meeting set for next Tuesday. We remain hopeful that the two sides can resolve the dispute with no further industrial action.  Had a fantastic letter from a local family who were full of praise for Red Watch Crowborough, Hailsham and the animal rescue team who rescued the family's much loved show jumping horse Zebedee. All the family signed the letter and sent in pictures of Zebedee back in full health; well done to Bob Beard and the crews; the family think you are just wonderful!
My week:
  • Visited the Sussex Control Centre in Haywards Heath now that the building work has been completed and was extremely impressed with the facility; a really spacious mobilising suite, with training rooms and offices as well as a major incident room which will double-up for training and administration. A nice gym shared with the firefighters and a server room, which looks like it could provide power for the whole of Southern England, just goes to show how complex a modern mobilising and control facility is. We are now waiting for Remsdaq to complete the system with factory acceptance tests due to take place and still on target to 'go live' this summer.
  • Discussed with the CFO of West Sussex FRS, potential collaboration on training and what other options we could look at for closer working between our two Services.
  • Worked with colleagues from NHS and College of a Policing on our cross-sector programme which we have now advertised to our respective Services as well as the Civil Service, Local Government and the voluntary sector.
  • Dialled into a telephone conference organised by the Fire Minister Brandon Lewis, to discuss finance, budgets and Council Tax. I registered to ask the Minister a question about freeze grants and was disappointed that the Minister did not take my question. However,  taking advantage of social media, I went on to Twitter to send a message expressing my disappointment about not having the chance to put my point before the wider audience and pleasingly Brandon Lewis replied, and gave some reassurance, which indicated that if a Fire Authority does take the freeze grant it will be built into base budgets going forward.
  • There is an external Peer Review taking place in ESFRS this week with a team led by Cllr. Stuart West (Shropshire) and CFO Dave Webb (Leicestershire). Many staff will have met the team who are looking at a number of key aspects of our organisation, as part of an Operational Assurance process. The team will give a presentation back to the Fire Authority and Officers on Friday and follow this up with a formal report.
  • Had a coaching session with a senior clinical manager from the NHS who is one of three NHS staff I am coaching, as the coach I gain a lot from the experience and staff in ESFRS will also benefit, as we have a 'quid pro quo' arrangement whereby our staff can be coached by staff from the NHS and Police.
  • Monthly meeting of Principal Officers where we discussed a number of key issues including preparations for the budget next month, the medium term plan linked to Service transformation, proposals for any public consultation (once the Fire Authority have reached their decisions) latest information on government grant which is linked to Council Tax limits and freeze grants, meetings with Sussex Police and the potential to re-locate to Sussex Police HQ, the future of the Eastbourne HQ. What I will say is that no decisions have been made on any of these matters and we will keep staff informed of all developments, but there is a lot going on!
  • Went out to Herstmonceux Community Fire Station and met Watch Commander Sean Wright and his crew; a really good discussion with the firefighters who were keen to talk about some of the issues that I had been discussing earlier with POs. Also talked about training for RDS staff, future opportunities for wholetime recruitment and potential migration, the challenges of RDS recruitment and whether we would be considering alternative crewing arrangements and duty systems for RDS staff. Tthere was also a fabulous cake in the middle of the table which everyone was too polite to eat when I was there, but it was gone quicker than Eden Hazard skipping through the Man Utd defence, once I had stopped talking!
  • Was interviewed by the Peer Review Team who wanted to know about our medium term plan, the link with IRMP, what plans we had to deliver our savings, when we were going to implement these changes, what barriers there were to change and the approach the Fire Authority were taking to leading these changes. T he team also met Fire Authority Group leaders and during the week, visited fire stations, training centre and met some of the external partners we work with.
  • Went to the national pensions committee where we looked at the overall cost of the pension scheme, how we would deal with future costs that exceeded the 'cost cap', employee contribution levels and the role of a board to advise the Secretary of State on the scheme and any proposed changes or amendments.
  • Met with the peer review team lead officer for a mid-week update to ensure they were able to find out the information they wanted, whether they wanted any additional meetings or whether they wanted to look at other areas of ESFRS.
  • Was invited to a meeting of East Sussex County Council on their budget proposals for the coming year, how they wanted to work with partners such as ESFRS, what options we had for working together, delivering efficiencies, supporting the local health agenda and delivering community focused services.

This week, firefighters from Bexhill, The Ridge and Bohemia Road responded to a fire in a flat on the top floor of a three-story building. Crews wearing BA entered the flat and used compressed air foam to extinguish the blaze; two occupants were treated by paramedics for the effects of smoke inhalation.  Crews from Hailsham and Eastbourne were called out to a fire in a property in Stanier Street last Thursday. F ortunately neighbours heard an alarm sounding and called ESFRS, with crews wearing BA using a hosereel to extinguish the fire.  This was a timely reminder of the benefits of having a working smoke alarm and also the quick thinking of neighbours to dial 999 when they heard the alarm sounding. Lewes crews were called out to a chimney fire in Ringmer where they used the chimney kit and a hosereel to extinguish the fire, also checking there was no further fire spread by using a thermal imaging camera. This also proves to be a further reminder for householders to ensure that their chimney has been swept and to take general fire precautions using a fire guard and ensuring hot coals or logs cannot fall out of the fire grate.  Eastbourne and Pevensey crews responded to reports of smoke coming out from flats above a parade of shops. Crews found a fire in a food and wine shop, with crews wearing BA, using hosereels to extinguish the fire. 
You may notice the increasing use of social media to provide safety messages, advice and information to the public and ESFRS are making good use of Twitter to provide information and advice to the public; over the next two weeks we will be providing advice on testing smoke alarms and asking others to re-tweet this and other fire safety messages and I must congratulate all of our staff, volunteers and partners who have really helped to make our community safer by installing 22,710 smoke alarms across East Sussex and Brighton and Hove, in the 12 months from December 2012; a real success story!
With the weather still pretty autumnal rather than winter, I'm looking forward to my first glimpse of snow at the Sochi Olympics. I am envious of all of those who have been away skiing already and pleased that the ESFRS 'ski pack' returned safe and sound from their trip to the French Alps. The UK team are hopeful of gaining some medals at these Games although I'm hoping we unearth another 'Eddie the Eagle'. I also have some candidates in mind that I would be happy to send down the 60 metre ski jump, with the BMW driver who tried to take my bonnet off when he took a very late left turn on the A27, my first nomination!


Friday, 17 January 2014

Our thoughts this week are with the family and friends of a man who lost his life after a fire in Eastbourne last Saturday. Crews wearing BA and using hose reels entered the property, rescuing the casualty and extinguishing the blaze, but unfortunately he did not survive the effects of the fire. It is always incredibly sad when – despite the best efforts of all those involved – emergencies end in the loss of life.

Firefighters worked equally hard at another incident this week. Crews from Bexhill, Bohemia Road and The Ridge were called out to a flat fire in St. Leonards on Saturday night where they rescued five people, one casualty was treated at the scene by paramedics. Firefighters wearing BA, using hosereels and CAFS put out the fire.  Mention must also be made of the vital fire survival advice given by our Control room staff over the phone to those caught in the incident.  All in all it was a real team effort in difficult conditions.

On the other side of the world, I see our colleagues in the Australian Fire Services are battling huge bush fires.  I spoke with one of my friends in the Melbourne Metropolitan Fire Brigade who described the extent of the fires they have been fighting in South Australia and Victoria. This week in Melbourne, temperatures have reached 41 Celsius, that's 107 Fahrenheit and far in excess of anything we have ever experienced in the UK. I have a great admiration for our Aussie firefighter colleagues, having been out to see the bushfires when I was in Australia a few years ago, and it was really interesting to look at incident command and communications when fighting fires over such a large area.

Very sad to hear one of the most popular, and well-known, actors who has given us so many laughs, sadly lost his battle against cancer and passed away this week. Roger Lloyd-Pack, whilst best known for his portrayal of Trigger in Only Fools and Horses and Owen Newitt in that other classic, the Vicar of Dibley, he was a great character actor and I remember seeing him in the West End theatre. I'm sure everyone will have their favourite Trigger moment and the scene when Del Boy fell through the bar has to be one of the best!
 
My week:

*. met with the Chairman, Vice Chair and Treasurer to discuss our budget proposals and to look at the most up to date information on Council Tax and Government grant.  The Fire Authority will not make final decisions until next month. Although the Policy & Resources Panel make recommendations, there is pressure from Government not to raise council tax but to take the freeze grant offered (we have not raised council tax for 3 years) and we are still trying to get the precise figures on our grant cut.

*. had discussions with the Leader of East Sussex County Council and arranged to meet with County Councillors to brief them on the range of IRMP proposals being considered by the Fire Authority. Also had a discussion with West Sussex FRS following their announcement of budget reductions and savings to be made on all services in West Sussex with some Councillors asking why the proposed merger did not go ahead.

*. briefing from Richard Fowler on proposals for a partnership to refurbish higher risk residential flats with sprinklers which the Fire Authority would 'match fund' out of capital. Both Derbyshire and South Yorkshire FRSs have already been involved in similar projects and this has greatly enhanced the safety for local residents in higher risk premises. Richard along with our fire engineering team have done some excellent work drawing up a risk assessment method, identified a number of blocks of residential flats that would be ideal to install sprinklers and we are now working with the relevant local authorities to progress.

*. Media interviews with BBC Surrey & Sussex FM, Sovereign FM and also with a reporter from the Argus. All wanted to know about budget proposals and whether there would be any reductions to the Service. We explained that the Fire Authority had already made decisions at their December meeting and we are currently talking with staff about these decisions and that further discussions will take place at the February meeting alongside agreeing the budget for next year. Staff will be updated as soon as any decisions are made, but decisions already taken in 2013/14 mean that we should be in a healthy position for the coming year.

*. met with Neal Robinson to discuss firesetter advisors and in particular whether we are continuing our previous work with our adult firesetter advisors. Neal will be meeting with other organisations who refer firesetter advisors to ESFRS and also meeting with staff who have been involved in the scheme. I recently met with Steve Burgoyne at Uckfield, who is a very experienced advisor and has been involved in some very difficult and challenging work which has made a real difference to people's lives. ESFRS is absolutely committed to delivering the very best community safety service we can and need to ensure our resources are properly matched to the demands placed upon us, but I do want to pay a special thanks to all involved in our firesetter advisor schemes as they have all done fantastic work.

*. meeting with the Treasurer to look at the future of financial services as our current provider East Sussex County Council are moving to a shared service with Surrey, we will need to consider all future options.

*. meeting at the Fire Service College where we looked at some exciting new developments including an incident command simulator where the OIC wears a pair of '3D Goggles' and can see themselves on a 'live' incident ground where they are able to move around, deploy crews, watch fire development or suppression depending on their decisions and the crews actions, this was very innovative and has borrowed ideas from the games industry.

* had a meeting of Cross Sector Leadership Exchange and a new CFOA working group of leaders from across the Service. We are putting together a programme of 6 leadership development events in 2014 with the theme of 'public value' and asking for students to work on challenging cross sector projects.

* attended the Fire & Rescue Council meeting where we discussed national guidance, qualifications for fire safety officers, better procurement, relationship with Government and funding. We also looked at how we could work with the College to improve training opportunities for staff and how the College could deliver some parts of their training at local training centres or through the web.

*. busy day at HQ with meetings of the Scrutiny & Audit Panel and the Policy & Resources Panel. Members first discussed the IIP Assessors Report, Corporate Risk Register, Auditors Report on Leave and Quarterly Performance, then moved to look at the current revenue budget and were assured that we would not overspend in the current financial year. We then looked at the proposals for our forthcoming budget including the freeze grant being offered by DCLG and then considered the implications of any council tax rise. No decisions were made, but the P&R Panel agreed to recommend that the Fire Authority consider all options at their meeting next month where they will set the final budget.

Crews from Wadhurst were called out to assist their colleagues from Kent at a collision involving two vehicles in Frant. Firefighters used hydraulic cutting equipment to free the casualty who was then treated at the scene by paramedics. 

Firefighters from Roedean and Preston Circus were called out to a collision involving a lorry and a car where crews extricated two casualties from the car under the supervision of paramedics. 

An incident in Woodingdean saw firefighters from Newhaven and Roedean respond to reports of a kitchen fire. Firefighters wearing BA and using hosereels extinguished the fire then used a PPV fan to clear smoke from the property, also providing one casualty with oxygen therapy. 

Speaking to staff in M&CC on Thursday they mentioned that ESFRS had not received any 999 calls overnight, this is very unusual but is part of the trend of declining calls over the last decade and should be celebrated as a great success of our community safety work.  Fires and other emergency calls are continuing to reduce which means that our communities must be safer and this as something we can all be proud off. However, we should never be complacent as only three weeks ago on Christmas Eve, M&CC received over 200 calls in a 24 hour period. This proved just how well our Control room staff can work under huge pressure, helping keep the public safe and ensuring the right resources are in the right place at the right time.
 
This week I met with the Comms team, who highlighted the growth in different ways of communicating – our Twitter and Facebook accounts for example now have thousands of people reading them each day.  The team is also reviewing how we communicate internally as we have lots of different tools – the intranet, email and face to face briefings. A survey will be circulated in the coming weeks so staff can tell us their views.

So I am now asking for feedback on the Blog which I have been writing on a weekly basis for some time now, and to find out whether it is worth continuing. The suggestion is that I wind down the Blog by the end of March and use social media more. The original purpose of the Blog was to give staff a bit of an insight into what I do, to discuss some topical things both inside and outside the Service, to let me talk about personal things like Chelsea and Northern Soul and to also talk about things that are happening in ESFRS but if people prefer other communication channels, then it is only right that we review the Blog. I do know there are a number of people outside ESFRS who read this and I am very happy to continue, but I am very much guided by whether it is still of interest to you. If you have any feedback please contact Matt Lloyd matthew.lloyd@esfrs.org

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

Friday, 10 January 2014

For the last few weeks, the news has been dominated by the weather and there have been parts of the country flooded, with high winds bringing down power lines and thousands of trees. Trains were disrupted, airports closed and some roads were impassable but this week, the USA has experienced proper cold weather, unimaginable in the UK.  Temperatures in the Mid-west States were as low as -40 degrees centigrade, with snow falling at the rate of one inch per hour. There were plenty of road and rail closures and many public buildings, including schools, were not open, but it was also refreshing to see much of the snow-bound States just getting on with their lives, continuing to drive and go to school or into work. It seemed to confirm the old adage that we shouldn't complain about the weather as it is beyond our control, but we can prepare much better for the different weather we experience by wearing the right clothing, stick a shovel and a blanket in the boot if it is about to snow and just appreciate the wonder of this small island at the eastern end of the North Atlantic! 

Sussex Police have just released data on their Christmas 'drink-drive' safety campaign - more than 4,000 drivers were tested with nearly 200 people either already dealt with by the courts or arrested and bailed pending further enquiries.  The names and offences of people have also been published with Magistrates taking a firm approach issuing fines and long bans. 

There has been much reporting this week on the result of the London Fire Brigade safety plan which has seen a change to fire cover. Clerkenwell Fire Station which opened in 1872 and reckoned to be London's oldest station closed on Thursday along with nine other fire stations. The London Fire Brigade (LFB) has a long and proud tradition and is rightly, world-renowned.  I have many colleagues who have served in London and I know a number of our staff have previously served in the LFB or are serving as firefighters on our RDS stations. I am sure the LFB will continue to provide an excellent service to Londoners and the many people who visit one of the greatest capital cities in the world.   I had a great time in London last weekend when I went to see a show at the Palace Theatre, it was absolutely brilliant, one of the best shows I have been to see for some time, great dialogue, acting and the lead singer had a cracking voice, highly recommended, and they get you up dancing in the aisles! Oh I forgot to say, it was The Commitments, don't miss it.

My week:

  • Went to the opening of the newly refurbished and extended Crowborough Community Fire Station and met with crews and guests. It was good to see Lesley Wembridge,  Richard and Janet Kent as station personnel had wanted to name the new community room the Wembridge and Kent Room, in memory of Brian and Alex who had both served at the station. I was also told about the high standards at the station, where apparently there is the ESFRS 'standard' which is found everywhere else and then we have 'the Crowborough, which I was very impressed with. Great to meet a crew so proud of their station, although I suspect there will be one or two OICs out there who would be prepared to contest Pup and his team.
  •  Meetings at HQ to prepare for Fire Authority later this month, a report from auditors on procurement and our joint 'blue light' collaboration work with Sussex and Surrey emergency services.
  • Training programme at Ashridge Management College, where I met up with other students who had come from as far afield as Hong Kong, Turkey, Brazil, Saudi Arabia with others closer to home from Belgium, Holland and Denmark. The one common thread was that the programme was wholly in English with all my overseas colleagues speaking our language perfectly. A fantastic learning environment and also a compliment to the reputation of Ashridge in such a competitive environment.
  • Spent a lot of time on the phone catching up with the senior team at HQ as well as the Chairman and Vice Chair, CFOs in West Sussex, Hampshire, Humberside and Hertfordshire and discussing forthcoming Peer Review in Avon and our own Peer Review  later this month.
  • Was at the Fire Service College for a Customer Advisory Board meeting where we were updated by the Chief Executive on the business plans for the coming year. One of our old colleagues Jon Hall, who is currently CFO of Gloucestershire, will be taking up a role at the FSC following his forthcoming retirement and Jon will be working closely with FRSs across the country to ensure the FSC delivers the operational and incident command training to meet the needs of firefighters and operational commanders.
  •   We have had to rearrange a meeting with WSFRS where we were going to discuss the Sussex Control Centre and options to consider a joint L&OD function. The current Chief Executive of West Sussex County Council Kieran Stigant has announced he is leaving the Authority. Kieran has been a great supporter of the joint work we undertake with WSFRS and we wish him well and hope to continue working closely with West Sussex under their new senior leadership team.
  • Telephone conference with a colleague where we discussed a number of recent pension consultations and implications of decisions by the government on costs of pension arrangements for RDS staff and the definition of pensionable pay.
  • There was a PO meeting with Brighton & Hove City Council's legal team to discuss our contract for legal services and the different legal advice we require to manage ESFRS. The Fire Authority's Monitoring Officer is also the Principal Legal Advisor to the City Council and we met to discuss the continuing service. We are seeking to buy-in as this is a more cost effective option rather than providing our own legal team.
  • Went to a briefing to discuss our up-and-coming Peer Review; a team of Officers and elected members from other FRSs, supported by the Local Government Association, will be visiting ESFRS later this month as part of the Assurance and assessment process. They will be meeting with a number of our own staff, trade unions and our external partners to discuss how we are working with them to deliver more effective community safety services.



This week firefighters from Bexhill were called out to an incident at Ibstock Brickworks where a vehicle had been involved in a collision with one person trapped. Crews worked to free the individual who was then taken to hospital for treatment. 

Crews from Broad Oak were called out to rescue a male who had suffered a broken leg and was trapped in his garden in thick mud and flowing water. Working with colleagues from SECAmb, firefighters managed to free the man and take him to a place of safety where he was treated by paramedics and then taken to hospital. 

There was severe flooding in West Sussex earlier this week, with assistance requested from the specialist High Volume Pump based at Hove. Firefighters responded to the incident near Horsham where flood water had affected the railway line and surrounding land; working throughout the night, crews removed large quantities of water from the affected area allowing the railway line to be re-opened. 

The severe weather we have been experiencing has caused significant flooding to many local roads; high winds have also caused a large number of trees to come down, and strong off-shore winds and high tides have resulted in some coastal flooding and damaged to local beaches.  ESFRS have put out a number of warnings on our website, local radio and Twitter to warn people to take extra care during the bad weather and to be very careful near floodwater. 

Sadly, there have been some tragic incidents where people have been swept away in the high tides along our beaches, and we continue to warn people to stay away from the sea as it is particularly dangerous at this time of year. 

ESFRS Business Safety Manager Mark Hobbs has put out some great advice to local businesses about business continuity plans with further advice on the ESFRS and Sussex Resilience Forum websites.  Stay safe and ensure your business is prepared for the unexpected.


As part of our caring service, we should be conscious that those who are supporters of West Ham and Manchester United are likely to be in a highly sensitive and delicate state with something very minor causing them deep distress, this high state of anxiety is likely to last for some time, please can staff keep a look out for any Hammers or United fans and give them all the love and support they need at this difficult time.
For the last few weeks, the news has been dominated by the weather and there have been parts of the country flooded, with high winds bringing down power lines and thousands of trees. Trains were disrupted, airports closed and some roads were impassable but this week, the USA has experienced proper cold weather, unimaginable in the UK. 

Temperatures in the Mid-west States were as low as -40 degrees centigrade, with snow falling at the rate of one inch per hour. There were plenty of road and rail closures and many public buildings, including schools, were not open, but it was also refreshing to see much of the snow-bound States just getting on with their lives, continuing to drive and go to school or into work. It seemed to confirm the old adage that we shouldn't complain about the weather as it is beyond our control, but we can prepare much better for the different weather we experience by wearing the right clothing, stick a shovel and a blanket in the boot if it is about to snow and just appreciate the wonder of this small island at the eastern end of the North Atlantic! 

Sussex Police have just released data on their Christmas 'drink-drive' safety campaign - more than 4,000 drivers were tested with nearly 200 people either already dealt with by the courts or arrested and bailed pending further enquiries.  The names and offences of people have also been published with Magistrates taking a firm approach issuing fines and long bans. 

There has been much reporting this week on the result of the London Fire Brigade safety plan which has seen a change to fire cover. Clerkenwell Fire Station which opened in 1872 and reckoned to be London's oldest station closed on Thursday along with nine other fire stations. The London Fire Brigade (LFB) has a long and proud tradition and is rightly, world-renowned.  I have many colleagues who have served in London and I know a number of our staff have previously served in the LFB or are serving as firefighters on our RDS stations. 

I am sure the LFB will continue to provide an excellent service to Londoners and the many people who visit one of the greatest capital cities in the world.   I had a great time in London last weekend when I went to see a show at the Palace Theatre, it was absolutely brilliant, one of the best shows I have been to see for some time, great dialogue, acting and the lead singer had a cracking voice, highly recommended, and they get you up dancing in the aisles! Oh I forgot to say, it was The Commitments, don't miss it.

My week:

  • Went to the opening of the newly refurbished and extended Crowborough Community Fire Station and met with crews and guests. It was good to see Lesley Wembridge,  Richard and Janet Kent as station personnel had wanted to name the new community room the Wembridge and Kent Room, in memory of Brian and Alex who had both served at the station. I was also told about the high standards at the station, where apparently there is the ESFRS 'standard' which is found everywhere else and then we have 'the Crowborough, which I was very impressed with. Great to meet a crew so proud of their station, although I suspect there will be one or two OICs out there who would be prepared to contest Pup and his team.
  • Meetings at HQ to prepare for Fire Authority later this month, a report from auditors on procurement and our joint 'blue light' collaboration work with Sussex and Surrey emergency services.
  • Training programme at Ashridge Management College, where I met up with other students who had come from as far afield as Hong Kong, Turkey, Brazil, Saudi Arabia with others closer to home from Belgium, Holland and Denmark. The one common thread was that the programme was wholly in English with all my overseas colleagues speaking our language perfectly. A fantastic learning environment and also a compliment to the reputation of Ashridge in such a competitive environment.
  • Spent a lot of time on the phone catching up with the senior team at HQ as well as the Chairman and Vice Chair, CFOs in West Sussex, Hampshire, Humberside and Hertfordshire and discussing forthcoming Peer Review in Avon and our own Peer Review  later this month.
  • Was at the Fire Service College for a Customer Advisory Board meeting where we were updated by the Chief Executive on the business plans for the coming year. One of our old colleagues Jon Hall, who is currently CFO of Gloucestershire, will be taking up a role at the FSC following his forthcoming retirement and Jon will be working closely with FRSs across the country to ensure the FSC delivers the operational and incident command training to meet the needs of firefighters and operational commanders.
  •  We have had to rearrange a meeting with WSFRS where we were going to discuss the Sussex Control Centre and options to consider a joint L&OD function. The current Chief Executive of West Sussex County Council Kieran Stigant has announced he is leaving the Authority. Kieran has been a great supporter of the joint work we undertake with WSFRS and we wish him well and hope to continue working closely with West Sussex under their new senior leadership team.
  • Telephone conference with a colleague where we discussed a number of recent pension consultations and implications of decisions by the government on costs of pension arrangements for RDS staff and the definition of pensionable pay.
  • There was a PO meeting with Brighton & Hove City Council's legal team to discuss our contract for legal services and the different legal advice we require to manage ESFRS. The Fire Authority's Monitoring Officer is also the Principal Legal Advisor to the City Council and we met to discuss the continuing service. We are seeking to buy-in as this is a more cost effective option rather than providing our own legal team.
  • Went to a briefing to discuss our up-and-coming Peer Review; a team of Officers and elected members from other FRSs, supported by the Local Government Association, will be visiting ESFRS later this month as part of the Assurance and assessment process. They will be meeting with a number of our own staff, trade unions and our external partners to discuss how we are working with them to deliver more effective community safety services.


This week firefighters from Bexhill were called out to an incident at Ibstock Brickworks where a vehicle had been involved in a collision with one person trapped. Crews worked to free the individual who was then taken to hospital for treatment. 

Crews from Broad Oak were called out to rescue a male who had suffered a broken leg and was trapped in his garden in thick mud and flowing water. Working with colleagues from SECAmb, firefighters managed to free the man and take him to a place of safety where he was treated by paramedics and then taken to hospital. 

There was severe flooding in West Sussex earlier this week, with assistance requested from the specialist High Volume Pump based at Hove. Firefighters responded to the incident near Horsham where flood water had affected the railway line and surrounding land; working throughout the night, crews removed large quantities of water from the affected area allowing the railway line to be re-opened. 

The severe weather we have been experiencing has caused significant flooding to many local roads; high winds have also caused a large number of trees to come down, and strong off-shore winds and high tides have resulted in some coastal flooding and damaged to local beaches.  ESFRS have put out a number of warnings on our website, local radio and Twitter to warn people to take extra care during the bad weather and to be very careful near floodwater. 

Sadly, there have been some tragic incidents where people have been swept away in the high tides along our beaches, and we continue to warn people to stay away from the sea as it is particularly dangerous at this time of year. 

ESFRS Business Safety Manager Mark Hobbs has put out some great advice to local businesses about business continuity plans with further advice on the ESFRS and Sussex Resilience Forum websites.  Stay safe and ensure your business is prepared for the unexpected.

As part of our caring service, we should be conscious that those who are supporters of West Ham and Manchester United are likely to be in a highly sensitive and delicate state with something very minor causing them deep distress, this high state of anxiety is likely to last for some time, please can staff keep a look out for any Hammers or United fans and give them all the love and support they need at this difficult time.

Friday, 3 January 2014

I hope you all had great Christmas and New Year and had the opportunity to spend some time with family and friends. The New Year is always a time for optimism, where you can reflect back on the previous year, which for all of us will have been one invariably of mixed blessings. However, it is now the opportunity to look forward and see what 2014 will bring and what you will do to make and shape your year. 
I am now starting my 38th year in the Fire & Rescue Service with my first day on duty being 31st December 1976 and I can still remember the excitement and enthusiasm I had starting what was my first real job and one that has remained special to me ever since.  I just love being in the Fire & Rescue Service and have met so many great and interesting people throughout my career.   
One of the places where I made long lasting friendships was the Fire Service College; it is an absolutely brilliant asset with some of the best operational training facilities in the world and where you meet firefighters from across the country and learn simply by talking to them.  This year I hope we can work with the new owners to really make the college the world leading training and development academy for the emergency services, and where current and future generations of Fire & Rescue Service staff will continue to benefit from attending. 
Last year, I was also delighted to see Fire & Rescue Services working with NHS blood and organ donation and saw NHS stands at many of our open days.  Sadly, too many people are desperately in need of donated organs and unfortunately many will die, still waiting to receive donated organs; and our reserves blood supplies are lower than we need. Firefighters see at firsthand the seriousness of injuries at operational incidents with burns victims needing blood transfusions and skin grafts and those they rescue from road traffic collisions sometimes suffering organ failure. 
Anything we can do to support the NHS blood and organ donation will save lives and I hope ESFRS will once again be at the forefront of life safety initiatives.  I know quite a number of our staff give up their own time to support Operation Florian in helping to train firefighters in Macedonia and parts of Africa.  In 2014, some of our firefighters and volunteers will be off to Moldova to help train firefighters and deliver equipment.  It is a fantastic development opportunity for our staff and I know they come back really enthused but sometimes a little bit humbled when they see just how poorly equipped other colleagues are in some other countries. 
I didn't watch too much TV over Christmas, apart from the classic Toy Story - Buzz and Woody are truly great stars of the screen but I think Mr Potato Head is the coolest and has some great 'one-liners'. However, if you want to hear something really inspiring listen to the iPlayer on Radio 4 and the interviews with Dr David Nott; truly inspiring surgeon who every year spends some time working in war zones in the most horrendous conditions, simply because he sees this as his duty.  He helps to train local doctors and they save hundreds of people. 
The NHS are training up a thousand doctors this year who have volunteered to support this work with organisations such as Medecins sans Frontieres and the International Red Cross. Have a listen to Dr Nott and I guarantee you will be inspired. 
On a much lighter note, I was inspired by the superb performance by the super blues against Liverpool and I did have a laugh.  I understand the Reds, who have always had an over inflated opinion of themselves, were really pleased with themselves because they were top of the league for about six hours. Well, we did have a bit of a giggle when we looked at the league table and saw they were where they rightly belong, battling with the Toffees of Everton to see who will be top dog on Merseyside and they'll be lucky to get a place in the Channel 5 Cup next season.  And as for Spurs (one win doesn't make you a good team!), Newcastle and that upstart Southampton, normal service will be resumed in the second half of the season!  But credit where it's due, the Seagulls are making steady progress and could get into the play-offs which would be a good return after the turbulence of 'life after Gus'.
My last couple of weeks
  • Still trying to support the discussions on the pensions dispute; not sure where DCLG and the FBU are in their discussion but this dispute needs to be resolved soon.

  • Preparing for meetings with the Fire Authority over the next six weeks; important time as we must agree and set a budget for 2014/15. Still some uncertainty about the precise cut to our grant and limitations on council tax; not clear on our Council Tax base, how much we will lose from the reductions in Council Tax rebates and how much business rates we will get; no doubt I will need a really sharp pencil!

  • Continuing to refine plans to make our savings over the next five years and we will be discussing our options for how we structure our operational, community safety and protection services. The Fire Authority will publish their plans in the next few weeks and when we need to make the savings; I am optimistic for next year and we should be OK, although it's not done until it's done.

  • Having to make adjustments to our financial plans to take account of additional costs caused by RDS pensions and also what is now deemed to be pensionable pay; both of these issues will bring additional costs to all FRSs and are the result of either legal rulings or new national agreements which will have some backdated costs. Either way, it is a bit of a headache and the Director of Financial Services will be circulating an update once we have clarity on the issues.

  • I have visited a number of fire stations over the past two weeks and also been to Control Centres in Eastbourne and Chichester. A great opportunity to catch up with staff and now I know where the Power Watt bike is. I think this would be more useful at HQ! I have also found out it is possible to get 15 marshmallows in your mouth; I'm not sure what benefit this provides or whether it helps you to float if you fall into deep water, but it did seem to occupy the time of one watch!

  • There have been three periods of industrial action over the last 11 days, thankfully there were no serious incidents and I am extremely grateful for the contingency crews and RDS who were on duty during the strikes.

Crews and in particular our mobilising staff, have been busy responding to a variety of incidents over the past two weeks.  
Both in Eastbourne and Chichester Control Rooms staff having been taking many weather-related calls with the peak during the storms over Christmas Eve when each control room received over 250 emergency calls.  
Firefighters have been busy across the county and city responding to flooding, storm damaged properties, fallen trees and collapsed scaffolding. 
Crews from Hove were called out to an emergency at Gatwick Airport on Christmas Eve requiring the HVP to help keep on-site substations from flooding.  Thankfully, there has been a significant reduction in the number of property fires across all areas, which is a great credit to our operational and CFS staff and our volunteers, who have been out in our communities every day providing home safety advice.  It is important we continue this fantastic community safety work in 2014 with our local authority and health partners, to really make a difference in improving public safety and health. 
This weekend we are expecting some more rain and the potential of flooding in some parts of the county. A 'Major Incident' was declared in the West Country on Thursday and we have stepped up preparations through the Local Resilience Forum and any requests for additional national assets will be co-ordinated through the agreed national arrangements.
Finally, as a little test, can you name the 'BRIC' countries; well when you have done that, name the 'MINT' countries; these have been identified as the newest emerging economies but which one is linked to the Ivory Coast through a superstar footballer?