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.