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!