Friday, 28 February 2014

Chief's blog 28th February 2014

The recovery phase of the flooding across much of the South West and South East of England is continuing with a number of Fire & Rescue Services from across England still deployed in those areas affected. The response of the Fire & Rescue Service and firefighters has been fantastic with crews deployed away from home for many days, demonstrating the effectiveness of the national resilience arrangements. However, there are undoubtedly lessons to be learned following the largest ever mobilisation of Fire & Rescue Services at what is a very large scale civil emergency, with a centrally coordinated debrief now underway. 

We need to maintain that the Fire & Rescue Service has the ability and capability to respond to unpredictable or extreme weather events and other large scale emergencies. The recent floods have shown just what we can do in such circumstances, to mitigate the impact on local communities, many who have clearly suffered a great deal over the past few weeks.

My recent visit to Uganda with the NHS has shown me how resourceful other nations can be, and that our approach in engaging local people is no different in Uganda where, at the present time, they only collect about 70% of the blood they need for transfusions.  I met Dr. Issac who had lost his left arm after a car accident, as he waited for surgery. There was not enough blood available to take him into theatre and by the time blood arrived, the surgeon had to amputate his arm at the shoulder. Any later and Dr Issac would probably not be here today, but if the blood had been available when required, there would have been no need to amputate. 

I also spoke to people who had lost family members through malaria, a significant cause of anaemia and requiring blood transfusions. Many of those suffering malaria are under the age of five and therefore preventing infection through the use of mosquito nets is vital. We were working with leaders across the Ugandan Blood Transfusion Service and Ugandan Red Cross to support their work, and helping their work with partners in government and non-governmental organisations to help fund longer term health projects. 

The Winter Olympics have come to an end with another successful outcome for the GB team. Although there wasn't a hatful of medals, you could see the commitment and determination of the GB team, epitomised by Elise Christie our highly rated speed skater, who was disqualified in all three events she competed in.  This young lady would have trained enormously hard over the past four years and sacrificed a huge amount simply to make the Olympic squad. Elise deserves to be recognised as a role model and for being an Olympian she is an inspiration to us all.

My week:

  • Spoke with the Chairman and Vice Chair to discuss Fire Authority business and discussions Cllr. Howson has had with his colleagues at West Sussex and Surrey where they are directing their Fire & Rescue Services to work much more closely together, to share working arrangements, facilities and buildings. Discussions will continue at a political level to consider what options for closer working and integration elected members want to progress.
  • Continuing to work on the Sussex Control Centre with a target to 'go-live’ this summer, the project team is making excellent progress on integrating the two existing systems and standard operational procedures.
  • Discussed outline proposals being put forward by Uckfield Town Council, the local authority and developers, who are considering a redevelopment of the area adjacent to, and including, the existing community fire station. ESFRS are involved in discussions and will keep staff updated when any proposals come forward.
  • Completed our work in Uganda with a presentation to regional government officials, local community leaders and representatives from the Red Cross and the Blood Transfusion Service. It was a real pleasure to work with Ugandan health care professionals who work in extremely difficult conditions but are absolutely determined to help local communities and put their patients at the heart of everything they do - a real privilege for me to be invited to work in Uganda.
  • Met with colleagues at Ashridge on an Executive Coaching Course. As is the case with all staff in ESFRS, I have an annual appraisal and this can lead to me undertaking professional development in my role as CFO&CE. I worked with a number of highly experienced professionals including psychologists, therapists and coaches including one of the GB Olympic Team high performance coaches. This is helping me to reflect on my own leadership, how I think through challenges and team-working.
  • Discussion with a number of colleagues from other Services on how they are dealing with the financial challenges and savings targets we are all having to make. A number of Fire & Rescue Services have already introduced new ways of working including day crewed plus, duty systems and crewing specialist appliances. It is helpful to share experiences and to learn from those Services who have already implemented change.
  • Meeting with national HR and L&OD committee to discuss the introduction of the Fire Professional Framework, fitness and occupational health standards, qualifications, working with the Fire Service College, pension consultations, abatement, RDS issues including work in Lincolnshire Fire & Rescue Service which has looked at the role of firefighters on different duty systems, supporting our workforce over the next four years as Fire & Rescue Services reduce establishments and draft Compensation Regulations in cases of redundancy.
  • Attended a meeting at the University of Bath where we considered their research report into fitness standards for firefighters. This is the result of 18 months’ work looking at the physical demands on firefighters, leading to evidence based fitness standards which it is hoped will be published later this year.

Firefighters and support staff across ESFRS take part in lots of charitable fundraising events every year with money raised going to very worthwhile causes. The Firefighters Charity is very dear to all of us, with a number of staff and their families benefiting from the first class rehabilitation and care facilities provided by the charity. Over the next few weeks, firefighters across the country will take part in the National Car Wash, raising much needed funds for our own charity, with Bexhill opening their doors on 8th March and Roedean and Battle doing the same on 15th March.  Please go along and support your colleagues, get all soaped up and frothy for a very good cause, clean lots of cars, have fun and help support the Firefighters Charity.

We are also delighted to support International Women's Day on 6th March and will be having access to a live streamed event on 'Gender Intelligence - Science of Communication.'  The screening will be held at two venues the IT Suite at Headquarters and Meeting Room 2 at the Service Training Centre between 12.00 -13.30 hrs next Thursday and these include interviews with inspirational speakers including Kelly Hoppen MBE (Interior Designer and Dragon from Dragon's Den,) Ben Shephard, TV presenter, Collette Dunkley, Strategic Communications Advisor and Simon Fanshawe, Co-founder of Stonewall. 

Great news about Newhaven Community Fire Station as we have launched a public consultation on the new fire station. It is a really innovative design, and is part of a joint collaboration with Sussex Police and Lewes District Council.  If everything goes to plan, we would hope to be building later this year and opening a new station at the end of 2015. This is a really exciting development for ESFRS and for the community in Newhaven and the surrounding area.