Friday, 7 March 2014

CFO's blog 7 March 2014

This week I was shocked to read reports of local health care professionals in parts of Pakistan being targeted by militants simply for providing polio vaccines to local children. A number of nurses in the vaccination teams were reported as being killed or injured in the Jamrud district. Polio is a terrible disease, almost eradicated from most parts of the world, but still claiming lives in some parts of Peshawar and causing awful suffering to those who contract the virus. I cannot comprehend why anyone would want to deny children a vaccine that would prevent polio; the courage of the local health care doctors and nurses in Pakistan is astonishing; they are being shot at and killed, simply for giving out a vaccine. But they continue their life saving work in the most intimidating conditions; they are as brave a group as we are ever likely to hear about. 

After returning from Uganda, and seeing the terrible suffering and distress that can be caused in local communities through a lack of blood and poor health care, it was humbling to see the fantastic work being carried out by Ugandan health care professionals, often with little resources and in the most difficult conditions.  Local people are the key to improving the quality of life for their communities. I understand that my trip has been a bit of a talking point – and would like to make one thing very clear. This was in my own time and at no costs to local taxpayers. Any suggestion otherwise is wrong. Many people in positions such as my own are very committed to causes outside their work and want to raise awareness of the issues others less fortunate than us face. I feel very strongly about the need to try and help increase blood donations, reduce malaria, and to work with clinicians and doctors who are trying to improve healthcare for some of the poorest people in the world. Furthermore, I hope to return to Uganda later this year to continue to give something back – and that the efforts of those I met begin to reap rewards.

International Women's Day is celebrated on 8th March every year and I was really pleased to see ESFRS taking part in a live stream of a conference in support of the event, earlier this week. There were some very inspirational women talking about their experiences, supporting and encouraging women to ensure their voice is heard and talking about goal setting, achievement focus and not limiting your horizons.  The event was inclusive, and open to men with an exploration of emotional intelligence, which is key in the development of our future leaders. 

*. briefing on our response to support the recent flooding across Surrey and the Thames Valley and we will be looking at any lessons learned; the nationally co-ordinated response by Fire & Rescue Services has nearly concluded although there will be many properties that will remain uninhabitable for some considerable time

*. had a number of meetings at HQ on finance and procurement, proposals for Heads of Function to become more involved and engaged in influencing and leading and an update on learning and development and how we are working with the Fire Professional Framework and using national occupational standards

* have now planned meetings with local MPs to look at our plans for implementing savings over the next 4 years and to talk through the Fire Authority's proposals for the future structure of ESFRS

*. early start on Monday to get across to see my 'new' watch at Station 9; first day on duty with Blue Watch so wanted to show I was keen. I saw the off-going watch, then used the gym before meeting the Watch Commander and the rest of my crew, with my mentor Ff Pierce keeping an eye on me!! After checking the appliance, it was station routines checking the RTC equipment, PPV fan and hose inflation kit, then out to a BA exercise at a disused warehouse; crews from Bohemia Rd joined us and I was detailed as No1 of the first BA crew (strange that) but I had my buddy with me and we went in to a heavily smoke logged building. A great exercise, well organised and lots of learning for me; good to see the skills and professionalism of the rest of the crews. In the afternoon, we carried out a familiarisation visit to Smugglers Caves and then a home safety visit; a very worthwhile day and thanks to Watch Commander Dave Wilby and the crew for making the day very worthwhile and enjoyable

*. meeting with colleagues from across the country to discuss some conditions of service issues including consultation on future pension contributions, draft compensation regulations which are linked to redundancy payments, reductions in numbers of senior officers and consultations with the NJC

*. key discussion with colleagues from the College, Institution of Fire Engineers, JESIP, LGA, CFOA and Skills for Justice to consider creating a Fire Portal so that staff from across Fire & Rescue Services and partner organisations can have one web based access point for all of our organisations.  At present, it is difficult and complicated to find the information you need to do your job or to link up the different Fire Sector organisations; there is a willingness to create one point so that everyone can have a single  main access icon on their computer, tablet or phone to access information. We just need to agree a way in which we can fund this!!!

*. Officers Training day where we were refreshed on operational skills including RTCs, BA, first aid and incident command as well as core skills including pump operating, ladders and knots and lines including the Alpine Butterfly knot.  Early start, so we 'fuelled up' on bacon sandwiches at a transport cafe in Heathfield.

*. monthly CMT meeting at HQ where we discussed the Sussex Control Centre and the target dates to which we are working. It is planned to be operating from the new SCC this summer and a number of our current staff from Chichester and Eastbourne will be leaving the Service over the next few months. Looked at the plans for the new Community Fire Station in Newhaven, monitoring the revenue and capital spend and we will be take proposals to the Fire Authority to carry forward any underspends into 2014/15

*. had planned an exit interview with one of our staff from Chichester who will be leaving the Service after 10 years; we will be reducing the number of staff at the new SCC and a number of existing staff will be moving on. Our M&CC staff in both Chichester and Eastbourne have done a fantastic job in preparing for the new SCC and I would like to take this opportunity to thank those that are leaving for all their work and contribution to public safety across Sussex, and offer them our best wishes for their future

*. went to Martin Lusk's retirement function where many of Martin’s friends and colleagues turned up to celebrate his 30 year career with ESFRS; it was also good to catch up with retired friends who all look remarkably well; I made a tactical withdrawal before the karaoke got started, but I am sure everyone remained in good voice apart from the group of Arsenal fans who sat in the corner with their half of shandy, staring at another year of an empty trophy cabinet!

What a great weekend to look forward to; the temperatures are expected to hit 18C in the South, a welcome relief after the weeks of rain, although we should not forget that many people are still suffering with flooded homes and the relief operation will go on for many months. 
There are two cracking sporting events, with the Super Blues about to finally bury Spurs hopes of a Champions league place next season and a thundering match at Twickenham with England taking on the Welsh. A win double I think with Chelsea set for 3-1 and England to win by 8 points!

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