Page 19 - December 2017
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                                  MEET THE CHIEF
firefighter safety and staff welfare, in particular good mental health and well-being. As one of the champions for the MIND blue light programme, I have a keen interest in making sure we do what we can to make conversations about mental health and our wellbeing normal and part of the workplace. Even when an organisation is not facing change, stress and worries can overwhelm even the most robust individuals. It is important for me that staff know there is help available and they are not alone. Building resilience and a safe environment to talk about concerns is important. We have recently established a “healthy mind” group and our own workforce are helping to shape developments in this key area.
The unexpected
Some change cannot be planned for – the tragedy at Grenfell Tower meant we all had to change our short term priorities. We saw a significant increase in the number of queries from the public, concerned about their own homes and, with over 230 residential high rise properties on our patch, this has been a real team effort. On the ground, our Business Safety teams and our station crews carried out inspections and risk assessment checks alongside partner agencies and they were able to offer reassurance to the local communities, face to face. I know that their contribution when people were concerned was hugely valued. We also carried out many briefings, meetings with local authority leaders, local councillors and MPs about the issues and our approach. With the public inquiry
yet to begin and investigations ongoing, we do not yet know the full story behind this terrible fire and must be prepared for further work to come our way. I am really pleased that, through our Deputy Chief, Mark Andrews, the Service has been able to support the technical panelconsideringthefiresafety testing and advice.
Health is another area I am passionate about and offers opportunities to make positive changes for The benefit of the public. As a volunteer, I have been a community responder for four years and attended many Red 1 and Red 2 calls. In East Sussex, we are looking at how we can support Immediate Emergency Care Response locally, taking into account some of the reservations which have been raised nationally. But that’s not the only opportunity within health which represents a change for us. ESFRS has been working with local GPs to help reach some of the most vulnerable patients and we have been involved in smoking cessation programmes. We have also been commissioned to extend our normal home safety visits to install handrails and safety equipment in homes in East Sussex. Some may question whether this is a role for a fire and rescue service. There are however clear benefits, especially if we are already undertaking home visits as part of our fire safety programme. You only have to consider what would happen if an individual fell while cooking or smoking and was unable to save themselves. Preventing a fall also reduces future mobility
issues, minimises medical assistance needs and reduces pressure on the NHS.
Community Engagement
Being brought up in a rural community in South Wales meant that community work is intrinsic for me and I have inherited my passion for supporting charity work and fundraising from my mother. I currently fundraise for 5 charities. I firmly believe that Public Sector and Emergency Service strategic leaders have a role in Community leadership. I am thrilled that East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service has a vibrant volunteer section, with currently over 90 volunteers supporting road, water and fire safety, but also supporting our firefighters. We have some very talented staff who contribute their skills in many ways to strengthens community resilience, helping community groups to help themselves.
The future firefighter
For our operational crews and indeed for the public, this means that a firefighter is so much more than that traditional image of just fighting fires, even if that is still the element of our role that captures the media attention. They are involved in significant prevention activity and undertake risk inspections and educate and inform the public on a daily basis. It’s prevention rather than cure and we are uniquely placed to deliver real tangible improvements in the lives of the people we serve.
Peter Hopkins
PR & Marketing Committee Worshipful Company of Firefighters
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