Regional Roundup February 2022

Avon Fire Authority select preferred candidate for new Chief Fire Officer

Avon Fire Authority has named Assistant Chief Fire Officer Simon Shilton as their preferred candidate for the position of Avon Fire and Rescue Service Chief Fire Officer, following a rigorous recruitment process

Simon Shilton currently holds the position of Assistant Chief Fire Officer for Service Delivery Support at Avon Fire and Rescue Service (AFRS) responsible for portfolios including training, learning and development, health and safety, diversity and inclusion, risk management and operational assurance.

The decision comes after the current Chief Fire Officer, Mick Crennell, announced his plans to retire from AFRS at the end of March 2022, after 30 years with the Fire and Rescue Service.

Cllr Brenda Massey, Chair of Avon Fire Authority, said: “On behalf of Avon Fire Authority, I am pleased to announce Simon as our preferred candidate for Chief Fire Officer, subject to ratification at the next full fire authority meeting in February.

“These past few weeks have seen the undertaking of a rigorous, robust and challenging recruitment process to find a suitable successor pending the Chief Fire Officer, Mick Crennell’s retirement in March this year.

“Throughout the process Simon has demonstrated professionalism and tenacity, applied his extensive experience, and whole-heartedly exemplified his passion and dedication to the service. We are confident that Simon possesses the skills, understanding and qualities to be the next leader of the service.”

Having been part of the Fire and Rescue Service for 28 years, during his time Simon has held the positions of Station Manager, responsible for urban search and rescue; Incident Command Trainer and Training Manager.

Joining and spending the first 15 years of his career at AFRS, he was located as an operational firefighter at Avonmouth, Bath, Temple and Southmead Fire Stations.

In 2008, Simon worked for West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service for nine years, leaving as an Area Commander, before re-joining AFRS in January 2017 as Assistant Chief Fire Officer for Service Delivery Support. During this time, he has also held the temporary position of ACFO for Service Delivery.

On being informed of the decision, Simon said: “I am extremely proud and honoured to be selected as the authority’s preferred candidate for Chief Fire Officer. It is a role that I feel incredibly passionate about and following a challenging recruitment process, my enthusiasm and passion for the service is as strong today as it was the day I joined.

“Throughout my career, I have been fortunate my experiences have given me real insight into the Fire and Rescue Service. I recognise the fire sector, both locally and nationally, have seen many changes and challenges and I am committed to doing and being the best for AFRS, both now and in the future.

“During my time I have also had the opportunity to meet and work with some truly brilliant people. I look forward to working alongside the fire authority, my colleagues and in our local communities, that I have so passionately strived to make a difference for throughout my career and will unreservedly continue to do so.”

Taking nuisance fires for granted

Community groups with innovative ideas to help reduce nuisance fires are being offered grants of up to £3,000 from Cleveland Fire Brigade

Some 85 per cent of Cleveland’s fire calls are related to deliberate fires – the highest in the country – and divert resources away from other emergencies where lives may be at risk. Latest figures show there were nearly 4,000 deliberate fires in the brigade area in 2021.

Helen Winskill, Commissioned Services Manager, said: “We are looking for projects with innovative approaches to engaging with people who are setting fires or projects that reduce the opportunity for arsonists to start fires. We know where the fires are happening. We need your help to prevent them.

Cleveland is encouraging community groups to think outside the box and be creative.

“We are offering small grants and you can apply for any amount up to £3,000. We expect projects to be completed within 12 months of the grant being issued. Your application must tell us what you want to do and why you believe this approach will help us.

“The ideas will be targeted on hotspot areas across Cleveland and application packs will include full guidance notes and outline these areas. All projects will be evaluated to see if they have a positive impact on reducing deliberate fires.”

The brigade has £15,000 available for grants. The projects can include diversionary activities for young people, new physical structures or cleaning up the local environment.

Applicants must fit in with at least one of the following criteria:

  • Reduce the number of incidents of arson
  • Reduce the opportunity for people to deliberately set fires
  • Reduce violence to Fire Brigade staff.

Community Ventures in Middlesbrough received a grant in a previous round of applications. Rachel Gault, Operations Director, said: “Thanks to Cleveland Fire Brigade’s small grants scheme, Community Ventures’ Boy’s in Blue group have been able to access monthly gym and boxing sessions with Sport England coaches. This was our first time applying for the grant and we found the application process very simple. After submitting the bid the team came to meet us to understand a bit more about our organisation and following the visit awarded us with the grant. The Fire Brigade pop in regularly now and even arranged for our Boys in Blue to visit the fire station.”

Partnership is leading the way in arson education

A hard-hitting video that shows the terrifying speed at which a fire can get out of control is being used to help cut arson attacks

The live fire demonstration – filmed under the supervision of Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service (HIWFRS) – reveals how a mocked-up bedroom becomes engulfed in flames in less than three minutes.

As the window cracks, a rush of oxygen causes the blaze to intensify, with temperatures rising to more than 1,000°C within seconds.

It was filmed as part of a pioneering partnership between HIWFRS and the University of Portsmouth and is aimed at arsonists to educate them about the dangers of fire.

None of those who have completed the FIRE-P programme have gone on to commit another arson offence – with the success now being shared with other fire and rescue services across the country.

FIRE-P manager, Shane Blampied, said: “The success of FIRE-P is making life safer for people across our communities. Our partners from the University of Portsmouth have played a vital role in making sure the programme has been developed and evaluated, so that we know it really works.

“It has been of huge benefit to the service and at the same time the course helps participants when they are looking at housing and job prospects on their release so they can be helped to move on with their lives.”

HIWFRS’ Assistant Director for prevention and protection, Area Manager Jason Avery, said: “Some of those who commit arson offences have no idea about how quickly a fire can get out of control, ultimately putting themselves and others at risk of serious injury or death.

“The courts now have the option to impose a mandatory requirement for an offender to participate in FIRE-P as part of a custodial or non-custodial sentence. We are very proud of the success of FIRE-P and are looking forward to sharing it with other fire and rescue services across the country.”

The eight-session programme focuses on different elements of fire-setting, including the mechanics of fire and the motives and consequences of arson, before the participant has a session on victim awareness and empathy.

The educational-based awareness training has been created for those who are known within the Criminal Justice System, have a history of arson or are considered to have an unusual fascination with fire. Dr Dominic Pearson, from the University of Portsmouth, said: “People who set fires deliberately are known to be ill-educated regarding fire safety and the wider consequences of firesetting.

“The FIRE-P fills a void in such intervention programmes with adults outside secure psychiatric facilities. While more needs to be done, our research shows that the success of the programme in Hampshire far-exceeds predictions based on the offenders’ profiles.”

Already endorsed and adopted by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Criminal Justice Board as a formal criminal justice sanction, courts have the option to impose a mandatory requirement for an offender to participate in FIRE-P as part of a custodial sentence or community order.

HIWFRS has carried out training with Tyne and Wear and Northumberland Fire and Rescue Services and has recently returned from a trip to Cleveland Fire Brigade, where they shared how the programme works.

FIRE-P – which stands for Firesetters’ Integrated Responsive Educational Programme – is part of HIWFRS’ Arson Task Force.

West Sussex firefighters travel across Europe to replace donation

A trio of fire engines have successfully been delivered to firefighters in North Macedonia as part of an international mission carried out by Operation Florian volunteers, 14 years after the first donation

The journey saw six firefighters from West Sussex travel over 1,600 miles through France, Italy and Albania before reaching their destination.

Roy Barraclough (centre) with North Macedonian firefighters

Operation Florian is a humanitarian charity that has been working in Macedonia since 2007. Their first ever donation was given to firefighters in the town of Sveti Nikole, which was then replaced during Operation Florian’s latest international mission in November last year.

The two remaining vehicles were sent to the towns of Novaci and Makedonska Kamenica, which brings the total number of donations to 27 fire engines.

As well as delivering appliances, equipment and firefighting kit were also given to the North Macedonian firefighters, who were then given essential familiarisation training.

Roy Barraclough, West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service Station Manager and Operation Florian Project Co-ordinator, said: “This international mission is part of our ongoing work to improve capacity and resilience to fire services around the world.

“The fire appliances we recently delivered will strengthen previous equipment donations and the training given will provide vital fire cover, enabling the local fire service to respond to incidents within their communities and surrounding areas.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank all supporting UK fire and rescue services for their donations of decommissioned equipment, which benefits communities far and wide.”

Vaccination activity around the country

As fire and rescue personnel continue to contribute to the Covid-19 response, FIRE features some of the fire and rescue services praised for their activity in administering tests and vaccinations

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service

Staff at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) have been praised by the NHS after dedicating 11,000 hours to administering tests and vaccinations. TWFRS has also administered almost 35,000 lateral flow tests and 20,000 jabs to help mitigate the spread of Coronavirus.

And a team of fire staff are also starting shifts at the NHS’s Lighthouse lab testing facility where they will help to support colleagues in health.

The efforts come just weeks after the service helped set up vaccination centres in Newcastle just four days after receiving a request from Newcastle GP Services. Senior fire officers have praised those who have volunteered to support the community effort but now health bosses have also thanked TWFRS for their support.

A spokesperson from the Integrated Covid Hub North East, which is part of Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, also called on more support for their Lighthouse Lab.

They said: “Our regional Lighthouse lab is already processing around one million Covid tests every month and we’ve recently seen an increase in demand due to the Omicron surge. At the moment, we’re currently recruiting around 200 new staff to work at the lab, which will take us a few weeks to complete.

“But until then we have an urgent need for more people to help out straight away, possibly on a temporary seconded basis from their current employer, to ensure we continue to process swabs efficiently and effectively.

“We’re hugely grateful that colleagues from Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service have been able to respond and offer some temporary support during this particularly pressured period.”

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Peter Heath praised staff at TWFRS for their continued commitment to working collaboratively with key partners to keep the community safe.

He said: “We play an integral part in the humanitarian response across our region and we have adapted as a service in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic. We already worked closely with the health sector but we have been an even closer ally of the NHS since the government introduced the testing and vaccination programme.

“Our staff have volunteered to help fight the pandemic and many of them have given up their own time alongside their day jobs. This kind of life-saving response is a key function of the Fire and Rescue Service and I am incredibly proud of every single staff member and volunteer who has been involved.

“Community safety is at the heart of everything the Fire and Rescue Service work to achieve supporting the collective fight against the Coronavirus is one of our key community safety activities alongside our safe and well home safety work and emergency response.

“Quite frankly we will always find a way to achieve what’s needed or make a way. It is all part of our commitment to creating the safest community here in Tyne and Wear.”

TWFRS has administered 34,499 lateral flow tests and 19,353 vaccines to members of the public since March 2020, dedicating 10,935 hours of staff time.

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service (BFRS) welcomed news reporters to Kempston Fire Station to talk about daily lateral flow testing for 100,000 critical workers. From January 10, 100,000 key workers in England, which includes food processing workers, those in front line transport roles and emergency services, had to test every day they attended work via a lateral flow test (LFT).

To support this the government pledged to send out tests to these industries, including all frontline emergency services. To highlight the importance of taking an LFT, Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service welcomed the media into Kempston Station to discuss how the Omicron variant has affected service staff members. Station Commander Matt Blanchard spoke to Amelia Harper from GB News, explaining the importance of being able to test regularly within the service.

Matt said: “Testing, for us, is a really useful control measure because it enables us to keep our staff safe and to prevent outbreaks of Covid-19 on stations. It’s important that the public know that we are testing regularly, to protect them and ourselves for when we interact with them at operational incidents and also when we carry out important prevention and protection work.”

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service has not experienced significant levels of Covid within the workplace or any significant difficultly around absence, as Matt was able to report. “We’ve had some staff absences, but we’ve had very strict guidelines and Covid risk assessments in place, so we’ve been able to cut down on the number of infections in the workplace. Moving our resources to ensure that we can respond quickly to any incidents and keep the public safe.”

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service (LFRS) is continuing to support its partners, and the community, in the fight against Covid-19 by delivering more than 1,000 vaccinations in just five days.

The service has been supporting the vaccination programme for 12 months and NHS colleagues requested assistance from the Local Resilience Forums for help and support in the delivery of an extremely challenging and busy vaccination programme.

It was quickly agreed to repurpose a cohort of LFRS trained vaccination staff to help across all our sites. Forty-five staff had a range of options to provide support – many moving leave to populate a challenging NHS rota over the Christmas period.

Within a five-day period Lancashire Fire and Rescue delivered more than 1,000 vaccinations with more staff providing support over the coming days/weeks.

Phase two of this programme is to train more staff to undertake these duties with many more staff currently undergoing training and on standby to operate in areas of most need to ensure the people of Lancashire are safer.

Earlier in the year, Lancashire Fire and Rescue received communication from a vaccination site in the east of the county, which represented and targeted a hard to reach demographic. The Daneshouse and Stonyholme Community centre is a focal hub within the Muslim Community, but it was having difficulty in generating referrals for members of the community.

Lancashire FRS used its extensive experience with the 25 vaccination sites, project management skills and community resources and links, to collaborate and achieved a fantastic take up.

Due to its strong links within the community and Imaan Health Teams, LFRS coordinator Faz Patel and Mark Warwick had been approached again to assist in the delivery of all vaccinations but in particular booster jabs. Lancashire FRS coordinated a response using operational crews and prevention teams to assist. This included Faz broadcasting in four different languages from his own radio station on Pendle Community Radio.

The service will continue its vital work to support the vaccination programme, once again showing it is ready, willing and able to offer help where it is needed most.

Kent Fire and Rescue Service

Throughout the pandemic, everyone at Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) has been proud to support blue light partners, NHS colleagues, local councils and community organisations.

People from across KFRS have volunteered to offer their services whenever possible, including during the mass roll-out of Covid-19 testing and more recently, vaccinations. Officers have been helping to collect thousands of vaccines from hospitals across Kent and Medway, and delivering them to various vaccination centres, in support of the national booster programme.

Chris Else, Assistant Director for Resilience at KFRS, said: “Since the start of the pandemic, we have offered our assistance wherever we can, from delivering meals to the vulnerable in partnership with Age UK, to coordinating the procurement and delivery of thousands of items of PPE. We are now using that experience to support the rapid upscaling of the booster programme across the county.

“As well as transporting the vaccines, we also have colleagues who have volunteered to assist with the running of vaccination centres, while continuing to support those within the charity and voluntary sectors who help those who are most vulnerable.

“We’re really proud to be part of this united response with our partner agencies and hope our efforts help to make a difference.”

Derbyshire receives Outstanding Workplace Award 2021

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service has been awarded People Insight’s Outstanding Workplace Award 2021 for achieving a top-quartile score of 89 per cent for employee engagement in the service’s recent bi-annual cultural survey People Insight present the ‘Outstanding Workplace Award’ to organisations that achieve a top-quartile employee engagement score of 85 per cent or higher in their employee cultural survey (CS).

The award highlights organisations that are investing in employee engagement and sparking positive change as a result of employee feedback. It recognises the value that top-quartile organisations place on employee engagement and shows employees and potential hires how much their employer cares about improving the experience people have at work.

The CS was open to all Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service (DFRS) employees for a period of four weeks. A record breaking 74 per cent of the workforce took the opportunity to submit their views on all areas of the service including: purpose, enablement, autonomy, reward, leadership, and my manager.

The employee engagement score was calculated using data relating to how proud employees feel working for the service, whether employees see themselves working for DFRS in the future, how far employees endeavour to give their best, if they advocate working for DFRS and if they care for DFRS’ future – this all contributed to the service’s overall 89 per cent employee engagement score.

Speaking after the initial findings of the cultural survey, Derbyshire’s Chief Fire Officer/Chief Executive, Gavin Tomlinson, said: “I am delighted that so many of our workforce recognised the importance of having their say and getting involved in our 2021 cultural survey.

“Our people are at the heart of our service and without their continued commitment and professionalism we would not be able to continue to deliver our services to the communities of Derbyshire, so their views are highly valuable to us as we continue to shape our service for the future.

“The headline 89 per cent engagement and 74 per cent response scores are great news and attributable to our people first approach: however, I know we still have work to do. Work has already begun to evaluate the results so we can develop local action plans. These will ensure we continue to shape our service, both for our employees and the communities we serve.”

Seventy-four per cent is the highest ever cultural survey response rate for DFRS and the highest People Insight have seen in all fire and rescue services that they work with.

Eighty-nine per cent employee engagement is 11 points above the all sector external benchmark used by People Insight and is one point higher than the 2019 CS and five points higher than in 2017.

Costa Antoniou, fire and rescue sector specialist consultant from People Insight, said: “Having worked with DFRS for a few years now I can confidently say they are always exploring ways to generate improved results, especially efforts to enable more people to participate.

“This year, the strategised approach to try a series of different things (from QR codes to biscuit and tea-time) definitely helped. Not only did they achieve their highest response rate, but from my experience of working with many other fire and rescue services, the highest on-call response rate, which we know is a big challenge.”

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