Chief's Blog

NI Fire & Rescue Service

Welcome to my first Blog of 2018

Welcome to my first Blog of 2018

Category: Uncategorised    Date: 29th January 2018       

As we start a new year this is a good opportunity to take stock of 2017 and bring you up to date with a number of developments in 2018.

2017 was my first full year as Chief and it was a year where we have been tackling head on some of the key issues for the organisation. These included organisational re-structuring, operational crewing arrangements, critical improvements to our IT and Command and Control systems while at the same time working to achieve a balanced budget given the additional budget pressures we face.  Despite the challenges of 2017, I believe we are starting 2018 with a clear plan of where we need to get to.  In 2018 we will see the out-workings of some of these key projects which I believe will leave the organisation in a stronger position to meet the challenges ahead.

“What a better way to start the new year than by welcoming our 28 new Trainee Firefighters who started their training course at the Learning & Development Centre. I met with the new Trainees during their first week and I will be keeping a close eye on their progress from now until their Graduation.  We will welcome our second Trainee Course in March and by summer our new Firefighters will be out on Station, which will be the culmination of a lot of hard work by so many within the HR Team and Stores working together to achieve this significant milestone.   Our new Retained Firefighters will also be starting their training over the coming weeks.”

On Sunday 21 January, I addressed the Watch Commanders Conference at the Learning & Development Centre. It was a great opportunity for our Retained Watch Commanders to represent their Station and give us their views on a number of organisational issues.  There were conversations, questions and debate around a number of issues and I could see the passion and pride our Retained Watch Commanders have in their own Stations and in the service they deliver to their local town or village, but also their pride and passion for the service as a whole.

Reflecting on the role of our new Trainees and our Watch Commanders it is clear that we are at a point in our history where the role of both Firefighters and Fire & Rescue Services and the part we play in wider society should be reviewed.   I believe there is much more that we can do as a service to help society, especially in the health and well-being arena.  For example, through our Home Fire Safety Check programme there is potential to work more closely with partner agencies to help them get their message out to vulnerable people, whether that is about general safety in the home or a health message.   Much like we took part in the trial for Emergency Medical Response or through the Fitness pilot schemes we ran with the over 50s and through local schools, we can and should be, playing a more active role in the well-being of our community.

The Department of Health in Northern Ireland is under real pressure from increased demand for services but has significant capacity and budgetary pressures. Through future collaboration with our partners in health, we all need to work together to review how services are offered to the public to avoid duplication and to target resources where they are needed most.

Our Prevention and Protection Department has recently launched a new on the ground fire safety initiative to provide fire safety advice in areas we know to be at higher risk of accidental house fires. Firefighters will deliver fire safety advice, offer free HFSC to people at risk and seek opportunities to work with local agencies or deliver fire safety events to help protect people most at risk. As with all our prevention and protection departments it is our intention to reduce accidental house fires and to save more lives.

The Area & District Review Team have completed their analysis and benchmarking phase and are working on potential options /draft models. It is anticipated that the Review and Report will be presented to CMT and the Board in the near future.

By early summer, the Logistics Support Centre will be completed and this significant capital investment project will bring together critical support functions of Transport and Stores, as well as our Standby Regional Control Centre under one roof. This much needed facility will support our operational service delivery by providing a more seamless support service.  I look forward to seeing the benefits the Logistics Support Centre will bring to the service.

Over the coming months I know much progress will be made on key organisational issues, and whilst I am realistic about the challenges that lie ahead, I am confident about the future of our service in 2018 and beyond.

As always, I welcome your views and feedback so please get in touch by emailing cfro@nifrs.org

Best wishes, Gary.

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