The National Fire Chiefs Council recently held its Autumn Conference. This once again provided an excellent opportunity for our members to come together to hear about NFCC’s work, input into setting our future direction – and of vital importance – share our collective learning from services and the wider sector.
The event provided an opportunity to hear from a wide-range of people from home and abroad, which helps to expand our learning and understanding as a sector.
The conference also provided an opportunity to reflect on over two years of NFCC work, while also taking the time to look forward.
It would be impossible not to acknowledge how busy the fire landscape currently is; the Grenfell Phase One report was set to be published at the time of writing; we have had the first two tranches of fire inspections published by HMICFRS – with the third due to be published imminently, the State of Fire report is due out towards the end of the year; the Building Safety Regulations work continues and on top of this, we continue with our day-to-day work.
We must ensure all FRS staff are given the space and knowledge to implement the necessary changes; we should not be making change for changes’ sake. Part of NFCC’s role is to assist in making this happen through representation at national level, highlighting what FRSs need to ensure they can be the very best they can, with the resources currently allocated.
Coming back to the conference itself, there was a varied and wide-range of speakers and delegates. The Safeguarding presentation covered a lot of areas, yet one question posed struck a chord with many: “Can our staff safeguard effectively and are we safeguarding our staff?” This raised an important discussion point; if we are not safeguarding our own staff effectively, how can we ensure we are safeguarding our communities?
It shows the wide-range of important areas our Children and Young People work is covering. Having this national knowledge which services can tap into is hugely beneficial.
I discussed the Grenfell Phase One report – along with the building safety work – NFCC has been heavily involved in, during my address to the conference. I made the point: “It is a national outrage we still have more than 200 buildings with ACM cladding on the outside of them; 20 years’ of building safety failures seem to be being placed at the door of UK fire and rescue services.”
I also used my address to reiterate the importance of carrying out dedicated research into emergency evacuations of high-rise buildings where stay put is no longer appropriate, particularly an emergency evacuation. ‘Stay put’ is not a Fire Service policy but a building strategy. This distinction must be made; if a building is built properly and maintained properly, ‘stay put’ is a sound strategy. The government are minded to support this research and we should see some movement in this area.
The video address from Kit Malthouse MP, Minster of State for Crime, Policing and the Fire Service, provided a useful insight from the Home Office and touched upon the Grenfell Phase one review. He encourages fire services not to be “defensive” over the findings.
However, this is a difficult ask; the Grenfell Tower fire impacted on every fire service across the country. I maintain the Inquiry has been held in the wrong order; it needed to start with the building itself, as this had a clear and direct impact on how the fire service responded on the night.
We had a dedicated session on Digital and Data which is one of NFCC’s strategic aims. Digital transformation looked at how technology can be used to assess operation and risk critical situations. The use of technology in providing live links between incidents and control rooms is improving all the time, giving fire services more detailed information which is proving invaluable in the decision-making progress.
I was delighted to welcome Dr Lori Moore-Merrell from the International Public Data Institute in the United States. The presentation she delivered about how we can leverage data to reduce injury struck a chord with everyone in the room; conversations were taking place about it long after the presentation. The phrase “data tells a complete story and helps to reduce injuries, deaths and property loss” resonated with many people, along with the question “how do we ensure we are collecting the right data to benefit us and our communities?”
It was also interesting to hear from Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service ‘How do you fight a fire you can’t see?’ This related to the Ocado warehouse fire and the approach to fighting a fire where the source could not be located. To give this some context, the size of the warehouse was the equivalent of 500 double-decker buses. There has already been some excellent National Operation Learning from this incident.
Huge thanks to all who presented and attended our Autumn Conference as the two-days provided excellent information and learning opportunities
It was also an honour to present the graduates of this year’s Executive Leadership Programme. This is an intensive course and it always a pleasure to see our future leaders emerge.
I would also like to thank everyone who attended the workshop on the second day, discussing the future direction of NFCC. I am proud of how far NFCC has come since it was set up in 2017 and sessions such as this ensure we can continue to work on behalf of fire services, for the benefit of the sector. One of the consequences of our success is that more is expected of us, but I have no doubt we can rise to that challenge.