28 February 2012 by Graham Ellicott, Previous FIA CEO

The "Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grub" roll call from Trumpton’s fire station has kept running through my brain over the last couple of days and I guess younger readers may say, “what the hell is Trumpton?” Well, it was in ‘geekie techie talk’ a stop motion children’s TV show from 1967. Commanded by the able Captain Flack "Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grub" are Trumpton’s firemen and they are continually being called out to attend some emergency but never an actual fire.

So, why is this roll call mantra running through my mind, I hear you ask? While I was reading the newspaper in a moment of relaxation the other day I read the following quote about Trumpton: 'We couldn't do flames with stop-motion animation. So the fire brigade never went near a fire'.

This quote set me thinking that at least this decision was a consistent approach to not attending fires! It would seem that the 40+ different English brigades can’t co-operate together to come to a consistent approach to attending calls originating from Automatic Fire Alarms.

You’d think it would be simple to agree on this, wouldn’t you? or at the very minimum to have a basic approach with some regional variations? But no, there’s no consistent approach and the more that it is suggested by the trade and end-users, the more varying approaches it seems to spawn.

Indeed, I went to a presentation recently with regard to an approach from one of England’s largest brigades, they outlined what they’d done so far and what a success this had been; so much so that, yes, you’ve guessed it, they need to change it yet again just when their stakeholders had started to come to grips with the old regime!

What the English brigades don’t seem to realise is that there’s a cost to all of this inconsistency for the end-user. Multi-site operations need to have different fire training courses for their staff to reflect the number of different approaches and trying to keep up with the change is a nightmare.

Recently I spoke with a shire brigade about their AFA policy and quickly realised what they had published on their website didn’t reflect what they actually are doing now. As you may imagine, the conversation was somewhat surreal but not as surreal as my perception that Trumpton has a more consistent approach to some aspects of fire than do the English brigades.