The title of the blog could come from an HE Bates novel or possibly some 1930s song but it doesn’t and to learn more you’ll need to read on!

Well it’s been a week of external meetings for me at the FIA and this week I’ve seen more Chief Fire Officers than you can shake a proverbial stick at mainly because the FIA was invited to speak at the CFOA Summer Conference. I’m sure in reality CFOA wanted the FIA’s cuddly Chairman (Martin Harvey) to come along but he was away on business so I picked up the baton and ran with it as CFOs could be a diminishing breed in future if the Scots route is followed and I thought I’d better to take the opportunity to see them while they’re still about in numbers.

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To continue the running metaphor the starter’s instructions referenced the good work that is being carried out by CFOA and the FIA along with other fire stakeholders such as the Fire Protection Association and the Building Research Establishment and indeed the joint false alarms project is now beginning to nicely take shape.

Just after the ‘Under Starters Orders’ command was given but before the gun was fired, the starter introduced me as the person that keeps sending out the Freedom of Information requests to those Fire & Rescue Services that carry out trading on some form or another – well what can I say except fame at last! I’ve craved this recognition for years and now it’s finally come and I shall treasure the moment that ranks up there with. It’s difficult to think of anything that is on a par (sorry should have been a running not golfing metaphor) with it…

My talk at the conference was about the external influences on the Fire & Rescue Services in future and I believe that there are many to be considered against the background of the current funding cuts and these are:

  • A mediocre economy, at best, with the construction sector particularly badly hit on large construction projects
  • An impending election with the bookies offering decent odds that the only current major party leader to be left will be Ed Miliband
  • The vacuum left at Westminster particularly in DCLG with regard to the cuts to the civil servants involved with fire
  • Construction techniques including Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Modern Methods of Construction (MMC)
  • Increasing complexities in the way that buildings are managed and maintained
  • The growing need for companies and their staff to prove their competence, ideally via Third Party Certification
  • Europe – particularly the Services Directive and the call for a European Directive on Hotel Fire Safety
  • Emerging technologies such as Mass Notification
  • The view from the Insurers which I believe is set to harden driven in the main by the disparate AFA Attendance Policies of the English Fire & Rescue Services
  • Growth from the private sector which will not wait on indecision from fire stakeholders
  • Tightening environmental legislation and codes of practice which could mean less fire safe products being used in buildings

Bearing in mind the FOI introduction I couldn’t resist at the end of the presentation bringing up the issue of trading and the interaction between the Fire & Rescue Services and other fire stakeholders – the reaction of the audience was ‘there he goes again banging on about this’ -  and after one more lap of the track I was done!

Earlier in the week I attended Sir Ken Knight’s leaving ‘do’ and this did truly celebrate the impact Ken has had on the fire sector as evidenced by the speeches from his peers. Much as they were enjoyable for me one of the key moments of the ‘do’ was when I learnt that the well-known West Ham fan Mike Larking had received the MBE for ‘Services to Fire Awareness and Prevention’. Mike for years has been heavily involved in the FireKills campaign which I believe has been immensely successful and this recognition of the efforts of Mike and the other guys involved is long overdue.

Mike, hearty congratulations on the MBE; the news really cheered up my week!

Now I’m on a roll with this I think perhaps I should develop some extra lyrics for that well known 1930s ditty ‘Larking about in the Knightime’ – if I don’t I guess there could be some Chief Fire Officers soon with some extra time on their hands to put together a few rhyming couplets…