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Fireside Chat with Dennis Davis
Dennis is Executive Officer of the Fire Sector Federation and an international independent fire and civil protection adviser. Following a career in operational firefighting, with service through all ranks to Chief Fire Officer for Cheshire, he became HM Chief Inspector of Fire Services for Scotland. Professional contributions include presidency of the IFE and UK Chief Fire Officers and roles in management and leadership of UK and International fire organisations. In addition to his Executive Officer role, he leads Federation activities related to competency, research and international affairs.
- What is your favourite quote and why?
“Treat others as you would wish to be treated” and another one is “The man that never made a mistake, never did anything”.
- If you could have any three people (dead or alive) over for dinner – who would they be?
David Attenborough, I know he’s a national treasure and he must have had a fascinating life. Someone from the thick of politics, not for any political reason but I can imagine sitting down with any Prime Minister would add to dinner party conversation. A comic to lighten the conversation and a person of conviction. I visited Nelson Mandela’s house and some of his early speeches where on the wall of his garage. His conviction of believing the same things before he went into prison as he was saying when he came out was inspiring to my generation.
- What is the best gift you’ve ever received?
The love of my family, and being part of the bigger family of friends and associates, together with having good health, to enjoy it all.
- What's your favourite thing in your closet right now?
Right now, it’s having the most comfortable ‘work at home’ clothes without being scruffy.
- What's the best piece of advice you've received?
Many years ago our County Council started meetings with a silent prayer. A card was placed in front of you and one actually said the serenity prayer ‘God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference’ and I always thought that was good advice.
- What does your usual day look like?
Obviously, it’s changed from pre-Covid, when travelling gave a useful period of reflection, to working from home where you transfer from the work to the domestic environment almost straight away. Often you can move from one conversation to another online literally back-to-back without that period of thinking.
Every day varies and has an interest whether in thinking, in discussions, conversations, meetings, or listening to others or webinars, corresponding, updating web updates or documentation reading, so it’s a mixture. All part of course, of organising and administering our Federation
- How does your work and family life come together?
Well, at the moment they’re aligned as I am working like millions at home. Let me put it very simply, I disappear off into my office at home and I am reminded when I’m supposed to be doing something that’s more important than work. I do think there should be periods when you just concentrate on your family.
- What makes you excited about the future of this industry?
Right now we are experiencing an important change. The fact that as a fire sector we are coming together more, is significant and allows recognition of our contribution to the safety of society. Throughout my entire working background I have been about trying to keep people safe from fire,
I think there’s been a coming together in these last few years, one that has been recognised externally, and internally people realise there’s a lot more we can do to pull things coherently together so as a sector we can make a more solid contribution. We have got the chance to improve the safety in the UK particularly, but abroad too where we can share. That has to be the big picture at the moment because there’s been long periods when we have been shouting in the wind.
What is the latest technology/invention/innovation you would like brought into the fire industry?
There is a lot to be exploited that already exists, like sensing devices of all kinds, which can be linked to artificial intelligence, robotics, command and control systems, etc. so when one has an emergency intervention and if necessary any blue light response can be made to any property. On that sort of basis we can build an integrated and cohesive strategy to prevent, protect, respond and recover. Integrated service delivery has some way to go if we are to maximise the resources we already have and the technologies and innovations are already in existence.
We’re very happy to use technology for material benefit, lighting and heating systems or whatever so we don’t spend more money on energy. We could start by thinking could these innovations be adapted to assist us in areas of safety in particular - are there technologies to safeguard firefighters? Having an open dialogue and a fresh approach would help create the right climate to explore these ideas.
- What do you like about the fire industry?
The people. In general, they’re warm and want to make life better for people and the other thing is, although there’s often a commercial edge, of course, there is, but when you meet up at exhibitions and the like, there’s a tremendous warmth and understanding even though they might be competitors. You often get people moving from one company to the other because they’ve got a set of skills or what-ever and I find the people and the overall objective, is really about making people safe at the end of the day, which is a good thing.
- What matters most to you?
That we do really contribute and participate in trying to make our country a safer place. How we do this doesn’t matter as there are so many different ways we can do it, but the reasoning’s the same. Can we make this better? If we can, then we must share our knowledge, pool and use it in the best way to try and make the ‘better’ happen? If you’re a commercial entity and the outcome of all that is you sell a service or product, well fine. Commerce like politics, which is the art of the possible, are both necessary.
- What would you tell yourself at the age of 21?
Do it. I would say. Do it. I know you can be overconfident at 21 and just entering the big wide world and wondering whether you are going to fall over, whether they’ve got skill, knowledge and so on. Chances are at 21 if you fall over you might bruise yourself but you also might learn something really good and it’s unlikely to ruin you, as long as it’s not reckless, criminal or horrible.
- Where do you want to be in 5 years?
On a beach with a glass in my hand, enjoying the sun, I think.
- Why is the FIA important to you and the industry?
Well, the FIA is an important trade body that draws together many industrial partners and having it as a member of the Federation is a significant way for our sector to demonstrate we are trying to work together. FIA has over 950 members and in any discussion with policy makers or anyone else its helpful to say as a Federation, look, we have this level of support, as well as saying, just one of our partners, the FIA, has the capability to influence so many in the fire sector through its membership. I think it’s the breadth and depth of this sort of organisational membership that’s so, so important and that makes FIA a very significant contributor to the fire scene in the UK.
- What do you want to say to the readers?
I think speaking with one voice, to Government and all those other influencers who shape all our future, is the best way to change and improve fire safety. We exist to give effect to that task so please join the Federation. That’s what we’re about, we’re about trying to get a singular clear and loud voice as possible on how to improve fire safety in this country of ours. Please join us and make your contribution to influence that agenda.
If you would like to get involved with Fireside Chats please contact [email protected].
*All answers given are not reflective of the FIA views and thoughts and are that of the individual who was interviewed.
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