100 Up for the FIA’s Fire and Rescue Suppliers Bulletins

28 May 2019 by David Smith, FIA, FIRESA Secretary

It was two years ago that we decided to initiate Bulletins specifically to the FIA’s Fire and Rescue suppliers. At that time, of course, we were in the throes of the Brexit referendum so thank goodness all that’s now done and dusted!

We’ve now reached the stage where Bulletin No. 100 has just winged its way to members, a milestone of sorts and representing an average of one a week since first putting finger to keyboard. We’re now officially more prolific than Nena and her ’99 Luftballons’ although there is some way to go to reach the heady heights of The Proclaimers and their 500 miles. Not many would get the title of that song right, it’s actually ‘I’m Gonna Be [500 miles]’ and is the subject of a tricky quiz question. When asked how many miles they would walk, 500 is the obvious answer but the chorus states they would then do 500 more so the correct answer is 1,000 and this is certainly worth remembering next time you’re lining up in the pub quiz team at the Ferret and Trousers on a wet Wednesday evening.

The number 100 we are helpfully told by Wikipedia is ‘the natural number following 99 and preceding 101‘ lest the number system devised by the ancient Egyptians is now less inclined to form an orderly queue. On the subject of Egypt, the Great Pyramid took 100 years to build according to the American clairvoyant Edgar Cayce but he was a bit of a new age hippy long before that term was invented and it’s now agreed that it was built in around 20 years. According to some, the occurrence of 100 frequently in your life is a message from your angels reminding you of your inner wisdom and ambitions [really] but it probably means you live at house number 100 on your street, often get the 100 bus from Shadwell to the Museum of London or are a regular visitor to the 100 Club on Oxford Street.

Communication is at the heart of what the FIA does, not just in representing the industry externally which we do across literally hundreds of stakeholder groups but also internally. Like all trade associations, we’re here to inform our membership, understand the views of our members on key issues, take these positions to the various smoke-free rooms and to engage in continuous feedback processes as situations develop. Our aim is to be a pro-active collective industry voice and we can only do that properly if we engage effectively with the membership. This is something that I feel very strongly about, as does the FIRESA Council Chair James Jones, and so reaching 100 Fire and Rescue Bulletins is much more than a number but represents our on-going commitment to reaching out beyond the elected Council members to the FIA’s Fire and Rescue suppliers in their entirety.

The same applies to the other half of my role here as Export Manager and looking after the Export Council and our community of over 60 FIA Exporters. I produce for them a Weekly Update covering a range of internal and external news and issues relating to exporting which, except on the rare quiet period, features dozens of items and links to information and events. Again, our Export Council Chair Tracy Kirk shares my passion in drawing in all of our exporting members.

Communication is a vital driving force in all forms of human interaction, not just in the world of work but in personal relationships. And it requires effort because as George Bernard Shaw once said, ‘the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place’.

Mass communication really took off with printed media in 17th century Europe and accelerated with the development of radio and television in the 20th century which, despite huge expansion over the years, concentrated control of the message among very few organisations and with the general public having negligible right of reply save the odd letter from Angry of Tunbridge Wells which even then the media proprietor could choose to print or not. Electronic communication in the modern world is much easier in its execution with the wide world of web, e-mail and social media bringing electronic information to thousands and even millions at the touch of a keyboard. Equally importantly, it potentially democratises the world, giving some voice at least to the person on the Clapham Omnibus [or the 100 bus from Shadwell] even if it’s less influential than Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.

It does have its drawbacks, however. Renowned polymath Noam Chomsky said that ‘lies can become the truth if repeated consistently enough’ which actually echoes an earlier quote by John F Kennedy when referring to the Republican Party that ‘no matter how big the lie, repeat it often enough and the masses will regard it as truth’. Misinformation has become rife in what we now rightly refer to as the post truth era. With journalism now largely reduced to disseminating unsubstantiated views passed off as facts, the trick is to get your version of events out there first because once you’ve done that, it’s very hard to displace regardless of how completely ridiculous it is.

We shall end with the wonders of TV. The great engineer and inventor John Logie Baird demonstrated the first working television system in 1926 in his laboratory on Frith Street in London where there happens to be now a Bar Italia. Members of the Royal Institution and a reporter from The Times that were present were astounded and heartily congratulated the genius Scotsman but noticing that he was somewhat ashen-faced asked ‘what’s up John, you ‘ve just invented the television’ to which he replied, ‘aye but there’s naethin on’. We’ve come some way since then thankfully although for every gem on the box [TV drama has been at a notable high over the last few years], we endure much that is less sparkling……..Fox News, Celebrity Love Island, the Jeremy Kyle Show, Mrs Brown’s Boys and anything that involves Piers Morgan.