Dave Smith, Secretary to FIRESA Council

Fire magazine’s Excellence in Fire and Emergency Awards 2015 took place on 4th December at One Great George Street in London. It gathered Fire and Rescue suppliers and industry supporters alongside Chief Fire Officers to recognise the very best of the UK trade’s partnerships with the emergency services. FIRESA Council was in attendance as sponsors of the ‘Supplier of the Year’ award and the article below featured in the awards brochure.

FIRESA Council represents the interests of the Fire Industry Association’s fire-fighting equipment and services suppliers, enacting key policy and having strong links to the FIA Board, Marketing, Liaison and other Groups. Chaired by Derek Gotts of Supply Plus and with Ian Callaghan of PBI Performance Products as Vice-Chair, they and nine other Council Members meet at least quarterly, invariably at Fire and Rescue Service headquarters or other key institutions, but also carry out much work on a daily basis to act as the concerted industry voice on issues affecting the sector at this time of significant evolution of our FRSs.         

As we know, the Services have had their central government income reduced by over 20% in the past five years and with a further cuts inevitable. There have already been substantial changes to our FRSs over this time and radical structural and service delivery transformations continue to be implemented to survive into the future. The efficacy of our FRSs is now strongly dependent on an effective response to not just the ever-deteriorating financial picture but to factors including extremes of weather, an ageing population, the number and types of housing and premises and, not least, the threat of further terrorist attacks.

FIRESA Council’s role in this shifting landscape remains to ensure that fire-fighting suppliers are integral and pro-active influencers of change rather than passive observers. This includes input into central and local government policy, strengthening of key liaisons and creation of new partnerships, and support particularly for collaborative and more streamlined procurement, standardised product specifications, national equipment evaluations and product innovations that meet the needs of the FRSs into the future. 

Strategic alliances are vital in developing our aims and much of our activity comprises work with stakeholders such as the Fire Sector Federation, CFOA, individual Fire and Rescue Services, the Fire Service College and the LGA. With CFOA, for example, we are enacting a Memorandum of Understanding that has delivered, amongst other things, a joint seminar last year and with another planned for February 2016. It’s equally important that we become better known throughout the sector and hence our participation in exhibitions, seminars and other events, not least of course the Excellence in Fire and Emergency Awards where we again sponsored the Supplier Of The Year category.      

The financial cuts have already impacted materially on front-line and backroom resources and that is set to continue. The Wiltshire/Dorset merger to reach fruition in April may be repeated elsewhere in the country, itself following the creation of a single Service in Scotland in 2013. Some Services have already contracted out some non-front line functions, the Fire Service College was sold to Capita in 2013 and the spotlight currently falls on rescue equipment itself with fire appliance lifetimes being extended and some eventually replaced with smaller specialist vehicles such as Small Fire Units. 

Co-responding and shared ‘blue light’ services are much on the agenda and there are growing examples of many FRSs actively developing synergies with the police and ambulance services. Governments is forging ahead with legislation that controversially enables FRAs to come under the control of Police and Crime Commissioners.           

We are starting to see also a number of nationally-driven initiatives gaining traction although they will require careful debate if they are to offer genuine improvements to the Services rather than being simply cost-cutting measures. Certainly, a more concerted approach to equipment specifications, evaluation and procurement are unequivocal gains that can and must be pursued. With Westminster maintaining what has been described as a policy vacuum in respect of Fire and Rescue, local decisions may yet dominate over any measures to be implemented at a national level.                                  

FIRESA Council pledges its full support in contributing positively to the evolution of our FRSs on behalf of the FIA’s fire-fighting suppliers. Our message to suppliers not currently members of the FIA is to become part of our quest to shape the future of the Services in a way that works for everyone. To other sector individuals or bodies that don’t know us so well, as an inclusive and friendly organisation but certainly one on a mission, we warmly invite you to find out more about us and to get in touch.