It has been pointed out to me that I haven’t blogged for a while – its a fair point, and I’m sorry about that. The truth is that I had a minor technical hitch which prevented me from writing until it was sorted, and I’m afraid that I got out of the habit. For me blogging is a habit, its a good habit, and I will try harder.
Looking back it has been 6 weeks since I last wrote and if you had asked me then what my next blog was going to be about then I probably would have said it would be about the forthcoming, much anticipated, ‘Fire Reform’ programme that we are expecting from the Home Office. In reality we haven’t heard any of the detail yet about how the Home Secretary sees the future of the service, and whilst there is plenty of well informed speculation its probably best that it is left for a blog posting when the detail becomes apparent.
I think its fair to say that there is a very general expectation that the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) is on the cusp of a significant change in the way that it does its business, and to some extent its very raison d’être. A cursory glance towards the sort of organisation that is part of the governance of the Police, that being the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) gives some idea about the type of organisation that CFOA may be changing into. I’d stress for clarity that such a change should be viewed as a positive change to reflect new expectations in our professional relationships and changing working practices, and nothing more.
It has been particularly pleasing in recent months to see the emergence of the partnership between CFOA and the Fire Service College (FSC) to develop the concept of an FRS Research & Development agreement in the shape of the Research, Development, Technology and Innovation (RDTI) Hub.
I know from talking to many of our staff, and my peers, that there is a general frustration linked to the design and procurement of FRS equipment and vehicles. Economies of scale, and value for money, are at the fore of peoples minds in these challenging budgetary times. It would be unfair not to note that many people work very hard at this issue, and do a good job of delivering some fantastic kit and equipment. Yet there is, and always has been, an issue linked to the fact that every FRS does its own R&D and procures its own kit and equipment, missing out on the possible benefits of larger scale procurement. We do take part in purchasing partnerships, and use framework agreements and the like, but I hope that this new project can take us to the next level.
We will all have seen new and improved equipment as our careers have progressed. Innovation and technology have presented may opportunities to develop operational effectiveness and improve firefighter safety. The fire ‘market’ is a very specialist one, not that big within the UK, but open to the development and design of new equipment. I think that it would be a very fair point to make the observation that we, the sector, have not been good in the past about talking to ‘the market’ about what we want and what we need. We have, to some extent, procured what was there without us, as the expert users, driving the innovation. The opportunity to change is here.
The diagram describes the scope of the ambition. The challenge that accompanies it is for FRS to relinquish some of their sovereignty and work together for the greater good. There is a contribution required from each FRS to fund the hub, and that collected fund will provide for the employment of a number of personnel from across the UK FRS to undertake and manage the R&D activity. The end product will be national testing, greater research, education programs, and perhaps most importantly better product development and streamlined systems for R&D outputs and procurement.
I think that its a really exciting opportunity, both for the service as a whole and for a few individuals who will have the chance to pioneer this new approach and really change things. If you are interested HERE is a link to the advertisement for the new posts.
A promising sign of a new direction that I hope demonstrates the ambition of our sector in this ever changing operating environment.