Aspiring for an all hazards rescue service.(Operations and Training)

The Fire and Rescue Service has always prided itself on its operational competence. Indeed, whilst we are sometimes overly self-critical in other areas, any suggested criticism of our operational prowess has traditionally been met with vocal denial at all levels. However, some operational staff I talk to are concerned that the current change programme may leave them behind, fearing that the importance of operational response and the maintenance of their skills might be overlooked, writes Hereford and Worcester CFO Paul Hayden.

THE FEBRUARY EDITION of FIRE magazine put similar suggestions to Fire Minister Jim Fitzpatrick, proposing that there is a risk that operational competencies would suffer as a result of the additional non-operational workloads modernisation brings. In this short article, I would like to give a personal view on whether these concerns have any basis in fact, or are simply a reaction to change and modernisation.

If the proposed argument is taken to its most simplistic level, it suggests that there were "good old days", before industrial action and the current major modernisation programme, when we could concentrate all of our attention on emergency response. The assumption made is that these were days when operations were conducted safely and competently, and in a world before IPDS, training was first class and focused entirely on operational issues, rather than personal qualities and attributes. Conversely, the argument suggests that with a diversion of Service time and energy into the prevention of fires and other types of emergency, increasing partnership working to secure community well being, and a plethora of new agendas from diversity to CPA, the Service must surely "take a hit" on its operational competence?

If the definition of a "golden age" for operational competence was a Service free of the distractions of modernisation, then the large metropolitan service I joined as an 18 year old in the late 1970s probably fits the bill. …

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