Preparing for the challenge: Philip Mason reports on the annual Local Government Association fire conference and exhibition, which this year took place in Coventry on March 11 and 12.(Conference Report)(Conference notes)

Day One

The title of this year's LGA annual fire conference was 'Building Resilience--Responding to Environmental Change', and the environment was a theme that was returned to several times during the event, particularly on the second day.

The conference began with an opening address by Chair of the LGA Fire Services Management Committee, Councillor Les Byrom, who began by flagging up the achievements of the Fire and Rescue Service over the most recent stage of the modernisation process, as well as paying tribute to colleagues that died in the cause of duty in past months. He suggested that the Service should now move from the 'modernisation' phase into what he called the era of "constant professionalism" in the light of the challenges ahead. As well as continuing to concentrate on the improvement of public and staff safety, the Service, he said, also needs to be constantly questioning its own core mission while also embracing a "new era of partnership working." Linked to this, he also spoke of an approach centred around discussion rather than confrontation in regard to unions within the sector.

Following this introduction to the event was a panel session called 'Fire and Rescue--Current and Future Challenges', in which several, often contentious, topics were discussed. These included the national and local aspects of the Fire and Rescue Service remit, training, increasing public expectations, firefighter safety, the closure of local fire stations, the role of elected members and in particular, the anticipated challenges proposed by global warming, heralded by last year's floods. This in turn prompted a discussion as to what structures should be in place in order to combat more flooding, should it arrive. …

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