As a leader in a Fire and Rescue Service I regularly hear the saying that ‘the only thing that is constant is change’. Of course with the competing demands of public expectation against a backdrop of enforced budget reductions the need for change is a necessity not a choice. But if it is a constant is change a risk or opportunity?
Charles Darwin stated “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent of the species that survives but it is the one most adaptable to change.” As a sector we have an incredible amount of collective intelligence, we have experience of change and we have plenty of opportunities to share good practice. With this in mind, and with the environment described above I would argue that the need for change does indeed present an opportunity, the risk would be not to change.
So where should todays Fire and Rescue Service be looking to position itself in the future? In the UK we have started to expand our role to deal with emerging operational risk such as water rescue and to some extent emergency medical care. As demand for acute care increases this latter role needs further exploration. However, these examples are about increasing the response to increasing demand. In my view our greatest opportunity may well be in seeking to reduce demand, whether that is in reducing the types of incident we have traditionally attended, or through a wider prevention role in areas of wider social need such as health.
As the Chief Fire Officer and Head of Service for Cornwall Fire, Rescue and Community Safety Service my responsibility extends beyond the traditional prevention role of the Fire and Rescue Service and includes anti-social behaviour, drug and alcohol action, road safety and domestic abuse and sexual violence. The drive for efficiencies has resulted in teams that traditionally had a specialist focus needing to adapt to deliver a wider remit embracing all areas of community safety. The result has been the opportunity to share the expertise and experience of highly skilled individuals to deliver a customer focussed approach to supporting safer communities.
In addition to structural changes, Cornwall Fire, Rescue and Community Safety Service have established close working relationships with a range of partners. The historic town of Hayle will shortly have a brand new and purpose built tri-emergency service centre which will be shared and staffed by personnel for the Police, Ambulance and Fire and Rescue Services.
Our integrated risk management plan had identified opportunities for changes to cover arrangements that could improve our response to over 15,000 homes and business in the Camborne, Pool, Redruth and Hayle areas of Cornwall. A business case demonstrated that the combination of two existing fire stations to a more central location and the addition of a new fire station in Hayle would deliver an improved response service. Having identified this we met with our emergency service partners to determine whether opportunities existed to share any new facility and as a result the new build at Hayle has been designed and built to meet our shared needs.
The building itself will operate not only as a response hub but also as a community facility with a meeting room for public use. Whilst the building itself demonstrates positive shared working arrangements we also wanted to explore options for multi-functional staffing and the result is a pilot scheme where a single responder will have the combined skills to serve all three services.
The tri-service officer was appointed from Cornwall Fire, Rescue and Community Safety Service where he is employed as a Firefighter. He has undergone additional training to become a medical first responder on behalf of South West Ambulance Foundation Trust. In addition he will have completed elements of training to deliver the role of a Police Community Support Officer for Devon and Cornwall Police. This pilot post has attracted Central Government funding and we are delighted to have the opportunity to trial such an innovative approach which will truly provide the community of Hayle with a well trained and equipped emergency responder.
I am extremely proud to lead an ambitious workforce which is not afraid to consider change and the opportunities it may present. As I mentioned earlier, the collective intelligence of the organisation has generated many of our greatest successes. It would of course be naive to think that change will be embraced by all and I know that we must continue to engage and work with staff to ensure we communicate effectively. If we can continue to find solutions that suit the needs of our staff, our organisation and the communities we serve we will continue to be successful and a high performing organisation.
In conclusion I would agree that change is a constant. As an organisation we continue to seek new opportunities and in doing so I am sure the organisation will grow, adapt deliver change and improve. As a leader my role is to ensure I create and support an environment for change through working with staff and partners to identify the new opportunities as they emerge.