As the UK draws closer to an uncertain Brexit, the prospect of many existing international partnerships surviving is starting to seem less likely. The UK’s automatic inclusion in many of the international programmes and research activities it has previously enjoyed seems unlikely to continue. In this article, Jon Hall of the Resilience Advisors Network will explain that this needn’t mean individual services withdrawing from all collaborative activity as many venerable institutions will be looking to improve their links with the UK fire sector.
Individual Fire & Rescue Services and academic organisations such as the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) and the Fire Service College at Moreton-in-Marsh have long contributed to operational and research projects across Europe and beyond. In fact, every year the UK has benefited from £m’s of much-needed funding through initiatives such as Horizon 2020 and the Civil Protection Mechanism. Even if very limited participation does continue, right now, it looks inconceivable that the EU will choose to fund UK activity to the same degree going forward.
Although it seems to be an increasingly popular view that a country can manage quite adequately on its own, few would disagree that, professionally, we should be looking to learn and grow our trade from wherever that learning and growth is available. Europe has provided a rich seam for the UK’s development over recent years and, even if less-so, will surely continue to do so in some form but now it’s time for the UK to look for other partners as well.
In terms of gaining from opportunities for International learning, many states, not just UK are facing forces set to steer them away from being the best they possibly can be:
- Reduced budgets mean that international travel and study is increasingly considered a ‘discretionary activity’ in the Fire Professionals world.
- National Strategy & Policy is moving countries increasingly towards what is considered to be ‘their own determination’ and away from that designed with the participation of many other countries, and finally,
- Opportunity – more isolationist nations are considerably less likely to be invited to participate in collaborative initiatives
In other-words; less money, diminishing popular support and reduced opportunity!
However, as members of the fire sector, we should be bold enough to not blindly assert that our Country always know best. We should stand-up for those we seek to protect by finding ways to stay in touch and keep informed of international events and developments.
With this in mind, this year’s Emergency Services Show in the UK will be hosting a collaboration theatre which will feature for the first time, an International Collaboration Forum. Using this platform, it’s planned to bring together key speakers tyo address this – Organisations and individuals from across the World will present and discuss the impact of current international policies as they see them and, more importantly, will work to highlight opportunities for the world fire community to stay connected with with each other going forward.
Both days of the Forum are being chaired by pre-eminent leads from the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) with a professional interest in maintaining International links. Fire Chiefs, Dave Walton and Paul Walker QFSM (International Lead for the NFCC) will oversee and facilitate a fascinating and diverse array of speakers. Nick Searle, Deputy Chief Fire Officer of Merseyside will describe the benefits that his service has gained from their extensive involvement with overseas development, capacity building and Search & Rescue exercising. Sean Moore OBE is the lead for UK Governments deployable capabilities (UK ISAR and UK Med). Both Nick and Sean hope to continue to grow overseas support for future development of their teams.
With an ominous shadow of BREXIT hanging over the UK at the moment, the President of the European Federation of Fire Officer’s Associations (FEU), Chris Addiers, will speak about the organisation and its close links with its 23 member states making it clear that there is still a place for the UK within the fire and rescue profession. The FEU is a vital organisation in maintaining professional unity and mutual support independent of the vagaries of the European political environment. Neighbours are important whatever Union or partnership they are part of.
Jeff Dulin is from the USA and will introduce the International Association of Fire Chiefs (AIFC) to attendees. Along with explaining its activities and desire to grow UK Officer involvement, Jeff, the recently retired Deputy Chief of Charlotte FD, will outline its membership goals and describe the latest initiatives supporting International Mutual Support.
A number of individuals working within the European Union’s Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM) will outline some of the Disaster Management and Prevention programmes that will continue and will highlight opportunities for organisations and individuals to stay connected: Peter Glerum from the Netherlands and Rut Erdelyiova from Slovakia both work through the UK’s Resilience Advisors Network. The Network will continue to ensure opportunities for UK expertise to work within European frameworks and indeed to continue to influence the operational agenda wherever possible. They have both been working on partnered programmes involving the UK on subjects as diverse as; CBRN procedures and psychosocial support for those affected by incidents (responders included). They will describe some recent joint activities and some ongoing projects. They will also be keen to speak with attendees about future opportunities to work in the multi-national environment of the Civil Protection Mechanism.
Finally, two speakers will offer examples of good practice and successful outcomes arising from true International collaboration – Laura Cochrane is the Director of Medical Affairs for the Biotech giant, Emergent Bio Solutions. In a fascinating talk, she will describe how International clinical developments are set to improve the safety of responders in the CBRN environment. Recent changes in US and European regulation have made it possible to both greatly enhance the safety of responders and to better support early decontamination of the public.
Phil Crook of Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service will describe their experiences staging this year’s EU Simulation Exercise (SIMEX) in Portsmouth and will discuss how to create multi-national consortia to bid for grants using the skills of the fire & rescue community in support of not just Europe but the United Nations as well.
Together, the speakers will create a compelling and illuminating story of opportunity for the Internationally engaged Emergency Service and/or fire officer – whatever the future may hold!
For more information, go to www.resilienceadvisors.eu