Julie Gilbert-King Borough CommanderEast Sussex Fire and Rescue Service
The guest speaker at one of of the meeting of the Rotary Club of Sovereign Harbour was Julie Gilbert-King, Eastbourne Borough Commander of the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service.
M/s Gilbert-King told the members that she had started her career in the Fire Service sixteen years ago in Eastbourne and, having moved around the County, and received a number of promotions, she returned to Eastbourne about two years ago as the Borough Commander.
She went on to tell of the huge changes that had taken place since the national Fire-fighters' strike in 2002/2003. The service, she said had been transformed from 'the heroes who rescued people from blazing buildings' to a fully integrated, pro-active service that worked in partnership with other agencies, such as the Crime Reduction Partnership (CDRP) and the Joint Action Group (JAG). The work of the JAG, she said, had identified a relationship between the places where fires occurred and the other problem areas, and this had led to the setting up of the 'Quality Streets' initiative, where multiple agencies joined forces to work with the local community to address the problems and seek solutions.
The Eastbourne Fire Station, she said, was staffed by full time personal and equipped with two fire appliances and an aerial ladder platform, located at the Eastbourne Community Fire Station. The emphasis has shifted from fighting fires to fire prevention so, as well as a team of fire fighters, there are also teams dedicated to fire safety and community safety.
The team's target is to get eight fire fighters to an incident within eight minutes, achievement of which has been helped by a marked reduction in call volumes as a result of working with the public service and business communities to bring their fire detection systems up-to date and in good repair.
M/s Gilbert-King emphasised the importance of smoke alarms in the home and the contribution that these made to saving lives. The extra time that a smoke alarm makes available, she emphasised, gives occupants of a home the time necessary to evacuate the premises, or move to a place of safety.
In response to a question from a member, M/s
Gilbert-King said that the layout of Sovereign Harbour, and the number of closely located tall buildings, presented some unique difficulties. However, she said, her team had conducted a survey and put in place unique action plans for individual areas. Because the harbour properties are all relatively 'new-build' they have benefitted from the changes to building regulations that require fire retardant building materials and construction techniques, and fire retardant, self closing doors, as well as smoke detectors in homes and communal area.