Pav’s Passage to India

An Operational Fire Fighter’s Perspective: Parvinder Singh, AFSA Operational Fire Fighters’ Representative – London Fire Brigade

‘We fight more than fire. This makes it even more important to ensure we command the respect of all age groups and the diverse range of communities we serve’

Speaking to serving fire fighters and retired members I was able to reflect on the changing role of the Fire Service and the fire fighter. Colleagues now possess a wide variety of skills and expertise which the diverse communities we serve can rely on.

Fire fighters work with young people around education to prevent and tackle crime and with older people in their homes to keep them safe. Staff also work with businesses and communities to build resilience. This change in roles will ensure that the Fire and Rescue Service remains an integral part of keeping our communities safe and secure.

Yet despite this change in role and influence one factor has to be continuously valued and promoted which is that firefighting remains one of the most trusted professions, commanding respect across all age groups and communities.

From my discussions with staff they consistently point to the importance of ‘building trust’. Simply put, they tell me that trust means confidence – confidence that others’ actions are consistent with their words, that those people with whom they work are concerned about their welfare and interests, and not just what you can do for them. The skills you have developed are respected and valued by your co-workers and the wider organisation and who you are and what you believe truly matters in the workplace.

The importance of changing roles and trust was brought home to me on a recent visit to India. I joined forces with six paramedics from various Ambulance trusts in the UK to help deliver First Aid training in rural parts of the state of Bihar. This experience gave me a wonderful insight into the value of the need for a diverse workforce with the skills and ambition to work flexibly, efficiently and creatively to keep local communities safe. Working in collaboration with other public service colleagues in activities that stretched well beyond fire fighting was most satisfying and made me realise that such activities can in future extend to delivering preventative education in flood management and road traffic collisions. These are areas that we are increasingly tackling in the UK. Altogether it was a great experience to work with the paramedics, students and teachers and to witness their enthusiasm and hunger to learn.

I am looking forward to seeing many more examples of innovation within the fire service in 2016 and examples of how we can build on the trust and respect of the diverse range of people we serve.

Pavinder Singh