Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service
146 Bolton Road
Tel: 0161 736 5866
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A very busy and eventful week - to say the least.
Two days in London meeting officials and MPs to try to get a fairer funding distribution - and a meeting with Greater Manchester MPs today. (I did talk about in earlier blog).
There will be lots more lobbying so I won't say more here.
But we have also this week had the inquest in to the death of Daniel Holt - which lasted for three days. Each day of the inquest has been reported in the Manchester Evening News and, rather than say more here if anyone wants to understand more, their coverage has been fair and accurate.
This was the incident where we made a number of mistakes, that meant we failed to search the living room (where Daniel had collapsed behind the settee). In the event, the pathologist's evidence identified that Daniel had 'very likely' perished before we arrived and the Coroner therefore passed an accidental death verdict.
He also reinforced the dangers of chip pan fires which underlines the importance of our safety and prevention work.
And the fact that our actions did not cause or contribute to Daniel's death, while no consolation to Daniel's family (and to whom we have - quite rightly - apologised) does mean that the personnel concerned do not have this on their conscience. And in that sense this can only be a good thing as, all along, no-one has suggested anyone deliberately set out to do anyone any harm.
Nevertheless we must still confront, deal and learn from some realities.
Basic mistakes were made, teamwork broke down completely, communications between people broke down and basic but flawed assumptions about the kind of incident the crews were dealing with were made.
And our response to the whole issue has been analysed and scrutinised in a very intense - and public and transparent way. Through a Coroner's inquest, an external peer review by another FRS and by an employment tribunal (we still await the outcome of this and as there may yet be further legal proceedings it would be inappropriate to say any more). So its fair to say we have a good understanding of what happened (I am still not sure we really understand why).
And the only realistic conclusion is that we simply took things for granted and we were too 'casual' or 'familiar' in our approach.
There are lots of learning points we have already acted on (and the Coroner commented positively on this) - but there are some bigger points everyone needs to reflect on.
We should never make assumptions about any incident we attend - a small rubbish fire could be a 'headless corpse' as colleagues discovered just a few weeks ago, a standard two up two down terrace house on fire - and indeed any property on fire - should always be presumed to have people missing - and the urgency and professionalism of the search consistent. And constant communications is key with teamwork a vital component of everything we do.
And once we go out the doors to an emergency - the public deserves nothing less than our complete and total concentration and complete professionalism applied to the job in hand - and whatever else is going on in our lives - personally or professionally - needs to be put aside.
It's now time to draw a line under the issue and permit everyone involved to move on - but, finally, to reinforce the point of never making assumptions or taking anything for granted - yesterday we turned out to a car crash - with the car involved belonging to one of the crew who responded; but who was then confronted with the shock of his wife being involved.
This must be every firefighters nightmare (but its at least the fourth time I have encountered it personally in my career).
Thankfully I spoke to the FF concerned last night (I won't name him here) and I am pleased to report that his wife was released from hospital last night and though her injuries are painful they are not serious or life threatening and I am sure we all wish her a speedy recovery.