In my last editorial I spoke of the need for those in authority to set the standard and to remember that we promote what we permit. That sentiment seems particularly relevant over the past months and weeks.
We seem to be going through a period where rules and standards are being breached at the highest levels on a daily basis, from the almost unfathomable actions of Russia in its invasion of Ukraine, through the actions of our government and the wide-scale historic avoidance of standards which continue to be exposed by the Grenfell enquiry.
The war in Ukraine has exposed the ability of a regime to defy international standards with a terrible impact on millions of innocent civilians who continue to suffer as their beloved country is ravaged by war. Whilst international efforts to seek an end to the atrocities continue, the UK public have once again shown humanity through donations, financial aid and the offer of refuge in their homes.
A number of UK fire and rescue services and their staff have given fire appliances, equipment and their time through a coordinated response led by FireAid, the Fire Industry Association and the National Fire Chiefs Council. We stand by the people of Ukraine and sincerely hope for a peaceful and swift end to this tragic and unnecessary conflict.
Standards in public office continue to dominate headlines, with the Metropolitan Police being both the subject of scrutiny for their own standards and the enforcers of law with fines awarded to those closest to, and potentially within government.
It seems, to me, a stark contrast that the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police was forced to resign over findings regarding the unacceptable behaviours of the staff under her command yet the leader of our country and his closest colleagues appear to have deflected the blame downwards in response to the exposure of their misdemeanours.
Within the Grenfell inquiry there has at least been some additional mass media attention as ministers and government officials have been giving evidence. Within the evidence there has been a mixture of acknowledgment of responsibility but also examples of apparent ignorance to decisions and actions of individuals and departments with responsibility once again pushed downwards.
Whilst the media attention is welcomed, will it help the public to understand that the actions, or inaction of many in the days, weeks, months, years and decades that led to this disaster and not those who valiantly responded on that fateful night? I sadly doubt it, so for this reason, we as a profession must prepare to use whatever means and voice we have to make our position clear when the inquiry concludes and reports.
The inquiry has raised questions of whether government efforts to cut red tape had delayed or weakened fire-safety standards. Whilst I cannot personally comment on the issues around the changes to high-rise fire-safety standards being questioned in the inquiry I can speak from personal experience around the government’s eagerness to ‘reduce the burden’, (another way of saying ‘cutting red tape’).
After the failure of a private members bill (talked out through the archaic process of filibustering), which sought to deliver equity on fire-safety standards between social and private rented dwellings, it was made very clear to me and my fire and rescue colleagues that if we wanted to see any new legislation, then we had to offer two pieces of legislation in return (i.e. two out one in). Given that the fight for fire-safety legislation has been hard fought for many years, and the massive changes through consolidation in the past two decades, this was not a reasonable deal. The change in legislation was eventually secured without having to compromise other valuable standards, but I do reflect on the cost in terms of the delayed implementation.
My experience around this issue does, in my view, reflect the actions of a government who consistently seek to reduce the burden on the commercial sector despite the unintended consequences for those who need the protection of reasoned and enforceable legislation.
What is the answer? Who acts as the arbiter of standards for those in highest office? We each have a responsibility to hold ourselves and others to account, to deliver against expected standards and to challenge and push back against injustice and unjust decisions. We have to promote what we permit.
We remain all too aware of the continuing impact of Covid-19. Whilst the infection rates have once again risen, the death rates, whilst still tragically high, are well below the proportional levels of two years ago.
With most restrictions lifted, we are now adjusting to living with Covid in the hope that we will continue to conquer the disease and any future variants.
June sees the return of Interschutz, the International Trade Fair for Fire Rescue, Civil Protection and Security to its home in Hannover, Germany. The five-yearly event had to be cancelled in 2020 but promises to come back with a vengeance, attracting over 150,000 global visitors and 1,500 exhibitors. Interschutz has a reputation as the go-to show for anyone eager to learn about the latest innovations and share expertise with their international peers.
MDM Publishing is proud to be a global media partner for Interschutz and I look forward to both seeing what is new in international fire engineering and reporting back in the August edition.
As we approach the summer months let’s hope we can look forward to happier times globally and closer to home.
Thank you to all our readers, editorial contributors and advertisers for your ongoing support.
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