Far too much fragmented: We have to rethink our model
Chris Addiers is president of the FEU, the Federation of the European Union Fire Officer Associations, since October 2014. He was re-elected in November 2017 for another 3 year mandate. At this stage, FEU connects the fire service leadership in 25 European countries. FEU will be present at INTERSCHUTZ 2021.5 May 2020
No doubt that Chris Addiers is well versed in fire safety. He has been the Chief Fire Officer of the Antwerp City and Port Fire and Rescue Service till he retired in 2016. Before that he was appointed as liaison officer for the Belgian Fire Services in the cabinet of the minister of Home Affairs.
Addiers teached various topics on safety related issues such as fire prevention, Hazmat, fire tactics and crisis management in the Belgian fire academies and also at the Antwerp University.
Fire brigades and rescue teams all over the world - but especially in Europe - are facing major challenges due to the corona pandemic. From your point of view: Is every country fighting for itself or is there a good exchange between the countries' emergency services?
After a first quick survey amongst our members, it looks that their local situation regarding the approach of the Covid-19 virus on the Fire and Rescue Services is quite different all over Europe. Even the "basic" contingency planning and business continuity issues are not really parallel from one country to another and even from one service to another.
The confrontation with this first time ever lock-down (partial or full), is, even for emergency services a totally new challenge. Despite that they are used to be prepared for disruptive events in society, FRS are experiencing a though period to keep the service operational in terms of resources, logistics and long lasting healthy staffing.
Is there anything that you think we can already learn from the pandemic experience for international cooperation?
Regardless this massive pandemic impact, I do believe that we absolutely strategically have to rethink our institutional model where all partners in emergency response, from local over national to international authorities, are far too much fragmented.
As a result of this subsidiarity, there is mostly a significant gap between local authorities (responsible for the fire safety and emergency management) and the national authority (responsible for civil protection and disaster management).
As the European Union is conceived as a cooperation of member states, this gap is not getting smaller. On the contrary, there is practically no transitive relation between the EU structure and the local governments.
In case of a worldwide pandemic, this becomes painfully clear. Priorities are not clearly defined, the steering of the actions are subsequently not structural , resources are therefore not judiciously divided. That’s the harsh reality we are facing now.
What is FEU and what are its objectives? Who are members of FEU and who can become a member?
FEU is an independent professional body of 25 fire officer associations or state fire services (24 from EU member states and Norway) whose members are senior fire professionals that have responsibility for the strategic management of the Fire and Rescue Services in their respective countries at municipal, county, regional or state level. The aim of FEU is to enhance fire safety for citizens, improve fire fighters safety, provide expertise to European bodies, share good practices and support cross border initiatives. FEU focusses on matters concerning the future development of fire brigades, especially in leadership, organisation and management.
How do you organize the coordination internally?
Coordination within FEU is based on the structure that we have an FEU Council as the governing body, including the FEU Management Board with President, Secretary and Board members. The FEU Council may appoint a number of FEU Committees to achieve its objectives as part of its annual business plan. In addition, the FEU Council may establish a number of FEU Working Groups to address a specific public safety issue.
Which regular dates or events are there?
The FEU Council Meeting is held twice a year. One vote per country is allowed. The FEU Management Board will make all relevant administrative decisions concerning the management of the association except those reserved to the FEU Council. Management board meetings are held three times a year. FEU Committees and FEU Working Groups will be appointed for a limited period.
What are currently your most important topics on European level? And which topics are at the top of FEU's agenda for the future?
Based on the results of a trends survey carried out in 2018 the FEU Vision 2030 concentrates on three main programmes for the next 10 years: creating and being the one strategic voice for all European fire services. This means FEU focusses to be the point of contact concerning organisational, managerial and strategic issues of the fire service leadership in Europe for all parties and stakeholders – politicians, professionals, partners. The Officer Development Programme (ODP): developing the next generation of fire officers in an international context to stimulate futureproof leadership and management skills of our fire officers. And Information Sharing/Exchange by facilitating and promoting Exchange of Experts, fellowship programmes.
With which messages does FEU come to INTERSCHUTZ and what do you demonstrate at your stand?
During Interschutz 2020 we would have been presenting the Officer Development Programme 2021, which is designed and developed in close cooperation with the Netherlands Fire Academy (NFA). With the programme we want to inspire high potentials, development officers and executives (CFO’s) in all European Fire and Rescue Services.
Unfortunately INTERSCHUTZ 2020 is cancelled. But definitely we’ll be present at INTERSCHUTZ 2021.
What skills do the officers of the programme have to bring?
Officers who want to join, need to have the abilty to communicate in English. Exchange of expertise and knowledge, making a European network for the future is part of the programme. Specific subjects will be among others: dilemmas of the Fire Services today, cross border collaboration and cooperation, trend analysis, integrity, policy making etc. FEU has the ambition to develop an annual European ODP programme for senior officers which will be supported and facilitated by a consortium of Fire Service Colleges in Europe.
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