IN an odd switch of roles, the consultant becomes the student as Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service advises IT Support on how to manage reactivity and emergencies.

Sean Lloyd, Head of Response for the fire service’s Carmarthenshire Command and based at Llanelli Station, was surprised when he was contacted by Noel Bruton, a Newcastle Emlyn-based author and consultant specialising in IT Support management.

“There are some similarities in the style, if not the type of work”, Bruton offers. “We’re both interrupted by suddenly having to react to emergencies. IT Support is not always great at that, so I wondered how we might learn from the Fire Service, who are established masters of organised reactivity.”

The pair met at Llanelli Fire Station to discuss a wide range of topics, from technical preparedness, to resource allocation, leadership, workforce management, and handling stress.

“An IT department is made up of technical specialists, who are routinely developing new systems, maintaining infrastructure, and conducting technical projects,” Bruton explains. “When a support call comes in, it can conflict with those other priorities. This is why the IT end-user sometimes gets a slow response to a support request.”

Sean Lloyd describes the fire service’s approach as one of always being ready. “When we are not actually reacting to an emergency, our officers have an extensive programme of fire prevention, premises inspections, local education, and their own training, which keeps them fully occupied. But the Service also constantly studies our stations’ catchment areas for their fire risks, and we check our equipment at the start of every shift. So when we need to react, we can do so with confidence and knowing what we’re going into.”

The meeting was highly productive. One end product will be a paper on managing reactivity, to be distributed to IT managers across the UK, so that IT support groups can learn from Llanelli station’s organisational expertise. Officer Lloyd commented, “I got a lot out of our exchange. Noel came with a long list of questions about various aspects of our work and ideas from his own industry. I enjoyed the opportunity to reconsider the fundaments of our operation in detail. I’m looking forward to seeing his final report and what else we can take from it.”

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