Oxfordshire’s new Chief Fire Officer shares his vision

Rob MacDougall CFO

A vision for an innovative, progressive and outstanding service has been announced by Oxfordshire’s new Chief Fire Officer, who began his role on 01 August 2019.

Rob MacDougall, 45, wants Oxfordshire County Council Fire and Rescue Service to represent every community.

Watch his interview with That’s Oxfordshire TV here.

He explains: “Residents will be at the heart of everything we do. We will ensure the safest communities for everyone in Oxfordshire through our prevention and education work, while providing a world class emergency response when people need us the most. We are a great service and aspire to be outstanding through continuous improvement and innovation.”

The Cowley resident was previously Assistant Chief Fire Officer for Oxfordshire.

Rob joined the service in 1998 and has been based in Oxfordshire for most of his career. He is married with two children.

The full title of Rob’s role is Director of Community Safety and Chief Fire Officer. Rob will lead all the community safety services including Trading Standards, the Gypsy and Traveller service and Emergency Planning.

Rob said: “All of these vital services support Oxfordshire’s thriving communities. There is a common purpose: to reduce the chance that anyone will come to harm – the safest communities for everyone in Oxfordshire.”

National recognition

Talking specifically about the role of Chief Fire Officer, Rob said:

“Oxfordshire has one of the UK’s very best fire and rescue services, recognised in Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services’ (HMICFRS) recent report.

“I believe this success is due to integration as part of the County Council, the vision of previous leadership; and the tremendous hard work and dedication of everyone in the organisation.

“As the new Chief Fire Officer, I not only need to maintain the excellent services that we provide, but make sure we continuously improve and meet the evolving needs of our communities. We are a great service that aspires to be outstanding.

“Our service is really progressive, moving away from a traditional fire brigade to an innovative and dynamic fire and rescue service. We have broken down some of the hierarchies that used to exist by removing some of the old-fashioned privileges of rank and encouraging open conversation at all levels of the organisation. In the office environment, our senior leaders will actively discourage the use of titles like ‘sir’ and ‘guv’ and would much rather be called by their first names. I am the Chief Fire Officer, but I expect people to call me Rob.

“We continue to provide a fantastic emergency response when people are in need, but also provide first class preventative services, keeping people safe in their communities, places of work and on the road.

“Our frontline teams will continue to play a lead role in delivering innovative services. As an example, our local firefighters developed new water rescue techniques. By adapting existing protocols and the way we use equipment, we can get into water much quicker to prevent drownings; saving lives.”

Opportunity, belonging and community

“We are continuously recruiting for On Call firefighters and will be recruiting Career firefighters again next year; and I want to make sure that people understand what the role of a firefighter is and the incredible career opportunities with Community Safety and Fire and Rescue.

“The term ‘firefighter’ can be misleading as it portrays an outdated image of a big burly man emerging from a fire with a child in his arms. The reality is we always work in teams, so although firefighters need to have a certain level of strength and fitness, saving lives is achieved through teamwork, using state-of-the-art equipment; not by a single superhero.

“I’m sure some people dismiss firefighting as an option, convinced they won’t be able to pass the physical entry tests. We run ‘have a go days’ so people can see what the strength and fitness requirements are. We also provide advice and support to help those interested to reach the necessary level. A great source of information is the oncallfire.uk website.

“Engaging communication skills are also important. Liaising with communities and businesses to identify risks and change behaviours. We would much rather educate to stop fires starting in the first place, than have to undertake dramatic rescues.”

“Firefighters need common sense, good communication skills, and an ability to learn. They don’t necessarily need academic qualifications. Some of our officers left school with no formal exams.

“They’re fantastic firefighters. Brilliant professionals, who have made the most of the learning and development on offer to rise through the service. So please, don’t dismiss yourself because you haven’t got a pile of educational certificates.

“On the other hand, I joined as a graduate and saw the Fire and Rescue Service as a career where I could progress up through the organisation. Within Fire and Rescue and Community Safety services there are fantastic opportunities whatever your aspirations.”

Representing the community

“I will continue my predecessor’s commitment to recruit and retain firefighters from many diverse communities and backgrounds.

“I am also determined to increase the number of female firefighters. I want more recruits from ethnic minorities. Sexual orientation will never be a barrier. On my ‘watch’, we’ll have a diverse fire and rescue service; reflecting the makeup of the whole community. And we will be proud of it. Fire doesn’t discriminate and neither do we.

“If our team represent the community, we will better understand local issues. In turn, we’ll enhance community relationships, break down barriers, and deliver the right messages at the right time, with the right outcome.

“Every firefighter has commitment and drive; and I will ensure they will always have access to a range of opportunities to develop themselves. This is what makes Oxfordshire County Council Fire and Rescue Service a very special organisation; an integral part of the county’s thriving communities."

Rob’s vision

“This is my vision. Residents at the heart of everything we do; the safest communities for everyone in Oxfordshire through our prevention and education work, while providing a world class emergency response when people need us the most.

“We are a great service and aspire to be outstanding through continuous improvement and innovation.”

Want to become an Oxfordshire firefighter?

For further information about becoming an Oxfordshire firefighter, visit the website www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/oncallfirefighters or email fire.recruitment@oxfordshire.gov.uk

Stats & Facts

Stats and Facts from Community Safety Services Annual Report 2018-2019: