The Ministry of Financial Services and Home Affairs confirms Chief Fire Officer Paul Walker QFSM has agreed to a new two-year contract until 1 September 2022.
The decision was made following an assessment of ongoing professional development at the Cayman Islands Fire Service (CIFS) over the past 12 months.
As part of a two-year succession plan concurrent with the contract, Chief Walker will recommend a Caymanian candidate to act as the Chief Fire Officer (Designate) from September 2021, following a rigorous and challenging selection process.
He will then spend a year working intensively with the successful candidate to prepare him or her to take up the role of Chief Fire Officer from 1 September 2022.
The CIFS Senior Management Team (SMT) welcomed this extension which will enable Chief Walker to continue sharing his 30 years of fire and rescue experience, in support of the development of the service and its officers.
When advised that Chief Walker accepted the extended contract, Deputy Chief Fire Officers Brevan Elliot, Tina Ebanks and Ricardo Charlton jointly commented, “We met Mr. Paul Walker, for the first time in 2019 when he was interviewing for the Interim Chief Fire Officer position. Having not previously worked with him, the SMT were naturally hesitant about his appointment. Today, we fully recognise that his knowledge and support has helped to assist us with restructuring and professionalising the Cayman Islands Fire Service, which has been the sole objective and mission of the team for some time.”
“As a collective SMT, we welcome the Ministry’s decision to retain Chief Walker as the Interim Chief Fire Officer for the Department. Over the past months, he has worked collaboratively with the SMT and jointly with the Ministry. In addition to sharing his knowledge and experience with us, he has fully supported our goal of professional development for all officers. We look forward to working as a team as we continue to align the CIFS with the Deputy Governor’s vision of becoming a ‘World Class Civil Service’.”
In spite of a busy year for the CIFS, positive operational changes as well as signs of greater cohesion across the team are already visible under Chief Walker’s leadership.
Over the last 12 months, 21 newly recruited Caymanian firefighters and a newly adapted shift pattern have reduced the need for officers to work overtime to maintain safe standards of work and respond to calls for service within the prescribed timeframes. Revised strategies are also in place to tackle protracted incidents at the landfill site as well as a stronger understanding of safe systems of work overall.
In addition, the delivery, training and roll out of new breathing apparatus and hydraulic road rescue equipment was completed this year. To assist with facilitating continuous training, CIFS recently joined the Institution of Fire Engineers to offer a professional development framework for internationally recognised qualifications and accreditation.
Meanwhile, a minimum of quarterly visits to Cayman Brac and Little Cayman by the SMT has helped to create a more unified, connected team. As has the introduction and issuance of the first official CIFS Challenge Coin, which is a much-cherished tradition amongst the global fire service community.
Chief Walker said: “I have very much enjoyed my first year in the Cayman Islands which has been a very busy one. I have been impressed with the dedication, professionalism and flexibility of colleagues across CIFS and the Cayman Islands Government.
“Major incidents including an earthquake, large landfill site fires and the COVID-19 pandemic have all provided excellent operational and command experiential learning for colleagues across CIFS.”
“Nevertheless, the impact on our human resource capacity to deliver organisational and personal development outcomes within one year has been clear. I very much look forward to continuing to guide CIFS to becoming the fire service it aspires to be, and to develop our senior officers to reach their potential.”
To make the most of the next two years the Chief Fire Officer has already presented the Ministry of Home Affairs with a two-year plan that supports continued professional development for the Deputy Chief Fire Officers (DCFO). It also delivers key strategic projects relating to equipment, buildings, training, structure and operations.
Part of the planned professional development includes a four-month rotation of functions for the DCFOs to gain a broader understanding of the challenges faced by all three CIFS departments, namely Aviation, Domestic and Administration. A series of SMT themed workshops to support strategic areas of work are also planned along with two-week secondments to the UK for all three DCFOs to explore new ways of working and different types of fire and rescue equipment.
Chief Officer in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Dax Basdeo, commented, “We have all witnessed first-hand the positive impact Chief Walker has had on the CIFS. From the beginning of his interim appointment, he has shared his experiences and learnings to support the Deputy Chief Officers’ development.”
“I am confident the organisation and personnel will continue to benefit from Chief Walker’s leadership over the next two years. It will lay a strong foundation on which a future Caymanian Chief Fire Officer can continue to build a high performing, well equipped best in class fire and rescue service.”