Fmr. army general to help modernize Amsterdam fire department

Firefighters' gear
Firefighters gear. (Wikimedia Commons)

Peter van Uhm, former commander of the armed forces, was appointed as a 'strategic adviser' to help with the modernization of the Amsterdam fire department by advising commander Leen Schaap and mayor Femke Halsema on how to achieve it. He starts on August 20th, Het Parool reports. 

Halsema and Schaap are worried that the modernization of the fire department "threatens to stagnate" due to fierce and persistent resistance from within the corps. An advisor was therefore called in. Halsema opted for Van Uhm because he "built up great experience with complex, hierarchical organizations and the closed, inward culture that can arise in risky, dangerous work", she said in a letter to the city council, according to the newspaper. 

Former Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan appointed as commander of the fire department to change the conservative, predominantly white stronghold . "Although progress is being made, this is not without a struggle", Halsema said. She called it "positive" that under Schaap the "leadership in the barracks" further developed, and that a long awaited experiment with a modern working method using regular shift rosters is being prepared. An increasing number of firefighters "support" changes and that the recruitment is more focused on diversity.

But Shaap is having trouble implementing these changes and has even . "The change of the close, inward culture is effectively prevented by a smaller group", Halsema wrote. "And in a few cases the resistance of a smaller group degenerated into unacceptable intimidation and threats." 

Van Uhm will investigate Schaap's modernization plans, examine which measures are required "to force a breakthrough", and give interim reports to Schaap and Halsema. Eventually he will advise on further measures. Halsema wrote that she strives to "implement the necessary changes, preferably in a constructive collaboration with all parties."