Fighting fires is not all job’s about

Promoting safety is an important part of a firefighter's job
Promoting safety is an important part of a firefighter's job

There is far more to being a firefighter than tending to burning buildings and helping cats stuck in trees.

The service also offers an invaluable service to the community, teaching youngsters about risks and how to stay safe.

Central Scotland Fire and Rescue Service is involved in educating children from starting nursery right up to the time they are leaving high school.

Starting with stranger danger and the consequences of playing with matches to how to drive safely, the service offer lessons in all elements of staying safe.

The service has recently added a new string to its bow and now offers primary seven-aged children the chance to go to the Risk Factory - a purpose-built studio with mock streets, rooms and even a railway line to educate them all about the dangers they might face and how to avoid them.

Alan Faulds has been a firefighter for 18 years and been dedicated to community safety for the past two.

He says education is a huge part of every fire fighter’s job.

“Everyone in the service plays a part in educating youngsters on safety.

“We start with nurseries, letting them see around a fire engine and interact with the kids right up until they leave school.”

When children are old enough to start walking to school on their own - around primary four age - the service pays another visit to teach them road safety.

In the first years of high school pupils are visited to learn about peer pressure and fourth year pupils get the Safe Drive Stay Alive lessons to encourage positive driving attitudes.

The fifth and sixth year groups are taught about independent living to prepare them for moving away from the family home when they head off to university, college or their homes of their own.

The work with primary seven pupils, taking them to the Risk Factory in Edinburgh to learn about safety in the home, the dangers of the internet and fire safety is all part of the service’s Crucial Crew programme.

Alan, who is based in the Falkirk station, says the facilities in Edinburgh are far superior to the portable huts the service used to use to educate primary seven children.

“Doing the Crucial Crew at the Risk Factory is fantastic - it’s purpose built and each section tackles a separate area of safety ... from the risk of playing near railway lines to how to report a fire properly.

“We catch them before they go to high school because they are at a great age - their minds are like sponges and they really take everything in.

“We could only send a few schools this year but we are hoping to get round the rest next year. We chose schools in areas that have a problem with wilful fire raising or have experienced incidents in the past. Areas including Camelon and Bo’ness are among the worst for this, so we make sure we include schools in these areas. By telling the children just how dangerous lighting fires in bins an be and how it can ruin lives we hope they will see sense.

“That is what is so good about the Risk Factory - it’s a short sharp shock and because it is interactive it really sticks with the children.”

Ladeside Primary was one of the first Falkirk schools to visit the Risk Factory when they travelled through last week.

Deputy head at the school, Carol Clark, said the fire and rescue service play a vital role in educating children.

She said: “The children and teachers were blown away with the trip to the Risk Factory. To see their reactions to the various sets was incredible and they are all still talking about it.

“Part of the trip focused on internet safety, which is becoming increasingly important with children spending more time online.

“The fire and rescue service are fantastic and come out to talk to the children at various points in their time at the school.

“The whole school is doing a project on safety and the fire and rescue service has played a vital role in educating the kids.

“I think the children listen more when it is a firefighter talking to them in their full uniform rather than their teacher and it’s always good to have safety messages reinforced by as many people as possible.

“Every time the firefighters have been to the school they have been very knowledgable and talk to the children well.”