Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service are holding a week of action from 1 to 7 Decmember as part of the Swindon Christmas Safety Campaign.
Over six days, the Service is focussed on a variety of safety messages relevant to the festive season, and events are being held throughout the town.
A fire engine and a fire safety display took place in the town centre on Saturday 1 December when firefighters and other staff talked to members of the public about keeping their homes safe over the Christmas period. During the evening a crashed car was displayed in Bridge Street.
Children at Westlea Primary School received a visit from a firefighter and a crew with an appliance on Tuesday 4 December, to make sure they understand the importance of fire safety and a fire engine and the fire safety display will visit Asda Walmart in North Swindon on Thursday 6 December between 10am and 1pm.
The week of action finishes on Friday 7 December with the crashed car display in the Hooper’s Place car park in Old Town between 8pm and 10pm.
On Wednesday 5 December fire and rescue crews from Westlea and Stratton St Margaret put on a live demonstration of what happens following a road traffic collision at Westlea Fire Station.
Cllr Cindy Matthews (Lydiard & Freshbrook) took the opportunity to act as a casualty in one of two cars set up to mimic the aftermath of a crash, while Swindon Advertiser reporter Emma Dunn spent 40 minutes in the roof of an overturned vehicle.
Hydraulic cutting equipment was used to remove the roof of one car, while stabilising props were used to make the upside-down vehicle safe.
Station Manager Kit Watson explained: “Being in a car that has crashed, and having to be rescued by the fire service, is noisy, disorientating and claustrophobic – and when it’s for real, you also have fear and pain to contend with. With the run-u[p to Christmas, the weather is getting worse, the roads are potentially wet or icy, and it’s easy to not pay so much attention to driving when you’re thinking about the festivities.
“The demonstration today was an exercise – everyone walked away happily at the end. Sadly, the truth is far harsher and we want drivers to really think about their safety so we don’t end up having to do this for real.”
The two volunteers were full of praise for the fire crew who both looked after and extracted them from the ‘crashed’ vehicles. Cindy said: "It was a very realistic and an amazing experience. What struck me straight away was the care of the crash victim from the crew; a rescue worker kept talking to me about what they were doing throughout. I realise it was a practice exercise but it gave me confidence that the fire fighters are dealing with horrific events by trying to get quickly people out of crashed vehicles, but doing it with the safety of the victim uppermost."
Emma, below, agreed. "I turned up expecting to report the exercise but discovered my colleague who had originally volunteered to be in the car had to be called to another job, so I had to step up. I was impressed how the rescue workers kept talking to me. It was strange to be upside down as the rescue was going on around me. I will be able to write about the real events with inside knowledge."
Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Group Manager Ian Jeary, who manages the Swindon area fire stations, said: “The build-up to Christmas is always a concern for us – we have to make sure that shops are safe despite the extra stock, licensed premises are always a lot busier, and the risk of drink-driving is always greater. In addition, dangers in the home can include the use of candles, flammable Christmas decorations, not checking smoke alarms and cooking related fires.”
He added: “This is the first time that we’ve gone out into the community in this way, and I’m hoping that we can get our safety messages across to a wide range of people over the week. We want everyone to have a safe and enjoyable Christmas – we don’t want to be called to road traffic collisions or fires.”