Catherine Wallace and Carol Smith

Catherine Wallace is a Community Safety Advocate with over 30 years within the Fire Service. She has carried out various roles during this time including Supervision of office staff, Secretary to Chief Officers and Community Co-ordinator which has led her to her current role undertaken in 2014.  Her current post allows her to engage with the community throughout Glasgow in all age ranges. Carol Smith has been in the Fire Service for 29 years also carrying out the role of Community Safety Advocate, Supervisor of office staff and Community Co-ordinator taking up the role of Community Advocate 2014.

Catherine and Carol gave a very lively and informative presentation focusing on the main causes of fire within the home, and how to reduce fire risks. They encouraged those present to participate actively in discussing the issues that arose, some of which were found to be surprising and at times alarming.

They initially explained about the new Fire Scotland regulations. These state that every home in Scotland must by law have working smoke alarms in each level of the property within living areas and a heat detector within the kitchen. All the detectors must also be interlinked, so that if a fire starts anywhere in the property, there is time for everyone to get to safety.

They covered the four main causes of fire, which are: smoking; cooking, electrical faults; and candles giving real life examples of how fires had arisen from these causes. In relation to fires caused by cooking – eg chip pan fires – they explained about the dangers of the inexpert use of fire blankets and fire extinguishers. What they had to say about the risks arising from candles was a surprise to many present, for example that scented candles that are very commonly used for hours at a time should only be used for much shorter periods. They noted that they commonly come across fires in bathrooms caused by scented candles being placed on a plastic surface and melting through the base of a non fire-proof candle holder and setting the plastic surface alight.

In particular the discussion of electrical fires caused much interest and disquiet, in particular the dangers of white goods such as dishwashers being left running overnight or when there is no-one at home – a very common occurrence. The explained the need to switch electrical devices off at the wall, and, if possible, the plug being removed from the socket.

They also emphasised the importance of doors being closed to prevent fire and smoke spreading – both routinely and in the event of a fire starting – to allow time for escape. The presentation was illustrated by an alarming video which showed how quickly a fire spreads and also by a recording of a 999 call from a woman who was clearly panicking and unable to think clearly about how to save herself (fortunately she was saved). This emphasised the need for everyone to have a fire safety plan in place, so they know in advance how to react in the event of fire.

The session was very well received and provided much food for thought.

Catherine Wallace and Carol Smith