On Saturday 21st April, 19 of our scouts from the Eighth Hampstead visited the Belsize fire station. Upon arrival one of the firefighters, Henry, showed us the hoses on the fire truck. Around the streets of London, there are fire hydrants, which are marked by a yellow hatch with a black ‘H’ on it. These are used for firefighters to plug their hoses in and put out fires, wherever it may be.
We were then taken upstairs into a room where Henry and another firefighter, Lenny, went through all of the points of fire safety with us. They started off with the basics, like what fire is made up of (heat, fuel & oxygen) and that if any of these parts is removed, the fire will go out. Role-playing was also involved, where a certain situation would be introduced and we would have to figure out what we had to do. In the situation of a fire, there are three simple steps:
1. Get Out.
2. Call the Fire Brigade.
3. Stay Out.
In the event of yourself being on fire, Stop, Drop and Roll! Stop immediately, drop to the ground and roll over repeatedly to smother the flames. Whilst you are doing this, make sure to cover you face with your hands to protect it as well as your lungs.
If at a camp and a fire breaks out:
1. Attract Attention.
2. Use extinguisher for ‘first aid’.
3. Telephone the Fire Brigade.
4. Wait for the Fire Brigade and lead them to the fire
5. Do not risk injury to yourself.
If there is a blazing pan, you should take a fire blanket or a damp tea towel to smother it. This is useful as the most domestic fires are started by a blazing chip pan. In the case of a large domestic fire, you have to get out of the house, so having a home escape plan is encouraged. You are supposed to plan two ways out of every room and make sure that the route is not a risk. This can be hard though, because a lot of rooms only have one entrance/exit. You should also have a point outside to meet up with other members in your family.
When exiting a room, be sure to close the door behind you, as most people in fires die of the smoke, not the actual fire. The smoke can be extremely dangerous and can also be used as a fuel for the fire. If you inhale too much of the smoke, it burns your lungs and without lungs you cannot breathe.
Before opening a door in a fire, touch the door knob with the back of your hand because if there is a fire inside, the door will be hot. If you touch it with the palm of your hand, you will instinctively grab it. If you use the back of your hand, you will pull it away. It is important to do these things because if you close the door on the fire, it will burn up all of the oxygen inside of the room and eventually die out. If this is happening and then you open the door, oxygen will rush in and the fire will be fuelled, but instead of just starting up again, it leaps towards the oxygen and flies out of the door. This is called a backdraft.
Finally, we learnt about Fire Extinguishers. To use them, you use ‘PASS’:
P – Pull the pin/safety clip
A – Aim at the base of the fire, staying at least 2 metres away.
S – Squeeze the handle.
S – Sweep the base of the fire from side to side.
You must also make sure to use the right type of extinguisher in the current situation.
The London Fire Brigade is the fourth largest in the world with approximately 7000 staff and 5800 of them operational firefighters. Each station has four watches, blue, green, red and white. Each watch has two 10½ hour day shifts and two 13½ hour night shifts followed by four days off.
It is extremely bad to make hoax calls to the emergency services as when the call is taken, someone in real danger will not be able to call as the person is wasting the time of the operator. This is a criminal offense and can be punished by a sentence in jail.
When a real call comes in to a station, an alarm sounds telling the firefighters to mobilise. They then have one minute to get into their uniform, get into the truck and leave.
As well as tackling fires, the fire department also deal with rescuing trapped people, chemical spillages and road traffic collisions. This is what makes the Fire Brigade very much an essential part of any community.
By Jonathan Routley