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The evening began with a warm welcome from WC Neil Willerton and his colleagues from Group 3 old Blue Watch) in the lecture room in Cowcaddens. More than a dozen REA members attended in what turned out to be an excellent, informative, educational fun evening. Neil outlined the evening’s itinerary and gave a short introductory talk on the modern day hazards that face firefighters when attending a Road Traffic Collision incident.
Everyone then went outside to the back yard where the on-duty crews had set up an RTC simulation, with the driver trapped in his seat and a casualty trapped under the car. They swung into action and set about getting the casualties out, whilst employing all the safety procedures SFR now use to render the situation safe and attend to the casualties professionally and speedily. These include firstly stabilising the casualty driver by keeping their head in line with their spinal cord, using an airbag to lift the vehicle enough to pull the trapped casualty out from under it, glass management procedures with a teardrop shield and glass punch, rubber seals removed from all doors and windows, all sharp edges neutralised by protective covers, crew members using their full face visors whilst using hydraulic equipment, doors, hatchback door then roof removal; then remove the driver/ casualty from the vehicle in a safe, secure manner keeping his spine aligned using a spine board.
Once the area had been tidied up Neil showed all the equipment used to our REA members, giving them all the modern advantages of the equipment and one or two minor disadvantages. There then ensued a question and answer session as REA guys talked of the equipment they had in their day compared to modern day staff.
It was during this simulated scenario that another few visitors appeared. Captain Ray Phillips from Jacksonville, Florida, was on holiday in Scotland with his wife Kim, sons Jordan (16) and Caden (9) and daughter Kiera (19). They wanted to exchange badges and were welcomed by REA Secretary, Area Commander George McGrandles and invited to stay and watch the RTC scenario. After that they were shown round the ARP and given a guided tour of all the equipment etc; then joined us all as we retired to the canteen for a cuppa before the evening meal was served.
Joe Smith gifted SFR car stickers to Captain Ray and his family, copies of “Off the Run” were also given to Ray, photos taken, emails exchanged and stories related. The Phillips family then had to leave to go back to their hotel in Girvan but thoroughly enjoyed their short stay at Cowcaddens and thanked us all for the hospitality and friendship extended to them; something I’m sure, that happens when any of our firefighter colleagues from abroad visit here or we visit them – an international brotherhood that knows no borders!
An impressive meal was then served up by Kenny the chef for all attending, which was belly busting in size and extremely tasty in flavour. Once the tables had been cleared John Jameson gave a talk on his involvement in the STV Studio fire in 1969, in which our colleague Archie McLay died on the fireground. John explained that the incident was the main reason and driving force for him devising and developing the Distress Signal Unit for fire service use; now used by Fire & Rescue Services all over the world and doubtless saved many lives over the years. John was awarded the British Empire Medal for his contribution for the safety of fire service personnel.
Joe Smith, Bob Scoular and Bill Wilson then were asked about the Cheapside Street incident and Joe and Bob related their own personal accounts of the fire whilst Bill explained some of the unusual and fortunate occurrences which saved the lives of some of our colleagues on that fateful night. A pin could have been heard dropping as the young guys on the group listened intently to all the stories and appreciated this small snippet of Living History in what is part of all of our Fire Service Heritage.
It was after 10.00pm before we began to “tak the gate” and head off home but an excellent and exceptional evening was enjoyed by everyone there; on-duty crew and REA members alike. A massive vote of thanks goes to WC Neil and the guys of Group 3 Cowcaddens for their hospitality, enthusiasm and friendship!