Taking hot tips from tinseltown

Avon Fire & Rescue Service (AF&RS) has been taking inspiration and hints from Hollywood to help send important life lessons to students.

Fatal Distraction is a movie-style trailer made to help highlight the dangers of leaving cooking unattended, and other risks relevant to students.

Students are historically at increased risk of becoming a victim of fire, with kitchen fires the most common.

Many of the fires are the result of students coming home after a night out, their judgement is impaired by the effects of drinking, and they start to cook something and then forget all about it.

The lighting of candles and discarding of cigarettes is also a risk, as is the common scenario of students starting some cooking and then getting distracted, leaving the hob, oven or grill unattended.

The challenge facing AF&RS was to try to create awareness of fire safety messages without giving the impression that the students were being lectured.

The result is Fatal Distraction, which is supported by its own movie-style website, www.fataldistraction.co.uk.

In a recent survey, two-thirds of the second, third and fourth year students who were interviewed said that they, or somebody they knew, had had experience of a fire or of setting off a smoke alarm while living at university.

Research has also shown that many students have a “it will never happen to me” mentality which means traditional methods of promoting safety messages are likely to fall on deaf ears.

James Bladon, Corporate Communication Manager at AF&RS, said: “We needed to come up with something that would get the attention of students.

“Our local universities supported the idea and supplied us with some images which we used in the trailer.

“Heart FM gave us free use of a studio for an afternoon, where we recorded some audio with some local actors, who also gave their time free, for which we are very grateful.”

“The whole thing has cost us very little to produce, and even included a professional voiceover artiste who was able to provide the classic deep movie trailer voice, which has given the whole project some authenticity.

“We have had some very positive feedback, with several people remarking that, to start with, they thought it was a genuine trailer rather than something produced by the fire service.”

The trailer had a big screen premiere at the Showcase Cinema in Cabot Circus during a student lock-in event last month.

It has also been promoted through the various local universities, student unions and through social networking sites.

The whole Fatal Distraction concept is about choices; knowing when to give in to temptation and when to deny distraction and focus on what is important.

Key safety messages for students include:
• Don’t leave cooking unattended, whatever the distraction;
• Make sure you have smoke alarms in your property;
• While it might be tempting to take the batteries out of smoke alarms, to stop them going off every time you burn the toast, please don’t! Working smoke alarms save lives;
• It takes seconds for fire and choking smoke to sweep through a property. Smoke alarms can only save your life if they are working, and it is your responsibility to check them regularly; and
• If you are planning a night out, then think about grabbing a takeaway on your way home rather than cooking something yourself.

Using a little common sense, taking a few simple precautions, and making the right choice at the right time can help ensure that Fatal Distraction does not come to a kitchen near you soon.