The person in the Uniform

Hi Rita and maybe some of your colleagues.

Yesterday we had a the 20 years anniversary of a big fire catastrophe in Gothenburg where 63 teenagers died in a discotheque fire. Sweden is not use to these type of events so it came as a shock then and is still something all Swedes feel has affected on their life. Every time I pass that place for the fire I am thinking about it and as this was on my way to my job…well it was often. Of course it has been a lot of things in the TV this week that has been directly related but also some other briefly related. Today they had a great thing in the TV that I know is related to a thing that you and I have talked about. The problem with security and often disrespect to ambulance, police and firemen. It’s of cause critical for efficient rescue work that you can go and work feeling safe.

Most of the kids that were killed in the fire came from “immigrant dense” North east areas of Gothenburg and the party was in a central located center run by the Macedonian society. There was 450 people in a place approved for max 150 people. Some youngsters who was not let in put fire in the back side staircase were the emergency exit was located…so there was only one way out…  After the fire there was a period when the fire department were facing accusation from the kids in North east that the fire fighters had fixed it if the kids were from more well situated areas in the city. That was of course not true but they had to work with it as they were facing stone throwing during other emergency calls and it got more and more frequent that kids through stones on Ambulances, Police, fire fighters, buss drivers etc. So how do you turn a bad situation that grew like a avalanche in the best way…

They city started “Människan bakom uniformen” or if you translate if freely “The person in the uniform”. They started education of 20 kids a the time in a 10 weeks course where they meet one evening a week for 3 hours visiting and working with group of fire fighters, but also meeting Police, Ambulance crews, Tram and bus drivers etc…people in civil service.  It’s very practical where they learn how to put out fires, see the difficulties in seeing anything in “smoke diving” etc. The kids change directly and the kids that was interviewed in the TV program said “wow, they are really like anyone of us”. As part of the education they also visit the place for the fire catastrophe and learn how dangerous it is start a small fire because you are pissed…that can very easily turn into a fatal fire in seconds.

They have run it for almost 10 years now and about 1000 teenagers has been to this 10 weeks course (one evening a week) and has changed the kids attitude to the civil service people. They understand that they are there to help. Due to the success this has now spread to 20 cities in the countries…with good results. Of course it has not taken away the problem completely with teenage groups but the respect to the people in uniform is better…much better.

I think you and a fire fighter colleague of yours should come over and visit the Fire Department of Gothenburg (where also the Ambulance service is organize) and see it first hand. I believe they would be very pleased to have visitors from England to spread this great idea…that can then be tested in Newcastle and if successful be a “blue print” in the the rest of UK. One of my neighbours in my coastal house (a fairly new neighbour) has been one of the major educators for fire fighters and ambulance crews in Gothenburg…but retired now…and I could ask him how this could be done the best. I am sure he would be thrilled to help out. All emergency persons should be able to work safe as they are doing such important work for the community but becomes easy target for unemployed or depressed teenage groups just tired of society. I think you would be a great person reviewing this and taking it to Newcastle!

You have a short clip from the TV presentation in our new tonight. It’s in Swedish but you will get some understanding about how they are doing it.

I have the text quickly in Google Translate and just fixed some small funny translations.

Young people and firefighters smoke dive together

Published today 06.03
The need to work to increase understanding between young people and the uniformed government became clear after the discotheque fire. The person in the uniform, MBU, is an activity that actively works with this.
“This is a great opportunity for us to get to know the ones we work for,” says Patrik Willumsen at the rescue service.

One night at Kortedala Fire Station, almost 20 high school age kids (age. 16-19) gather in high school to take part in a fireman’s everyday life. They are all involved in a ten-week course where they can meet police, rescue services, security officers and tram drivers one night a week for three hours at a time.

– MBU started in Kortedala in 2009 due to the fact that there was a lot of stone bursting on our uniform wearers, and then asked the question why do you do it? Why do you have a hatred against firefighters, ambulance staff or the like, “says Janina Sabra, MBU Process Manager.

“They are not bad people”

The activity is for young people to get to know people working in, for example, police and rescue services, but also for uniform wearers to get to know the young people.

“This is a great opportunity for us to get to know the ones we work for. It’s an incredibly important project that I’m proud to be a part of, “says Patrik Willumsen at the rescue service.

At the fire station in Kortedala this evening, young people will try to smoke and try to find a doll and firemen.

“The most important thing for me is enough to actually understand what it’s like to work like that. They are not bad people, as people actually think they are, “says Wilma Dudek, one of the participants.

Does it work then?

“Yes, I absolutely believe that,” says Wilma Dudek.

“The important thing about MBU is that it destroys stereotypes in a way,” says Jose Brahim, another of the participants.