In what might be referred as ‘the good old days’ (and by that I mean only a few years ago), it was fairly easy to identify which of the services a vehicle belonged to simply by looking at the colour of the beacons attached to it. Police, fire, and ambulances generally had blue lights; doctors had green, the police seemed to get alternating red at some point. There could also be yellow, on working vehicles that could be a hazard, such as slow-moving refuse lorries, tow-trucks, and various road maintenance vehicles.
While many still sport the common incandescent light fittings, with coloured lenses which convert the white light from the conventional bulb behind, newer fitting are manufactured using LEDs, which do no usually have tinted lenses or covers.
Unlike the white light produced by a filament bulb, which requires a coloured lens, filter, or coating to produce the desired output colour, the light from an LED is created within the device, so no filter is needed, and the devices generally come with clear lenses, which maximises their output. (For the pedantic, I’m calling white a colour, although it is made up of many, and also not going to refer to the various light conversions that take place within the structure of various visible light LEDs.)
The end result is that it’s no longer easy to tell what service an unmarked vehicle belongs to just by looking at the auxiliary lights. All you see when they are not energised is a clear fitting, and the colour only becomes apparent when they are activated.
Case in point was the Audi I tripped over recently. Roof mounted light bar, but… transparent housing.
I couldn’t see any markings or other equipment(eg radio) fitted to it, or lying on the seats, nor anything screwed to the bodywork. There were no cameras mounted anywhere, nor a second rear-view mirror.
The same anonymity was true of the driver, inside the adjacent ‘greasy spoon’ and collecting a large bag of goodies to help him survive the rest of the day. Dressed in black, he did have any kit, or badges apparent.
There were no lights in the rear window (not even pop-up types), but I spotted a dash-mounted temporary unit, probably blue/red, and a look at the front suggests a small pair of non-Audi ‘white’ squares in the lower grille, which I suspect are LEDs.
FYI – Unmarked police cars around here look more like this when at work:
I had all but forgotten about reading of the promised Fire and Rescue training facility to be built at Clydesmill (Clyde’s Mill if you prefer) – some four years ago, back in 2009.
The facility planned to use the site formerly occupied by the power station which sat at the north (Cambuslang) end of the weir in the River Clyde. Across the river, at the south end of the weir lies Carmyle, where a bleach works and various mills once sat, but are now long gone, leaving only the remains of the weir which once controlled the river, and provided water to run the works.
The power station was established in 1903, and is described as one of the first coal-fired ‘base load’ stations, meaning it was intended to be started and run continuously for maximum efficiency. Variation in demand were catered for by smaller stations powered by gas, oil, or water (hydroelectric schemes), which can be started and stopped without damaging the equipment, a danger where large coal-fired plants are concerned. It was a large station, and had ready clients in the form of the Clyde Iron Works and Clydebridge Steel Works. See more historic information and photographs here:
However, those clients closed, and so did the power station. It had been extended over the course of its life, and came to have an installed electrical output capacity of 264 MW. Most of the station was closed by the 1970s, and demolished by 1982, leaving only a single gas turbine set, finally demolished in 2002. I used like wandering down to the old turbine station for the occasional look, as the site was built in the days when just about everything, including the fences and lamp posts, was made of concrete, and it was sad to see the bare ground and rubbish that arrived when it was all gone.
I hadn’t been down that way for ages, and decided to follow the path beginning at Cambuslang Golf Club – something I had not done before, as it was easier to get to the power station entrance (always padlocked, until it was demolished of course) from the industrial estate.
It was a good job I started early, and didn’t have to be anywhere else soon!
While it was once possible to reach the river from the industrial estate (or vice versa), the planting of the training facility on the land has completely isolated the river from the estate. The facility is bound by a perimeter fence with security cameras, and encloses 30 acres of land. You can now only get to the river by joining the path at the Cambuslang end to the west, or the Westburn end, to the east, where you have to start some way east of the Clyde’s Mill 275 kV switching station. That’s the A753 and the Westburn Road in the aerial view below.
(At the time of writing, the new facility is not shown in the aerial view, whch just looks like waste ground as the imagery has yet to be updated for this area. Take my word for it, there is now no access from the south between these two ends of the river pathway).
If you do try to get to the river along Westburn Farm Road (through the industrial estate), which used to be a handy shortcut, you will find your way blocked by the following set of fences and gates, with the facilities’ training buildings behind.
30 acres provides a lot of facility, although a lot of the enclosed land remains unused.
Included is a two-storey academic base, a facilities building with an eight-bay fire appliance garage and three practical training zones, fitted out to allow Strathclyde Fire and Rescue to create real-life scenarios, and simulate different fire types within the building. The central training building includes a dummy fire command centre, set up to allow high-ranking officers to practice emergency tactics.
Up to 15 fire crews, each with their own fire engine, can train at once.
The three training zones include:
- Residential – with detached and semi-detached houses, multi-storey building, a tenement building and a church.
- Transport – with a section of motorway and railway line complete with platform, level crossing and tunnel.
- Industrial – with a petro-chemical plant and laboratory.
The facility took 77 weeks to build. Interestingly, when it was first announced in 2009, it was priced at £35 million, but when it was completed in 2012, it was reported to have cost only £22 million.
In a story that surely sends all the wrong signals, the media reported how a massive turnout was made by the fire service and police in Edinburgh, as they launched a procedure called National Arrangements for Incidents Involving Radiation.
Understandably, the name of this procedure suggests it has been put into place to avoid confusion and uncertainty when deciding how to responds to reports of an incident involving radiation. However, one can’t help but think that it was conceived to deal with incidents involving accidents where there a significant amount of radioactive material is involved, and not a first line response to the discovery of a suspect radioactive package discovered in a cupboard in a school.
No numbers were given for the police attendance, but of the fire service, eight appliances and 28 fire service personnel were reported as having attended the incident.
By comparison, a blaze at a block of flats in Market Street in Aberdeen’s city centre less than 24 hours later attracted a mere five appliances, even though the resulting road closure between Union Street and Guild Street caused problems with rush hour traffic.
No reason was given as to why the packages were suspect radioactive (external markings?), but one can’t help but think the initial response should have been considerably more low-key in its approach, and not to flood the area with such numbers of personnel and equipment, and that as few should have been subject to potential exposure as possible, until an expert, such as the one that attended from Torness (nuclear power station) had assessed the level of activity, or not.
Ultimately, no radiation was found outside the containers involved, and the contents were determined to be ex-school science lab educational training materials dating back to 1994, and relatively trivial , unless you’re a radiophobe.
Your poor scribe can write with some authority on this one, as he, and all his workmates found themselves in the same situation a few years ago. Having received some radiation detection equipment for repair (to the electronics), he was alarmed to see that they had been transported along with their test source. This was of medical origin, and therefore likely to be more powerful than school based material, and more alarmingly, appeared to be damaged!
A quick check with his own basic Geiger counter showed all was well, and there was nothing ‘loose’ – all the activity was still confined to the designated ‘hot’ zone. However, we still had to contact the NRPB (note, NRPB joined the Health Protection Agency on April 1, 2005) to investigate, and give everyone, and our premises, the official All Clear, including the unfortunate employees that had gone off on holiday, who had to be contacted and warned. This was for two reasons: most important for us was to identify the source and ensure the correct detector was used; and second to deal with the organisation that sent us the nuclear material in the first place. They should have known better than to place a contractor at risk, having delivered the material without a warning or alert, and also that they were breaking the regulations regarding the transport of nuclear material by sending it without the appropriate documentation and clearances.
This involved a more powerful source of radiation that the Edinburgh incident, and was all dealt with calmly by one NRPB official with no media hysteria, no fire service, and no police.
Which scenario actually handled the situation best in the real world?
Are we seeing the knock-on effect of the Alexander Litvinenko case?