I have had an interesting Twitter conversation this evening regarding one of those Fire Service demonstrations of cutting someone out of a car. The idea is to show what so often happens after a car crash, of which there still tend to be too many at this time of year filled with pre-Christmas parties and the like.
One of our local Conservative members quite rightly asked about the cost of this stunt – an especially pertinent question as passers-by had been reporting only a handful of public in attendance. However, at least the local media were there: one as the 'victim' who needed to be extricated from the 'wreck' and another to photograph and report on the event.
I have to confess that I was certainly unaware of this until it was actually happening and the first photograph from it was posted on-line. From the numbers reported as being in attendance, it is clear that much of any value this potentially had was lost straight away, even if it is covered well in Monday's local newspaper.
Whether it should have been done at all is the bigger question that both the original questioner and another local Conservative were really asking; and that is a more complex matter to answer than the one-dimensional 'yes' or 'no' that no doubt they and others might like.
The problem is that the statistics are still not good; and if the emergency services don't try to do something as a deterrent-through-awareness exercise they will be criticised if the figures continue to show too much December carnage on our roads this year. Not only do prevailing circumstances drive such activities, they also provide a ready-made excuse for them.
The correct approach is for our elected local representatives to get hold of the figures for our are for a period of several years, and also to find out what was done each year, at what cost and to what degree of demonstrable success. (Yes, this sounds like the sort of activity in which I have specialised for years, though of course I have had no access to non-public data for the past several years so cannot pursue this one myself.)
Armed with all of that information, elected members can make suitable input to challenge, guide and steer the emergency services in such 'awareness' endeavours for future years, or even stop them altogether if they are found to be ineffective or insufficiently effective.
Simply going directly against the whole idea without that evidence simply sets one up for opposition members and their buddies elsewhere to be able to have a go, and of course one would be virtually defenceless in such a circumstance. All it needs is one tragic accident that "could have been prevented if they had only known of the possible consequencesbeforehand" (or a similar line) during the next couple of weeks or so.
This is why I have tended to be so thorough and painstaking in building up my library of facts, figures, documents and the rest of it before taking a firm approach. I can then be authoritative and leave opportunists (especially Medway Labour, who really hated me with a passion for this!) no room to criticise. That's why they rarely try, of course, and why it is so easy to deal with them when they do.
In this case, people's lives and well-being are at stake, so it is doubly important to get it right. Criticise activities such as today's stunt by all means, but only when you have the evidence to definitively show that it was a bad idea and why. It's how I'd do it!