An Interview with Chairman of Trustees Chief Fire Officer Paul Fuller CBE QFSM
Can you give us a bit of background as to your career within the Fire Service?
I’ve been with the fire service for 37 years, starting as a firefighter in the West Midlands and moving through a career which cumulated in becoming Chief of Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service in 2002 and President of the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) in 2013/14. I have actively worked with six Fire Services including a secondment to Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service. I’m also Deputy chair of the Fire Sector Federation and a Trustee of the Fire Fighters Charity.
What inspired you to forge a career with the UK’s Fire and Rescue Service?
It was either the Fire and Rescue Service or Retail. The opportunity to do something for the community with the Fire and Rescue Service was hugely appealing and I haven’t looked back. To be able to do something worthwhile and help other people was a real driver for me.
How long have you been involved with the Children’s Burns Trust?
I become involved with the charity five years ago as a Trustee and then became Chair of Trustees when Brian Robinson stepped down last year.
What originally attracted you to working with the Children’s Burns Trust?
It’s a small charity that concentrates on specific outputs for the surprisingly large number of children burned or scalded in the UK. I’ve been involved with burned children locally with the Burns camps so getting involved in the Children’s Burns Trust seemed like an ideal opportunity to do more in this area.
Is that still what drives you to be so involved?
I think this goes beyond this now as the charity has a uniqueness in it’s offering as it covers prevention and education as well as rehabilitation which culturally is what the Fire and Rescue Service is trying to do with educating the community in terms of burn and scald prevention. The safest kind of burn is one that doesn’t happen. From an emotional point of view seeing children cope with such terrible injuries is an inspiration to me personally.
Has your association with CBT impacted on your work/home life?
Well I have been known to approach parents in coffee shops to point out the danger of them passing hot drinks over their babies’ heads! This sends a shiver down my spine, so it does impact the way you think in daily life.
Having a young child, myself it makes me realize how these type of injuries would be catastrophic. It also works the other way too, as my home life is a bit of a reality check in how to approach the campaign. The children’s clothing campaign is raising awareness of the fact that fancy dress is classified as ‘toys’ rather than clothing and nightwear. The flammability standard is far lower for toys than clothing and nightwear for the reason that a toy can potentially be dropped or moved away however this can’t be done if you’re dressed in it. We are campaigning to ensure fancy dress is classified to the same standard as clothing and nightwear, working with BSI (British Standard Institute) and persuading Europe to get involved. The Government have commissioned work by the trading standard to ensure that fancy dress at the very least meet the current standard for toys.
Our ideal is that supermarkets will state that they will only stock fancy dress outfits for children that only comply with the clothing and nightwear flammability standards. The incidents of burns when a child is in a fancy dress outfit is relatively low but when it does happen it’s catastrophic. However my home life has shown me that trying to separate a child from a princess dress isn’t easy so we are trying to approach this campaign in a different way.
As Chairman of Trustees what is your vision for the future of the Children’s Burns Trust?
It’s about an organization that’s able to meet the needs of burn survivors, reduce the number of children who are burned and work collaboratively with other charities that are in similar fields. In order to do that we need to enhance the income of the charity, we don’t want to be the wealthiest charity but one that spends to good affect.
From the work you have done with the Children’s Burns Trust what are you most proud of?
I believe we’ve done some excellent campaigns that have raised awareness, I think few people realize how many children’s burns are actually scalds from hot drinks and liquids and awareness is increasing. Although I can’t take any credit for this, the work that Ken Dunn has done on the Burns Injury Database and the access we now have to data, highlighting how many children are burned and how the burns and scalds occur is absolutely excellent and gives as an amazing platform to communicate this and raise awareness.